There is a growing movement attempting to blend the discipline of enterprise collaboration with the authenticity and immediacy of social media. Three companies at the forefront of this tend are Facebook, Microsoft, and Slack.
What led to the rise of enterprise collaboration platforms
A few years ago, Facebook announced its expansion into the enterprise collaboration market with Facebook Workplace, a platform that looks to bring the best of Facebook to the workplace. It features core business requirements like calendar, email, instant messaging, and a number of other tools used on a daily basis by organizations. It also brings Facebook’s news feed, commenting system, and more to liven up collaboration at work.
According to Julien Codornion, the director of platform partnerships at Facebook at Work, “If Facebook has 1.6 billion users, then the opportunity size of the workplace version could be as much as 3 billion.”
Putting Yammer in the backseat, which Microsoft acquired in 2012, Redmond launched Microsoft Teams as its best attempt to gain supremacy in the enterprise collaboration market. Microsoft’s focus was on the largest of enterprises, which is why Teams was announced as a paid-only product with no free tier.
Facebook Workplace and Microsoft Teams are moving to cash in on the runaway success that Slack has become. Slack was launched in 2013 with the idea of giving the always-on-the-go millennial workforce a platform to bring all their work together in a streamlined manner with the ease of real-time chat and video calls.
For Slack, enterprise collaboration was virgin territory, ripe for disruption. And the upside was the promise of a steady stream of consistent revenue that could rake in venture capital dollars in the millions. That’s what it did on its way to attaining the coveted unicorn status among startups.
Features of enterprise collaboration systems
1. In-company communication system
In the era of mainstream concepts like “bring your own device” and a remote workforce, maintaining a secure line of communication within a company can be a challenge in the absence of an in-house communication system.
2. File and document sharing
Just like communication, the capability to share documents, files, and other types of media is also a very important part of an enterprise collaboration system. A capable collaboration platform should make it easy and safe for employees to access, edit, and share files with each other while on the move.
3. Content management system
A number of collaboration platforms provide a content management system, which makes it possible for employees to create and push content both to internal and external stakeholders. The feature comes in very handy when marketing teams are looking to create inbound content to attract new users and to enhance their online presence.
4. Powerful and concentrated search
Since enterprise collaboration software is developed around an individual business, it becomes very easy for employees to add in search filters and find what they are looking for in a few minutes.
5. Group calendar
Keeping track of all upcoming meetings and events can get overwhelming in a large organization. Most enterprise collaboration software comes with group and individual calendar functionality, which makes it easy for an individual team member to be in sync with their team’s timetable irrespective of where they are working from — in office or remote.
The future of enterprise collaboration
Voice may seem outdated in today’s app-centric world, but interestingly, voice is making a comeback and it’s starting with consumer devices. There is proof in the growing popularity and acceptance of devices like Alexa and Google Home. These smart devices will soon become an indispensable part of the enterprise collaboration systems as well. Google has recently announced its plan to roll out an enterprise version of Google Voice services for its G Suite users — a feature that will make it possible for businesses to better manage customer service requests over phone calls.
2. Collaboration within email
The next element that will play an important role in the future of enterprise collaboration is a platform which bridges the gap between traditional email and modern day collaboration tools like Facebook Workplace or Slack.
Redkix, a startup that offers tools combining email enterprise collaboration tools. It was recently acquired by Facebook in an attempt to bolster its Workplace product.
3. More consolidation in the space
Slack recently announced a deal with Atlassian to take over two competing products — Hipchat and Stride. Hipchat was the closest competitor to Slack and with this deal, Slack has extended its lead in the space.
With the announcements of the Facebook-Redkix and Slack-Hipchat deals, we can expect even more consolidation as the smaller niche startups are acquired and embedded into the larger platforms. It’s a good time to be in the enterprise collaboration market as a startup as the chances of getting acquired are very high.
4. More comprehensive offerings
The stakes are high when it comes to enterprise collaboration. For Microsoft, it has had the early-mover advantage with the success of its Office products but has lost its lead with the emergence of the new web 2.0 and more nimble competitors like Slack. It now sees Teams as a gateway to its larger Office 365 offering.
Facebook, riding its success in the consumer market, doesn’t want to lose out on the parallel enterprise market. Especially when the same users already use Facebook outside of work, it’s just a small change to get the same people to use Facebook at work.
Slack doesn’t have these aspirations, but it aims to be the Switzerland of the enterprise collaboration market — a neutral player ready to integrate with any enterprise platform irrespective of whether they’re a competitor or not. This is unique and different from the others like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook which seem to have an agenda behind their moves.
Microsoft recently announced a free tier for the Teams product, and it’s caused quite a stir, enough to make Slack take out a full-page ad in The New York Times targeting Microsoft Teams. It’s a big deal because when Microsoft Teams launched, it targeted large enterprises and completely ignored startups and SMBs that would have liked to get a taste of the platform without any commitment. The free space belonged to Slack — up until now. With this update, Microsoft Teams takes aim squarely at Slack. Now, any startup wanting to use a collaboration tool may want to compare Slack with Teams. The balance tips in favor of Teams when you compare it feature-to-feature. Teams includes most of its features except Office Online integration and is free for up to 300 users. This is very generous compared to Slack’s restrictive free tier. Microsoft tried hard to buy Slack, but that didn’t happen, it’s going all in backing Teams. As it stands, Microsoft looks to be the biggest threat to Slack’s dominance of the enterprise collaboration market. At the end of this battle, it’s the customer organizations that will come out the winner. This is good for everyone and is the reason why it’s worth keeping a close eye on the moves these enterprise collaboration tools make.
Embrace this wave of innovation
With key players like Slack, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google competing in the enterprise collaboration market, the time has come to witness even more innovation. There’s never been a better time for organizations large and small to embrace this wave of innovation by incorporating the future of enterprise collaboration in their processes today.
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