New collaboration apps are coming online that aim to change the way work gets done, by helping remote colleagues and partners stay connected when working apart. 

The idea of a "collaboration app" isn't new. Most notably, email and SMS have been around for a long time. But during the pandemic, as we socially (and professionally) distanced, many of us quickly became familiar with new ways of connecting. Zoom, the most popular collaboration tool to emerge from the pandemic, boasted 300 million daily meeting participants at one point, introduced many people to video conferencing and virtual meetings. Slack introduced many of us to a 30 year old technology — namely, chat. Other vendors have addressed different collaborative work needs, such as coordinating tasks and working jointly on documents.

Four pillars form the foundation of comprehensive team collaboration:

  • Asynchronous communications (chat, video chat, email).
  • Remote meetings (virtual meetings, team rooms, whiteboarding, meeting notes, rich media).
  • Task management.
  • Document management (co-authoring, records, versioning).

What's New With the Latest Round of Collaboration Apps?

While many tools foster team collaboration, the concept of a team collaboration app is a new one. Products that underpin the four pillars of teamwork represent the first generation of these new apps. The two leading products in this space today are Microsoft Teams and Google Workspace (previously GSuite). While accurate usage numbers are hard to pin down, it is estimated that Microsoft has 115 million daily active users (DAUs), while Google has 12 million DAUs. Whatever the real numbers, the market potential is in fact, much larger.

During the pandemic, companies scrambled to address their most pressing collaboration needs. This urgency enabled new software vendors to enter the market with highly differentiated point products that addressed one of the four teamwork collaboration needs. Companies like Zoom and Slack clearly benefited, but so did many startups in the task management space, like, Asana, Trello, as well as document collaboration products like Notion and Coda that stepped into the shared document space. The large number of companies vying for corporate team collaboration dollars speaks volumes to the market opportunity. 

Learning Opportunities

With the pandemic (hopefully) winding down, companies are taking a more strategic look at team collaboration. With a better understanding of remote workplace dynamics, organizations are building for a hybrid work future that embraces team collaboration across all four areas. While some companies will certainly choose a ‘best of breed’ approach, many more will opt for a unified ‘team collaboration app.’  In response, vendors are scrambling to broaden their offerings to appeal to expanding expectations. For example, Slack has added video to its chat product to broaden its appeal. Companies will continue to demand a more integrated experience, so even full-featured products like Microsoft Teams and Workspace will also continue to evolve, mostly through integrations with third-party apps into their expanding platforms. At the end of day, the goal of these apps is to become the enterprise ‘super app’ where workers spend the bulk of their work time. 

Related Article: The End of the Social Collaboration Experiment: The Technology Is the Problem

Expect Market Consolidation Ahead

As companies strive to simplify their increasingly complex technology infrastructure, expect to see market consolidation, with app vendors buying or replicating point solutions to establish a larger footprint. Of course, we have been here many times before. With almost all major product categories, we will eventually see two major players, a few more medium-size companies, and a lot of niche solutions. And in today’s accelerated world, it will happen faster than we think.

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