The overwhelming number of collaboration and content applications are getting in the way of employee productivity. 

That's the conclusion Aragon Research came to in a report it released today. The solution, the authors suggest, is for organizations to embrace "digital work hubs" to reduce the friction. These hubs act as a single interface through which employees can create, curate and communicate business content.

The report, "The Workplace of the Future Starts with a Digital Work Hub" (fee charged), claims the proliferation of enterprise collaboration cloud suites and chat tools often lead to isolated applications that do not foster strong digital workplaces.

'Free-For-All' in the Cloud Suite Realm

A digital work hub provides features normally associated with personal productivity tools and enterprise suites, including task managers and some enterprise content management (ECM) functionality. 

"We're trying to bring some clarity to the cloud office suites from Google and Microsoft to mobile-first things like Slack, to social collaboration like Jive and all the task management tools," Jim Lundy, CEO and lead analyst of Morgan Hill, Calif.-based Aragon Research, said. "Everybody is trying to figure it out, and I think there are different types of work hubs. They all have a different lens of collaboration and content."

The days of the "more features, the better," are fading fast, Lundy said. 

Jim Lundy
Jim Lundy

These digital work hubs embrace how knowledge workers want to communicate and work, and commit to mobile collaboration capabilities, researchers found. They will resolve the "isolated-app problem," where knowledge workers continually bounce from application to application to find relevant content and communicate with colleagues, partners and customers.

Aragon Research's report stopped short of deep vendor analysis but did cite Bolste as an emerging provider in the space.

"It's an interesting time out there," Lundy told CMSWire. "It's kind of a little bit of a free-for-all. Everyone's trying to figure out what's going to work, and a lot of it is working. But people aren't getting enough out of their cloud suites."

Mobile Takes on Email

No digital work hub will survive without a commitment to mobile, Lundy said. Researchers report mobile, which focuses on messaging, will challenge email for relevance in the digital workplace. It's the fastest-growing segment of the collaboration market, Aragon researchers reported.

Mobile "makes a lot of room for smaller players to rise up," Lundy said, citing $3.8 billion valued Slack, which, he said, "came out of nowhere because of its mobility."

"We really think mobility is one of the key stories," Lundy said. "A lot of people will say my work hub is my email. But people don't sit in email and work all day."

Learning Opportunities

Knowledge workers need support for their mobile work. Informal sharing, researchers found, doesn’t work for widely-distributed teams that usedifferentapplicationsfor the same functions (chat, file sharing, video).

Intelligent applications, from advanced analytics to natural language processing, work hand-in-hand with these mobile collaboration technologies. Aragon researchers said this helps organizations make better and more informed business decisions.

Mobile devices are replacing the personal computer for leveraging business apps. Lundy cited Salesforce1, with more than 1 million downloads onAndroiddevices alone, as aleadingindicatorofthe popularity of mobile devices for business applications. 

"Sales engagement platforms are a growing area," Lundy told CMSWire. "It allows sales reps to collaborate and communicate information with buyers and it's fully integrated with Salesforce." 

4 Digital Work Hub Capabilities

Aragon Research defined digital work hubs as covering four functional areas:

  1. Collaborative content creation: Supports sharing traditional text-based content, audio content and video content in the field and in the office. "The ideal platform will support communication and collaboration with the ecosystem partners,includingsuppliersandcustomers."
  2. Content curation/management: Includes servicesrangingfromsecurity, toversionandaccess control, to automated delivery based on roles and profiles. Includes predictive analytics for "on-demandanalysisofcurrentdata to help staff determine appropriate next steps."
  3. Communications: Provides synchronous and asynchronous communication channels to "document and facilitate collaboration throughout the extended enterprise."
  4. Task management: Tasks related to content creation "shouldbemanagedwithinthesameenvironmentasthe contentmanagementactivitiestoensureconsistencyandto minimize task/application switching distractions for the user."

Expect Further Consolidation in the Future

Digital work hubs success relies on open integration with appsfromothervendors, usually through APIs.

Lundy predicted a future of consolidation for the enterprise collaboration space — much like Atlassian's $425 million acquisition of Trello — as larger players look to round out their suites.

"We think," he said, "more of those players like Wrike and Asana are going to be grabbed up because they don't solve all of it but they are valuable. Some of bigger players may use that to fill out their work hub offering."