Spending on collaboration software rocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic as remote work became the norm for many businesses, and investments are set remain high even as offices begin to reopen.
Global collaboration software spending reached US$22.6 billion in 2020, according to an IDC report, an increase of 32.9 per cent compared to 2019. It was the fourth successive year of double-digit, year-on-year growth, according to IDC.
The five largest collaboration software vendors by revenue – Microsoft, Google, Zoom, Cisco and Slack – accounted for 64.2 per cent of the market, up 4 per cent from the previous year. The top 20 vendors saw 40 per cent annual revenue growth, on average, during the year, though Zoom outpaced the market with a 227.1 per cent increase.
A variety of factors are likely to contribute to continued growth, said Wayne Kurtzman, research director at IDC and the report’s author. Companies are now more aware of the business value of collaboration tools that enable streamlined internal communications and better employee efficiency. The tools can also offer greater insight into operations and information flow within an organisation. And closer integration of collaboration software with business apps, such as CRM platforms, can help to improve customer outcomes, he said.
New avenues of collaboration will also spur business demand, Kurtzman said, as partners and customers find they can communicate more effectively. Slack and Microsoft Teams have opened their respective team chat apps to external collaboration, for instance, with the introduction of shared channels.
“Collaboration with external users provide[s] greater insights to project teams and enable companies to be more responsive to customer and partner needs,” said Kurtzman. “This results in greater loyalty to the company and better customer experience.”
The expansion of collaboration software to previously underserved groups of frontline, customer-facing employees will also drive spending.
Further ahead, IDC expects emerging collaboration technologies will boost revenues for a variety of vendors. This includes efforts to create virtual environments for remote collaboration, as seen with the likes of Microsoft’s HoloLens and Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms and the replacement of “talking head” video feeds with avatars that engage with each other.
“’Metaverse’ solutions will be integrated into the conferencing, team collaboration and community space in future,” he said.
A recent Gartner report also shed light on the extent of collaboration software adoption during the pandemic.
Almost 80 per cent of workers now use collaboration software in their jobs, up from just over half of workers in 2019, according to findings from Gartner’s Digital Worker Experience Survey. That amounted to a 44 per cent increase in use. During the same period, the adoption of storage and sharing tools rose by 16 per cent, and real-time mobile messaging apps use grew by 7 per cent.
The growth was driven by the rapid switch to video and audio meetings during the pandemic: Gartner’s research also found, not surprisingly, that the number of in-person meetings dropped from 63 per cent in 2019 to 33 per cent in 2021. That shift is expected to continue, with only 25 per cent of meetings to be carried out in-person by 2024; many businesses plan “hybrid” remote work strategies going forward.