Spending on social and collaboration software booms as remote work takes hold

Spending on social and collaboration software booms as remote work takes hold

Gartner has confirmed that companies have been rushing to spend money on tools needed to keep employees connected and productive

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Spending on social and collaborative applications will likely see double-digit growth this year, according to a Gartner forecast, as businesses focus on keeping remote workers connected during the pandemic and beyond.

While videoconferencing tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Cisco Webex were the big winners of the global shift to remote working during 2020, there has also been an uptick in interest in other types of platforms that connect workers and facilitate ad-hoc communications and “water-cooler”-style interactions.

Revenues in three software market segments – collaborative work management, enterprise social networks. and employee communication software – are set to reach almost US$4.5 billion in 2021, a 17 per cent increase from US$3.8 billion in 2020, according to Gartner’s “Forecast Analysis: Social and Collaboration Software in the Workplace, Worldwide.” 

The five-year revenue forecast predicts that revenues will increase by double-digit percentages each year to US$6.9 billion in 2024; the research firm increased its long-term revenue growth forecast in comparison to its 2019 expectations due to the global shift toward remote work. Other drivers behind the increase include a rise in the number of knowledge workers globally, according to Gartner.

“The need to suddenly empty out all the office buildings, while keeping businesses afloat, gave a jolt to many markets, with social and collaboration being one of those at the forefront,” said Craig Roth, research vice president at Gartner and one of the report’s authors. “Social and collaboration products went from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’ within a period of a few weeks.”

Of the three areas covered in the report, collaborative work management tools – including the likes of Asana, Trello and Monday – were the biggest driver of revenue growth, as businesses sought to digitise “non-routine” task management and coordination processes that would otherwise require back-and-forth emails.

“Tracking and coordination of work outside of formal project plans became a lot more difficult when you couldn't just ask for status over a cube wall. These tools, which were on an upswing anyway, got an extra boost [during the pandemic],” said Roth.

The report also forecasts that collaborative and social functionality will increasingly be embedded into CRM, HR and ERP business applications. Gartner predicts that 65 per cent of enterprise application software provides will include collaboration features in their products by 2025.

That trend is well under way. Microsoft recently announced that its Teams collaboration tool will be made accessible in elements of its Dynamics 365 portfolio, for example, while Salesforce’s pending acquisition of team chat pioneer Slack is likely to bring tight integration across its suite of business apps.

The advantage of embedding social and collaboration functionality is the ability to include non-formalised processes, such as conversations or content sharing, in more process-oriented business tools.

“Going forward, we’ll start seeing [collaboration] products integrated more into packaged business applications, as opposed to being a siloed product on the side that, every now and then, you exit your business application to do some collaboration, and then go back to ‘work,’” said Roth. “It shouldn't feel that way.”

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