Software that allows far-flung team members to work together, manage projects and access relevant information in one place is having its moment. Already, plenty of companies have adopted collaboration software to communicate, collaborate remotely, share documents and files, and solve problems in real-time—and the number is expected to grow at a healthy pace. In fact, a Global Market Insights report predicts 13 percent annual compound growth for the collaborative software market through 2024.
A number of factors, from changes in the way we work and the people we work with, to an expanding universe of specialized and sophisticated cloud-based programs, are driving this trend.
“Collaborative software isn’t new news, but the demand for it in the workplace will be higher than ever in 2017,” predicts Heinan Landa, CEO of Optimal Networks, who points out that younger generations of workers literally grew up using instant messages, group texting and social media to communicate. “They expect instantaneous collaboration in every area of life—including work.”
Email, in other words, is for dinosaurs—and for companies willing to risk alienating younger workers. “For the under-25 set, it’s the equivalent of writing a formal memo,” says Landa.
“Would you want to work at a place where they forced you to write formal memos all the time?”
Collaborating more effectively also boosts productivity, freeing employees from fielding increasingly convoluted email trails on a daily basis. That was the goal for Optimal Networks, which recently adopted Slack in part because “our email boxes were exploding,” says Landa, who notes that initial results are promising. “We did a focus group and the people in it started begging to have other people added. That was a good sign.”
Landa advises CEOs sorting through their software options to take a methodical approach to the search and implementation process. “Security and integration with existing applications are important,” he notes. “It’s also important to choose software that fits your organizational culture. For all those reasons, CEOs should be involved. They don’t have to do it all, but they do need to keep their eye on it.”
Diligent training of employees is also key. “We’re designing rules of the road and customized videos about how we will be using Slack and making sure we have measurable goals in place,” he says. The plan includes monitoring adoption, checking for a reduction in internal emails and surveying employees for a “perceived increase in productivity.”
Every company, however, will have its own set of requirements and goals, based on everything from compatibility with existing platforms and tools to the needs of its workforce. Fortunately, there is a large and growing universe of collaborative software. To help you sort through the options, the chart at right compares several popular cloud collaborative offerings by functionality and price to help you find one that fits your needs.