The collaboration conundrum: Companies look to consolidate around team chat apps

With so many collaboration and communications tools now available, companies face app fragmentation and hurdles to ensuring their workers can actually connect.

collaboration tool icons scattered on a conference table

ORLANDO, Fla. – The wide variety of collaboration and communications tools now available to businesses can help connect employees in different locations, but can also result in fragmented and siloed conversations. 

With that in mind, a new breed of team collaboration chat apps has emerged in recent years that, in many cases, incorporate video and voice call functionality alongside text-based messaging. That means enterprise organizations can begin to  consolidate some of their existing communication tools into a single platform deployed across the business, according to a panel of CIOs at the Enterprise Connect conference here in Orlando.

Jason Kasch, CIO at Structural Group, a Maryland-based engineering and construction firm, said his company had previously used a range of applications to connect staffers – everything from Microsoft’s Yammer and Oracle Social Network to group text messaging platform GroupMe and Slack. By moving to RingCentral’s Glip, the company found it easier for employees to start conversations with the right people in the organization.

“We had a bunch of different products where people were collaborating and the one piece that was missing was a central contact point,” Kasch explained. “If everyone was on a different platform, they didn’t have the ability to single point click to start a video conference or a conversation immediately.”

Kasch said deploying the Glip team chat app helped the company replace its various collaboration platforms and made it easier to connect colleagues in different locations. 

“When we collapsed all of those onto one platform we didn’t do it consciously saying, ‘Hey, this was a problem,’ as we didn’t realize it was a problem,” he said. “But the minute we launched RingCentral and gave everyone in the company access to Glip, everyone started migrating all of their conversations to this platform simply so that so they could converse with everybody else in the company.”

John Herbert, CIO at 21st Century Fox, said that relying on numerous collaboration tools can create more headaches for companies rather than solve them. “Fragmented conversations and fragmented tools actually create a bigger problem,” he said. 

The media corporation has rolled out Slack as a core collaboration hub for 25,000 employees across 90 countries, uses Zoom’s video conferencing across the company, turned to Okta for identity management and relies on Quip for content collaboration. “Once we committed to Slack and Zoom it just changed everything, because then everybody is on that same platform with that experience for some consistency.”

Other firms are moving in a similar direction. Mott MacDonald, a 16,000-strong engineering consultancy headquartered in the UK, has gone “all-in” on Microsoft’s Office365 applications. It uses Skype for Business to connect staff as well as Yammer and Lync. “For us, it is still a bit fragmented,” said the firm's CIO, Ronald Sattan.  

Sattan welcomed Microsoft’s decision to consolidate Skype for Business into Teams, which will help to “bring those conversations together into one place.

“The convergence of all that into one thing is going to be massive for us,” he said.

Michael Sherwood, director of technology and innovation for the City of Las Vegas, said that supporting a range of tools is the reality – for now. While he would like to have a single, central collaboration application, “most likely we will have a fragmented world,” he said. 

“We allow employees to have an Android or an iPhone, we will continue to allow a Microsoft path and a Cisco Spark/WebEx path,” he said. “All of our vendors use different platforms and internally we will allow the same type of provision. 

“Hopefully, at some point we can get to the utopia of having one platform: from a maintenance standpoint it would be a lot more progressive.”

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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