coworkers at their workstations bumping fists
PHOTO: Shutterstock

One of the big moves in the digital workplace space over the past year was the Slack IPO. Given the interest in collaborate tools, platforms and hubs, it is hardly surprising that the collaboration vendor launched at the price it did and produced the results it did at the end of its first quarter after the IPO. According to the statement that accompanied the release of figures, revenue growth was 58% year-over-year. Other notable figures include:

  1. Ended the quarter with over 100,000 paid customers, up 37% year-over-year.
  2. The number of paid customers greater than $100,000 in annual recurring revenue was 720, up 75% year-over-year.
  3. Total revenue was $145 million, an increase of 58% year-over-year.
  4. For the full fiscal year 2020, Slack currently expects total revenue of $603 million to $610 million, representing year-over-year growth of 51% to 52%.

New Collaboration Category

While the figures themselves show how successful Slack has become, one of the comments made in the financial statements indicate what is happening in the wider market and how enterprises are addressing the problem of collaboration.

"This is an entirely new category of software enabling a once-in-a-generation shift in the way people work together. We believe channel-based collaboration is so superior to email-based communication for work, that this shift is inevitable," said Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder at Slack.

So what is it we are talking about here? Slack describes itself not just as a collaboration enabled social network, but as a collaboration hub. A collaboration hub is software that influences the way teams work together, said Darren Chait, co-founder and COO of connected meeting notes software company Hugo.

He said that there's a clear distinction between tools that support existing processes and workflows in a more automated, efficient way and tools that define teamwork. Slack is a great example, because professionals now communicate and collaborate in a way they never used to.

“Another perspective is that a collaboration hub has greater company value than just the data contributed to it,”he said. The collaboration multiplier is an effect we've seen where the impact of the team contributing information, reaching alignment and working together with the assistance of a collaboration hub far outweighs its inputs.

“We think about this concept regularly with respect to Hugo's positioning and feature set. Connecting teams through meetings can only be achieved if Hugo is successful in becoming a meeting collaboration hub, rather than just a data store for meeting agendas and notes,” he added.

Related Article: How to Ditch the Guesswork and Create a Culture That's Driven by Data

Uniting Teams and Departments

Karthik Subramanian, a content marketer with Paperflite, describes a collaboration hub as a place that unites people across teams, projects, roles and responsibilities. Take the example of sales and marketing context. According to Subramanian, the majority of enterprise sales and marketing teams are at loggerheads with each other. A collaboration hub can help.

In a normal enterprise, the sales team feels that the marketing team does not know the ground reality. They aren’t aware what challenges customers are facing. The marketing team feels that the sales team is not using the content that they produce, which is content that addresses customer challenges.

Both teams are unable to pinpoint which content is working well for them. Both teams struggle to maintain content on a single collaboration hub that integrates with email systems, CRMs, storage systems (Google Drive, Dropbox etc.), chat vendors, et al.

Collaboration hubs are designed in these cases to bring sales and marketing teams together so that no matter where content is stored, it can be easily discoverable, retrievable, shareable and measurable. ultimately, these hubs help businesses assimilate all their content in one place instead of being scattered.

They ensure sales reps never worry about a new piece of content that they’d have possibly missed out on. It lets people work on the same project, document and file without any intrusions.

More importantly, since intelligent collaboration hubs can also track user engagement of a content asset, sales reps know which content is resonating with the target audience. It helps them contextualize their conversations.

In addition, marketing teams get a better bang for their buck. They know exactly what content themes to invest their efforts in. Branding teams needn’t worry about stale content getting out in the market.

“Content management systems are a brilliant platform that unite people across different teams such as sales, inside sales, marketing, branding, communications, investor relations, designers and a whole host of people across any business,” he said.

Related Article: Are Employees Suffering from Tech Overload?

Application Overload

There are problems though with the constant addition of new apps into the hub. In fact, tech overload is an ongoing problem for digital workplace leaders as more and more apps are introduced, said Kara Longo Korte, director of product management at TetraVX.

She told us that tech overload is real. It is often the result of leaders not carefully vetting how a tech solution solves a problem or how to ensure the solution is adopted. “There are hundreds of workplace solutions on the market, all looking bright and shiny on the surface. However, more times than not, both users and their employers are not looking at how these solutions fit into the businesses’ overall goals, strategy and most importantly, how it directly solves the needs of their end-users,” she said.

This results in overwhelmed employees and causes frustrations when they are flooded with a myriad of solutions they are expected to use. This frustration also leads to a loss of productivity. When there are multiple solutions employees are expected to use, efficiency goes out the window since they are spending their time switching between different channels; if they’re only expected to use one, they’re able to do their job more efficiently as it saves time and prevents miscommunication.

Combating Overload

To combat this overload, companies need to look internally, said Longo Korte. They need to understand the end-users’ (their employees’) needs and pain points and then vet whether the solution under consideration addresses those needs and if it overlaps with their existing solutions; in the case of overlap, they must determine how to eliminate and address duplication.

Too many solution providers, that companies are having discussions with about the implementation of a tech/collaboration solution, tend to push their solution onto customers because they want to drive sales and revenue rather than providing a truly consultative approach to resolve the organization’s needs.

These issues often lead to an overwhelming amount of unnecessary new technology being implemented in the workplace. To prevent this, those in adoption discussions need to have a firm grasp on the goals and needs of the company.

It’s also a good idea to include employees in all conversations when it comes to solutions/technology. After all, they are the ones who will be using it most often and have the ground-level knowledge of what is needed and will be of most value vs. what’s going to cause more headaches than relief.