Image: GettyImages/Laurence Dutton

Over the last year, organizations around the globe adopted remote work policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. During this time, remote teams used a vast suite of tools a la video conferencing platforms and messaging services to enable virtual collaboration. On Tuesday, software company AvePoint released the results of a U.K. survey identifying the virtual collaboration challenges, IT burden and more.

“While the speed at which many organisations pivoted to the cloud this year was nothing short of amazing, that may have come with major security trade-offs,” said John Peluso, chief product officer at AvePoint, and Microsoft regional director, in a press release. “But I am optimistic because, as our survey revealed, many businesses now have an opportunity to reduce risk in the near and long-term with proper governance solutions in place.”

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Digital collaboration deployments

A portion of the survey asked respondents to compare their use of platforms like Office 365 and Microsoft Teams now compared to before the coronavirus pandemic. Before COVID-19, 35% of respondents said they used Microsoft Teams moderately and 51% did not use it “at all” and 13% used the platform “regularly,” according to the survey ebook about the findings. Today, 86% of respondents said they use Teams regularly and 11% use the platform moderately; only 3% of respondents said they do not use Teams.

Interestingly, 75% of companies “deployed Microsoft Teams without proper governance or security in place,” according to the press release, explaining that this approach has left organizations “vulnerable to internal and external threats.”

Virtually all respondents companies (95%) believe “they are compliant with internal and external regulations” and few (7%) “lacked confidence that their digital collaboration deployment was secure from data leaks and unauthorised access,” according to the release.

Interestingly, more than one-quarter of respondents (28%) said they check their Microsoft Teams “settings and membership” to pinpoint “potential risks” and a similar number of respondents remove guest users (25%) and are able to “determine who has access to specific data for audits” (22%), per the release.

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Virtual collaboration challenges

A portion of the survey asked respondents to identify the “biggest challenges” to their “digital collaboration since the COVID-19 lockdown in March” using a list of possible answers and the ability to select multiple applicable responses. Overall, 67% of respondents said that “training users on new tools and ways of working” was the biggest challenge during this time period and 56% selected “increased IT burden related to managing/servicing new collab tools,” according to the survey ebook.

“Our digital collaboration survey found that it is near impossible for employees to always comply with relevant policies, and for IT to monitor said activity, especially with the increased responsibilities they’ve taken on over the past year and a half,” said John Hodges, SVP product strategy at AvePoint, in a press release. “That’s why there is a growing need for governance automation for any company leveraging tools like Microsoft Teams.”

Since the initial lockdowns in March 2020, a similar number of respondents said that “making new [communication] methods compliant” (43%) and “securing remote network[s]” (42%) were the biggest digital collaboration challenges. One-third of respondents (34%) selected “securing external sharing” and one-quarter (26%) identified “controlling access to digital workspaces/documents” as the biggest digital collaboration challenge.

“As more companies adopt cloud-based tools for digital collaboration, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the data created, and who has access to it,” said Nigel Kilpatrick, country manager, U.K., Ireland and South Africa for AvePoint, in a press release. “Even as companies return to hybrid work environments, scaling management, governance and compliance remains vital.”


The findings are based on a survey conducted from November 2020 through late January 2021 involving 222 respondents from 202 organizations.