In 2020, the world became intimately familiar with unified communication and collaboration technology that helped organizations transition to remote work as COVID-19 lockdowns forced offices and workplaces to close.
With that came several challenges, including keeping remote workers engaged at a level consistent with when everyone was back in the office and making sure these new programs that we’ve been living on for the last 9 months are still having an impact when offices begin to reopen.
“The desire and learnings from collaboration al remained the same,” says Dana Corey, senior vice president of collaboration display provider Avocor.
“The challenge has been how to integrate that with work from home and more important for us, as they return – whatever percentage that is – how do we ensure the work from home colleague is just as engaged as those in the office again?”
The competitive collaboration market
Although Zoom and Microsoft Teams grab many of the headlines – and business – other players like Google and Cisco aren’t just “sitting around idly waiting,” Corey says.
Instead, those two and many others are releasing new platform features and in some cases are overhauling the design of the applications and introducing new tools that make it easier for enterprise to connect internally and externally in this work-from-anywhere environment.
Corey expects unified communications and collaboration software companies to continue to execute on their strategies in 2021.
“My thought is in Q1, we’ll start seeing a big uptick in some of these meeting rooms and advancements, which means they’re going to have to bring more to the table to make the category stronger,” Corey says.
Those dynamic workplace challenges and sudden focus in the collaboration industry are giving rise to a new categories of enterprise technology: collaboration devices and displays designed to be portable and used in both the home office and in the corporate office.
They include videoconferencing devices like Zoom for Home, Crestron HomeTime, Facebook Portal and hardware from other collaboration giants like Google and Webex. Other companies like Poly have designed portable speakerphones that can support a variety of uses and environments in offices at home and on location.
Look for platform-agnostic systems
However, the videoconferencing and collaboration markets are flooded with software from several providers like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Google Meet, Bluejeans, Slack, RingCentral and many more.
There have been calls for these companies to get along and provide more interoperability and integrations, but that has largely failed to materialize as the collaboration software industry suddenly became extremely lucrative and competitive.
According to collaboration industry experts, using multiple software vendors isn’t all that rare. Some companies use one app to communicate externally and another to communicate with their team. If organizations work in small teams, the software of choice can vary among groups.
“I don’t know about you, but my home system needs to be agnostic and open to the ability to be bouncing around from a Teams meeting to a Zoom meeting to a PowerPoint,” Corey says.
IT directors need to prepare for this as optimistic news about effective vaccines is getting people thinking about the return to the office.
“If you’re an IT director and planned to have a single platform in all of your offices and you have no concept of work-from-home in that platform, you’re in deep trouble,” Corey says. “At any given time, the agnostic part lets you ebb and flow with the business.”