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Team Chat Is Dead, Long Live Team Collaboration!

Team chat applications have gathered a great deal of attention, as well as adoption, over the last several years, as Nemertes data shows. But "team collaboration" is really what it's all about.

In our most recent benchmark, we found that nearly 20% of 700 participating companies had already deployed team chat apps, while another 18% planned to do so by the end of 2018. An additional 17% were evaluating team chat apps for potential future adoption. Nearly half (46%) had rolled out or were planning to roll out team chat on an enterprise-wide basis. This means team chat has jumped the shark from the siloed deployments, typically within application development and other IT functions, we had seen in previous years.

What's more, approximately one third of participants in our recently published contact center and customer engagement study said they are using or planning to use team chat apps in their contact centers. The goal here is to enable agents to easily collaborate with supervisors, higher-level support personnel, or back-office experts to address customer inquiries rapidly.

What many simply viewed as a replacement for instant messaging and email is rapidly evolving to team collaboration. This shift is creating new challenges and opportunities for collaboration and business software leaders as they seek to derive business value from adoption while addressing ongoing concerns around security and compliance. Witness the following recent developments:

  • RingCentral's transition of Glip from a stand-alone team chat application to the core of its desktop UC client, combining team chat features with softphone and meeting applications
  • AeroFS's merger with Redbooth, which set in motion the likely delivery of a team collaboration tool combining AeroFS's document management capabilities and Amium team chat client with Redbooth's project management tools
  • Cisco's continued evolution of its Spark collaboration tool to add room capabilities (via Spark Board), enterprise-grade security, the ability to include external participants in Spark rooms, and most recently, virtual reality
  • Microsoft's and Slack's deliveries of capabilities to bring external participants into team channels
  • Softbank's new investment in Slack, bringing the company's value north of $5 billion
  • Atlassian's repackaging of HipChat as Stride, integrating real-time collaboration features like voice and video conferencing with chat
  • Introduction and feature expansion of other team chat applications ranging from Flock, to those from UC vendors like Avaya, BroadSoft, Mitel, and others

Atlassian's Stride is one example of a team tool integrating video and other real-time collaboration features

In addition, rumors continue to swirl that at next week's Ignite conference, Microsoft will consolidate Skype for Business and Teams under the Teams umbrella (see related article, "Why Teams Is the Future of Skype for Business). Taken together, team chat is no longer just about messaging, but instead is now the basis for most collaboration vendors' collaboration and digital workplace offerings.

Given the open nature of most team applications, ranging from a rich set of APIs to pre-packaged integrations with business software platforms, team collaboration applications are poised to become either the default collaboration desktop or be increasingly embedded into business process applications. With the latter, the goal is making collaboration tools available to workers right inside the applications they use to perform their jobs.

Our discussions with clients around team collaboration are evolving. While clients still have plenty of "what application should I use?" questions, increasingly their concerns are moving into the practical and the tactical. Conversations will focus on issues such as archiving and protecting team conversations, ensuring resiliency and guaranteeing performance for features like voice and video, and enabling team spaces that include partners, customers, and suppliers.

In addition, IT and business leaders we speak to express concerns over the lack of interoperability among team applications, potentially creating an environment whereby workers are using one app inside the company and multiple apps to collaborate with peers in other organizations. Again, such situations lead to challenges related to security, governance, and compliance.

While solutions like 8x8's Sameroom provide the ability to interconnect chat rooms, they don't allow for true feature federation that would enable individuals using Slack, Spark, and Teams to collaborate in a single workspace, sharing files, assigning tasks, and holding meetings via interconnected voice, video, and screen sharing. These frustrations are similar to what we'd heard for years around instant messaging, and despite limitations on vendor interoperability, corporate deployments of IM flourished.

IT and business leaders who aren't following team collaboration developments, or who haven't looked at these apps in a while, should revisit the space. Team chat is no longer just chat. Rather it's the basis for digital workplace, combining chat and contextual text with voice, video, project management, and an increasing array of application integrations. Over time, team collaboration apps will replace, supplement, or incorporate most, if not all, other types of collaboration applications in use today.

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