Zoom, Teams, Skype, Webex: Business collaboration software becoming a battleground, Aternity says

Hybrid work models are going to be here for the long haul, which makes remote work-enabling software a new key market. So far, the battle is going in Microsoft's favor.

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IMAGE: iStock/fizkes

The seventh volume of Aternity's Global Remote Work Productivity Tracker has been released, with the focus this time on something everyone knew was likely, and which Aternity said is almost assuredly the case: Hybrid work isn't going anywhere. That's not all, though: Along with hybrid remote/in-office work continuing into the near future, Aternity said the collaboration software world is headed toward full-scale battleground status.

To illustrate the point that remote work will continue beyond the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aternity points to two decisions by Google and Amazon. Google said it will keep its offices closed until September 2021 while also considering flexible work weeks with in-office collaboration days after that, and Amazon's HQ2 design was revealed to include collaboration spaces for employees who would only go to the office for occasional meetings. 

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

That trend, Aternity said, is an indicator that "the collaboration apps market as a new battle line in the war among the enterprise tech giants." Salesforce bought Slack, and Microsoft has announced tighter integration with SAP business software, the report said, but if the 2020 market was any indication, the rest of the business collaboration software world has some serious catching up to do if it wants to rival Microsoft.

Zoom is frequently held up as a pandemic success story, with massive growth despite security problems that cropped up during the early part of 2020. Since Feb. 17, 2020, which Aternity considered its "baseline usage" date, Zoom usage increased by 1,788% as of Dec. 20, 2020. That's impressive, but it's nowhere near the growth that Microsoft Teams experienced, with 3,891% growth over the same period. 

Microsoft lost collaboration tool market share over the same time period, however, declining from 93% of the market to 83%, and Skype (a Microsoft product) ceded a lot of ground to both Teams and other products, which caused Microsoft's actual growth, when considered by vendor, to be just 391%, putting it behind Webex, Slack, and Zoom. 

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Regardless of Skype for business' decline and its effect on Microsoft's bottom line, the company still dominates the collaboration market with, as mentioned above, 83% of collaboration app usage. Zoom eked out a mere 6.6%, and Slack and Webex tied with only 4.9%.

  • Aternity warned that collaboration app sprawl could hamper productivity, and with 79% of the North American workforce still remote as of Dec. 20, 2020, and likely to stay that way, productivity could decline. Aternity makes the following seven recommendations "to ensure a positive employee digital experience:"
  • Define flexible work policies, and as part of those definitions include what technology will be needed to make policies effective.
  • Analyze current usage of collaboration apps to identify a baseline for improving on cost, optimization, and performance.
  • Reassess collaboration app portfolios once new policies are defined, and be sure the apps your organization is using are the best for the job.
  • Eliminate redundant tools and closely manage migration to new ones to prevent negative impacts on employee experience. 
  • Make collaboration apps part of mission-critical software, then treat them as such by ensuring support, maintenance, and performance monitoring.
  • Keep records of how well hardware and software is performing in a hybrid environment so quick action can be taken if things aren't going well.
  • Compare remote work policies and employee digital experience against competitors to determine which sort of improvements will have the largest impact. 

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