What team collaboration tools need to be a true email killer

Over the past couple of years, team collaboration applications such as Slack have started to radically change the way organizations work. With the advent of the pandemic, their foothold in the enterprise has now grown significantly, and those changes are set to be permanent. But what of the often-repeated claims that these new cloud-based platforms will shortly signal the death knell for email?

Yes, they offer much individually, but without true interoperability, they’re never going to replace traditional email communications. Organizations desperately need a seamless, silo-busting solution so that employees can harness the productivity benefits of modern team collaboration apps, without any of the current downsides, such as Slack guest accounts.

NextPlane connects different team collaboration platforms, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, to deliver the same seamless functionality as email. Employees inside and outside the enterprise can share presence status, send messages, participate in channels, or share files, without leaving their preferred clients.

The great email exodus

COVID-19 has reaffirmed the importance of team collaboration tools to business agility and success. As workers were sent home en masse, many staff who never had to rely on such tools before were suddenly dependant on them for group conversation, workflow management, document collaboration, and even customer service.

Several stats tell the story so far:

  • Microsoft recently announced that its Teams platform reached 115 million daily active users in October, which is a growth of over 50% since April
  • Over 60% of organizations have already adopted team collaboration apps and the figure will rise further still to 67% by next year, according to a study from advisory firm Nemertes Research
  • Nearly half (49%) of respondents to a NextPlane study said that business discussions, tasks or transactions with users outside their company have now shifted from email to real-time collaboration platforms

Driving productivity

Email simply can’t compete with the intuitive, user-friendly interfaces and user experiences offered by products such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Cisco WebEx Teams. They help workers seamlessly collaborate via real-time messages, file-sharing, powerful search, group chat and presence to better manage tasks, workflows and projects. The result can be shortened project cycles, enhanced productivity, fewer meetings and improved customer response.

Slack claims that its customers can benefit from a 32% reduction in emails and a 23% drop in meetings by using the platform. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of effective digital collaboration. In the manufacturing sector alone, McKinsey estimates that it could unlock over $100 billion in value thanks to productivity increases of 20–30%, in “collaborative-intensive work processes such as root cause investigation, supplier management, and maintenance.”

A fragmented market

Yet the simple truth is that such platforms, whilst fantastic in isolation, don’t work together. Why is this a problem? Because, like most of IT, homogeneity is rare-in many organizations, users favor one platform or the other. They may not only be using modern, cloud-based team collaboration solutions like Microsoft Teams and Slack, but also legacy unified communications offerings such as Skype for Business and Cisco Jabber.

Consider the following:

  • Nearly 42% of organizations run more than one team collaboration app internally, according to Nemertes Research
  • Some 79% of companies operate a mixed collaboration environment, including legacy UC platforms and modern offerings, according to a NextPlane report

There are several potential explanations for these mixed environments. They may have come about through the acquisition of companies running different comms tools, or perhaps by creeping shadow IT. An absence of, or poor communication and enforcement of, IT policies may also have allowed users to stick with their favored option. However, whatever the cause, the bottom line is that if employees are using multiple collaboration platforms, it’s bad news for productivity and even data security.

No email killer

Nearly three-quarters (64%) of IT professionals NextPlane spoke to said that collaboration platforms are replacing email within their organization. But there’s still one major barrier in the way: send an email to any user on any email platform and they will be able to receive it and respond. This isn’t yet possible in the online communications and collaboration space. Instead, data becomes siloed within different vendors’ tools, impacting productivity.

An extra hurdle is that many collaboration tools will share the same customer domain to route messages and communications. In fact, 77% of IT leaders we spoke to said domain sharing was important. But in this scenario, each platform labels its domain traffic as local traffic, and won’t recognize messages from other platforms on the same domain. It adds yet another headache for IT managers looking to drive cross-platform messaging.

Challenges and solutions

Although 78% of IT leaders who NextPlane surveyed said it is important for their company to enable different teams or departments to collaborate in a mixed environment, there’s little motivation for the vendors to make this happen.

As Nemertes Research Vice President and Research Leader, Irwin Lazar, says:

“It may seem obvious that the solution is for team collaboration vendors to work together to enable cross-platform federation. There is, however, little incentive for a vendor who is trying to capture team collaboration market share to enable federation with a rival and monetizing such federation would be difficult.”

So what are the options?

Providing multiple accounts for users will end up being prohibitively expensive and require each user to spend time learning how to use each platform. Although they are fairly intuitive, this will sap productivity, as will the constant switching between user interfaces.

Using the guest accounts provided by vendors is an increasingly popular workaround. Nemertes claims that 44% of organizations rely on this method to enable external access to their own team collaboration instances, or to allow staff to access external apps. However, there are several downsides:

  • IT cannot enforce security policies or see what is being shared by employees, potentially with external users
  • IT cannot easily revoke guest accounts, whether used to allow external access to internal collaboration tools or vice versa
  • The process of managing guest accounts adds an administrative burden on IT
  • Guest access offer a far from seamless experience for users, sapping more of their productivity
  • Contrary to popular myth, guest accounts are not free. A cloud-based IT provider recently discovered that, since January, its users have handed out nearly 46,000 Slack guest accounts, at a cost to the company of over $550,000 per quarter

NextPlane — Collaboration Without Boundaries — Connect. Any Team. Anywhere.

If team collaboration applications are to fulfil their promise as a true email killer, they must deliver their undoubted productivity enhancing features alongside the same seamless interoperability as email. In practice, this means users must be able to share presence status, messages and files, and participate in each other’s channels as if they are on the same platform.

This is exactly what NextPlane offers.

NextPlane:

  • Is trusted by thousands of Global 5000 companies, like Dow, IBM, Merck and Nokia
  • Connects 750,000+ enterprise users every day
  • Processes 500m+ chat and IM messages daily
  • Allows users on different platforms to send messages with rich text, GIF, and emojis; share presence; participate in channels; and share files inside and outside the enterprise, without leaving their respective clients

For more information, please visit NextPlane, or book a free 30-minute call with a NextPlane expert.

Originally published at https://nextplane.net on December 3, 2020.

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