When NetScout surveyed IT decision-makers over a year ago, 86% of respondents expected the number of collaboration tools their enterprise uses to decrease. But when the network management vendor ran the survey again in November 2022, the majority consensus had flipped: 75% of respondents said they anticipate the number of collab tools will grow within their enterprises.
That’s “a pendulum swing that probably gave people whiplash,” said Eileen Haggerty, area VP, product and solutions marketing at Netscout. So what’s behind the change?
Haggerty believes IT decision-makers’ natural inclination to reduce complexity is colliding with the reality of how hybrid work is playing out today. “There's an acquiescence, I think,” she said. “They have to say: I get it. If your customer says he wants a meeting on a platform that's not our standard, we're going to let you do it. We're not going to prevent you.” So enterprises may have a preferred or default platform, “but then the flip is, we know you're going to use others.”
That perspective probably relates to another startling result: Though 57% of respondents said their enterprise supports one to four collaboration platforms, at the other end of the spectrum, a not-insignificant 16% say their enterprises support 10 or more collaboration platforms.
Specifically, the most commonly-cited reason for adding collaboration platforms—with 89% of respondents—was, “Better features, functions or attributes of new platforms.” Sixty-seven percent said new platforms were added to, “Better support employee collaboration.”
The survey also found collaboration platforms continue to seriously impact enterprise IT help desks, though the burden seems to be easing. A year ago, 42% of respondents said that a majority of their help desk tickets were related to “UC&C issues,” a figure that fell to 29% in the latest survey. Haggerty attributed this decline to the return to office (RTO). “Many of these users are now at least part time, if not full time, in offices where [the enterprise] can control the user experience through the corporate network,” she said. In addition, “it's possible some of the home users have learned to fix their own problems.”
But worries about productivity remain. In the survey, 93% of IT leaders said they’re “concerned that UC&C-related challenges may temporarily hinder productivity within their organization this year,” according to the NetScout survey report. Asked about the most common UC&C-related problems end users report, 66% of respondents cited, “Delays in joining UCaaS [UC as a Service] video or audio conferences.” Another 30% cited the inability to log into UCaaS services.
“The productivity issue is real,” Haggerty said. And the person who reports the trouble to the help desk isn’t the only person affected: “Everybody on the call is waiting to start the call or continue the conversation when somebody drops,” she pointed out.
For NetScout, a multivendor environment that requires third-party management tools looks like a major business opportunity. For IT leaders, it probably just looks like the new reality of hybrid work. It remains to be seen whether enterprise IT organizations—looking to control costs wherever they can--will continue to support an environment of proliferating collaboration tools, as they currently seem prepared to do.
But concerns about productivity and using collaboration tools most effectively will likely remain. “Collaboration is here to stay and that work style is going to depend on the ability to have it available constantly, at good quality,” Haggerty said. “This is here to stay, so let's help make it work as well as it can, so that people can continue to be productive and successful.”