Gartner predicts that the market for social software and collaboration in the workplace will grow from an estimated $2.7 billion in 2018 to $4.8 billion by 2023. According to the company, nearly 60 per cent of enterprise application software providers will have included some form of social software and collaboration functionalities in their software product portfolios.
“The collaboration market is the most fragmented and contextually focussed it has ever been, making the barrier to entry extremely low,” said Craig Roth, research vice president at Gartner.
The collaboration market has fragmented into many submarkets – for instance, employee communications applications or meeting solutions – that often do not compete with each other.
“The market is not yet a winner-take-all space, creating opportunities for innovation that will expand the size of each submarket,” said Roth. “The future of social software and collaboration will leverage new capabilities like social analytics, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart machines.”
The use of collaboration software in the modern workplace is connected to growing amounts of routine work. It is increasing penetration in the existing user base and growth from emerging regions, such as China, in the number of potential users and buyers. By 2023, the number of knowledge workers in the world will increase to 1.14 billion, with more than four-fifths of that growth coming from the emerging world.
Enterprises are moving toward a portfolio approach for the broader world of collaborative technologies. “While decision-makers still want a foundational platform, there is acceptance that no single vendor can address it all,” said Roth. “At the same time, collaboration services are becoming infrastructure services, which is good, but it also means more silos since everyone wants to be their own destination.”
The collaboration market has always been very tool-driven and is continuing down that path. Slack is the vendor most often associated with the workstream collaboration market. However, Microsoft and Google have entered the market and bundled their workstream collaboration offerings in cloud office suites that are deployed by vast numbers of global organisations to address general productivity needs.
Non-cloud office vendors will need to focus on more-specific business scenarios (such as sales, marketing, customer service, supply chain), decision-making roles, supporting use cases, deeper integration capabilities and third-party partnerships. “This will enable them to build stronger value propositions for organisations that have deployed cloud office environments across the enterprise in order to address general productivity and collaboration needs,” explained Roth.
Social media and real-time messaging are now key to enterprise collaboration, according to the recent Gartner Digital Worker Survey. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents reported using real-time mobile messaging tools daily, and 45 per cent reported using social media networks daily.
“Digital workers turn to tools that are common in their personal lives to get work done. Real-time mobile messaging is quite common in support of enterprise endeavours, as are social media and file-sharing tools,” said Roth. “The use of such tools effectively blends workers’ personal experiences and their work experiences.”
Buying decisions are becoming driven by categories within the social software market that reflect specific business needs. This shift has the potential to create a dominant player in each submarket or draw new entrants into the space.