Are online collaboration tools ready for your business?

Are online collaboration tools ready for your business?

Summary: Collaboration software-as-a-software platforms are emerging as the collaborative backbone of the distributed workforce. But are these tools ready for prime time?

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This week, we published our first Forrester Wave on the cloud strategies of online collaboration software vendors, evaluating how eight vendors -- Box, Cisco Systems, Citrix Online, Google, IBM, Microsoft, salesforce.com, and Yammer -- are constructing collaboration services. Unlike a traditional Wave, this assessment was designed to look at how these vendors are addressing the lingering questions many IT leaders have about online collaboration technology:

  • Is it ready for the prime-time enterprise spotlight?
  • Will it keep me secure and compliant?
  • Does it fit into my business environment?
  • Is the vendor in the online business for the long haul?

We felt that it was important to look across a range of collaboration software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors to see how this nascent market was growing to meet these challenges. And it was essential that we do this now because this market is rapidly evolving into the collaborative backbone of mobile, distributed business ecosystems. That's a pretty strong statement, huh? Give me a moment to explain.

We've been discussing the immediate need for CIOs to get in front of their mobile workforce for a while now. What we haven't stressed as much, but will in our upcoming social business and collaboration playbook, is the need to build collaborative frameworks to include the rest of a business's ecosystem in the conversation: channel partners, suppliers, and customers. That means IT leaders must find ways to get information to and allow interactions between groups of people who are spending a great deal of time beyond the corporate firewall. That's a great argument for the cloud, right?

Our survey data indicates many agree: The majority of decision makers at organizations deploying collaboration software indicate they either use or plan to use collaboration SaaS to some extent within the next two years. So, here's the first pressure point on vendors that made our Wave critical: From a fundamental standpoint -- security, compliance, customization, and integration -- are these vendors ready to handle this swelling demand? Different businesses will this question to be answered differently, and this Wave provides IT leaders a chance to look for those items important to them.

For all of those IT leaders looking at these burgeoning cloud collaboration vendors, there's something else important to note: the design point for these online services is different than traditional on-premises collaboration stacks.

In the traditional on-premises realm, top collaboration software providers anchored their offerings with robust email platforms that tightly integrated with a broader set of real-time, teaming, and social software. This made sense: Email was the old man in the portfolio -- the technology with which these vendors originally differentiated. In the online realm, though, email is simply a commodity. The real differenitation for vendors is how well they tie content services into core collaboration services (e.g. activity streams or teaming platforms) to allow groups to communicate and collaborate on a specific topic. And the key for these vendors is how well they deliver these services to a range of mobile devices carried by those mobile and distributed employees, customers and partners. Don't believe me? Look at the popularity of services like Box; observe Google's and Microsoft's unveiling of Google Drive and Skydrive Pro respectively; notice Cisco's acquisition of Versly and Citrix's purchase of ShareFile and Podio; and look at the emphasis IBM places Connection's social file sharing capabilities in SmartCloud for Social Business. 

So, this creates the second pressure point for vendors in the online collaboration space that made this Wave important: Have they done enough to make this new vision for collaboration service delivery palatable for IT and business leaders?

This Wave lays out how the eight prominent vendors we evaluated are helping a marketplace that's interested in collaboration SaaS take those tenative first steps in the cloud. I will be holding a webinar discussing this Wave and the topics raised above on September 10. In the meantime, I open the floor for discussion on this evolving market. Is this what you're seeing? Do you disagree with this emerging vision? I'm interested in hearing your thoughts.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Cisco, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Mobility, Salesforce.com

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8 comments
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  • What makes collaboration tools different

    Hi,

    First, I believe the title should be "Is Your Business Ready for Online Collaboration Tools". Another subject; another time.

    The success of a social medium [collaboration tools] (whether consumer or enterprise) will depend upon its positioning. If the medium is stand alone there is a lot of risk for what will become a commodity very quickly. However, social medium as a feature of an overall solution; that is private, secure and trusted; exists as an extension of a platform by which an enterprise conducts its business; and, - this I believe is the biggest differentiator - contextually associates information to records and people within the collaboration tool and feeds/pushes the data to the user at the right time delivers powerful tools that enable vale added collaboration.

    Therefore, these medium represent the best prospects for long term success.

    (Sorry for the run on sentence)
    emschles
  • SaaS is going mainstream

    As a SaaS vendor we see more and more businesses are embracing online collaboration software tools. The desktop apps inherently have short coming when it comes to collaboration, SaaS in other hand is primed for collaboration

    David robins
    CEO
    http://www.binfire.com
    robinsdr
  • Welcome

    As per my opinion I found BootStrapToday is an intelligent Application Lifecycle Management Platform on SAAS model. With its built-in intelligence and automation you can detect bugs early, accelerate the software development with improved code quality.
    I am using it since 3 months...and its the best
    For more details visit http://www.bootstraptoday.com
    ashishrt
  • Web Collaboraiton Tools will gain momentum

    As a vendor of a web collaboration platform for meeting agenda and meeting minutes I can definitly see that thousands and thousands of users switch to online platforms for their everyday work. This makes security issues even more important.
    hheckner
    • Web Collaboration for Meeting Minutes

      I forgot to mention the tool I work for: http://www.agreedo.com
      hheckner
  • Perspective

    The right perspective is also needed. Would email pass the same criteria? Email that is either cloud hosted, sync'd locally unencrypted and moved in easily-stolen/lost devices, transported externally unencrypted through unknown infrastructure, is widely distributed in hard-to-control Inboxes with wasteful duplication and storage, very hard to archive, administer compliance, legal holds, etc. etc. (see my post "Email Sucks" at WorkAsOne.com). It's a little like continuing to ride a motorcycle and refusing to switch to a car, because you can imagine safety risks with the car.

    For the first time, Social Collaboration is proven effective at helping organizations move much of its valuable content and knowledge out of silo'd Inboxes into a central repository as an asset that can be better leveraged and controlled.

    It seems safe to review large name vendors, but most of these are "stack players" that want to lock you into their other proprietary technologies. But collaboration technology needs to meet needs across team, geography, and application. Thus, going with a vendor-agnostic social layer that deeply integrates across heterogenous applications is critical.

    Samir Adams Ghosh
    VP Business Development & Strategy
    Qontext.com
    samiradamsghosh
  • Collaboration vendors should focus on ease-of-use

    I think the most pressing problem with most of these vendors is two-fold. First, most provide a single point solution (i.e. Dropbox, Skype) that tries to do everything. These are great tools, but they need to have a more user-centric approach outside of the feature they provide. Second, most of the collaboration tools lack of ease-of-use. Features are abundant but those same features (file sharing, micro-blogging, task management, etc), have become commodities. All the vendors have them. But not all the vendors have the same user adoption (Sharepoint anyone?). The reason of course is that users find them to be too complex. Most users are simple when it comes to using technology. But we NEED them as part of our online collaboration experience. I suppose the overall complexity is the dirty secret of most collaboration tools.

    The biggest single complaint we hear: ‘Our customers and employees wouldn’t use them…’ This is why we’re using Centroy. They’re focused on dead simple ease-of-use. The layout even has a Facebook feel. Humans are a creature of habit. The more they’re familiar with, the more likely they’ll be comfortable using it.

    Centroy seems to get this. They really nailed it. All the same fancy features and security are there (they came first). But as I mentioned before, the features are a commodity. It’s the ease-of-use that’s become an untapped opportunity. Check them out. There’s a live demo sandbox. http://centroy.com
    Ramanonos
  • Video conferencing

    Collaboration tools are very helpful to our business to save time and cost. I am using Arkadin collaboration service provider. For more detail visit http://www.arkadin.com/au
    akppandey