Software

Microsoft leads the pack in enterprise collaboration tools--but for how long?

Forrester Research reports that Microsoft is the market leader in enterprise collaboration software, but the lead is precarious at best.

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Image: iStockphoto.com/Rawpixel

In mid-January 2017, the Yammer Team at Microsoft published a blog post touting its app's prominent position in a recent report from Forrester Research. Yammer was tested on several criteria versus other enterprise-level collaboration applications, from the likes of Salesforce, IBM, SAP, and VMware, and came out as the overall highest rated.

This is a great achievement for Microsoft and the Yammer Team to be sure, but, as is usually the case, there is much more to the story. The Forrester Research report also indicated that competition in enterprise collaborative solutions is going to increase tremendously. Will Microsoft's strategic philosophy in this market give the company an edge or weigh it down?

Yammer leads the way

The Forrester report is titled The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Collaboration, Q4 2016 and subtitled The Nine Providers That Matter Most And How They Stack Up. The report evaluated enterprise collaboration applications from providers based on these three criteria:

  • Current offering—functionality, security, analytics, etc.
  • Strategy—vendor vision, innovation, planned enhancements, etc.
  • Market presence—installed base of customers, revenue growth, offered services, etc.

Microsoft Yammer scored as the market leader using the Forrester Research Wave model of measurement. You can check out the Forrester website if you want the full details.

SEE: Yammer is on the way to Office 365: Are you ready?

Perhaps the most interesting revelation in the report was this quote about Microsoft's enterprise collaboration strategy:

"Microsoft bets on employee choice and portfolio breadth. Microsoft's strategy starts with this premise: No single collaboration app can meet all of today's employee needs. This has led it to offer a loosely coupled set of collaboration tools."

This approach suggests the reason why there are so many collaboration tools available within Office 365. Microsoft doesn't want to back itself into a corner by betting on a single solution for enterprise collaboration, so it offers numerous solutions, one or more of which is bound to appeal to someone.

SEE: Microsoft Office 365 is suffering from the dreaded feature creep

This concept goes a long way toward explaining why I often feel there are too many choices offered in Office 365, but it also may be a brilliant strategy on Microsoft's part. The Forrester report notes that enterprise collaboration is a highly competitive market and in a constant state of flux. The eventual winners and losers have not been determined and the leaders in this report may not be the leaders a year or two from now.

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Image: Forrester Research

We also have to consider the fact that the enterprise workforce is itself in a state of flux, especially when it comes to preferred collaboration tools. For better or worse, the up and coming generation of enterprise employees doesn't have much loyalty to their apps. They were raised in an environment where trying new apps, finding ones they like, and then dropping old ones for new ones is just a fact of life. Use whatever works for however long it works and then move on to the next thing.

That is a tough marketplace to operate in, and providing a plethora of ever-adapting choices may be the best strategic approach any software developer could take.

SEE: Microsoft Office 365: The smart person's guide

Bottom line

According to Forrester Research, Yammer places Microsoft as the current leader in collaborative enterprise software. It is right for the Yammer Team to take a bow in this regard, but it had better not rest on its laurels. Well-financed and innovative software developers are gaining ground and competition is fierce and cutthroat.

Microsoft's approach of providing numerous enterprise collaboration solutions may give it an edge on the competition, at least for the time being, but this market is too volatile to declare victory just yet.

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Your thoughts

What is your enterprise collaboration tool of choice? How loyal to it are you? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.

About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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