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Why collaboration is the next driver in enterprise software

Use of enterprise collaboration tools has exploded during the pandemic. Now they are expanding their remit into the realm of enterprise systems

Enterprise software is likely to become more tightly integrated with social networking and collaboration, according to analyst Gartner.

The $27.7bn purchase of Slack by Salesforce shows just how much enterprise software providers are spending to address a significant gap in their portfolios. “Right now there is a difference between formal processes encoded into a packaged application and non-routine work,” said Craig Roth, research vice-president at Gartner.

This work, that falls outside the formal business processes run by the enterprise software, tends to take place ad hoc, via email or in social and collaboration platforms.

“You use your business software to get business critical processes running and switch to collaboration tools if there is an issue. They are very separate,” he said, adding that enterprise software and collaboration platforms will come together to plug the gap between formal business processes and informal chats. For instance, the Salesforce-Slack deal will result in Slack becoming the user interface for Salesforce.

But, according to Roth, it’s not just Salesforce that has been upping its game in terms of melding enterprise systems with collaboration tools and social media. “Partnerships between software providers will take on more importance, as a close relationship is required for the tight integration of disparate application functions,” he said. For instance, Microsoft Teams integrates with the company’s Dynamics enterprise software platform. Microsoft Teams is also linked into SAP.

Gartner has predicted that by 2025, nearly 65% of enterprise application software providers will have included some form of social software and collaboration functionality in their software product portfolios. 

“Providers of packaged business applications, such as ERP and CRM software, have previously offered basic social and collaboration functionality,” said Roth. “However, they are now facing heightened expectations about the seamless inclusion of non-routine tasks, such as conversations and marking up content, in their process-oriented products.”

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  • Enterprise social networks like Slack and Yammer are gaining steam as alternatives to traditional email, but they can raise some concerns for HR managers.

The worldwide social software and collaboration market is forecast to total $4.5bn in 2021, an increase of 17.1% from 2020, according to the latest forecast by Gartner.  As well as social software integrations within other enterprise applications, supporting remote work during Covid-19, has helped to drive significant growth.

“Many of the existing use cases propelling the social and collaboration market, such as coordinating a distributed workforce and providing a ‘virtual water cooler,’ got a sudden jolt from the pandemic,” said Roth. “Social and collaboration tools went from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ in a matter of weeks.”

He said that many organisations are likely to run multiple collaboration, social networking and unified communications tools. For example, a recent Gartner survey among organisations running Office 365 found that 34% also had Zoom sunscripts, even though Microsoft Teams offers video communications functionality.

Similarly, 39% ran WebEx as well as Office 365. Roth said the market is highly competitive and there is no single definitive platform.

This suggests IT decision makers will continue to buy enterprise software and collaboration platforms where functionality overlaps.

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