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Understanding the 4 Pillars of the Collaboration Economy


A network graph with different apps
Image: Sergey Nivens -
Last week, team collaboration vendor Symphony held its annual Innovate event, virtually, of course. Last year’s theme was “the collaboration economy,” and this year, it expanded to include connectivity. The thesis of the week was driven by how COVID-19 has permanently impacted the way we work, communicate, and collaborate and how connectivity is now a critical element to thrive in today’s economy.
For those not familiar, Symphony is a secure collaboration platform designed for financial services firms, with companies like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs utilizing the platform to create targeted workflows. The platform houses more than 2,000 chatbots that automate many routine tasks that are critical to business operations.
And at the event, Symphony’s founder and CEO David Gurlé delivered the keynote address and shared how Symphony has seen the usage of its platform surge since the start of the pandemic. The number of active users jumped by 32%, the number of messages sent grew by 300%, meeting usage grew a whopping 380%, and even the use of BOT messages increased 79%. Gurlé attributed the growth to a shift in the way firms connect internally and externally.
One of the points Gurlé made was that the world became flatter with COVID-19, as barriers and time zones disappeared when everyone transitioned to home offices. I think all of us have felt this, but the financial services vertical is highly time-sensitive, as delays of even a few minutes can cost big dollars. It’s a good lesson for other industries that are now working remotely but need to make decisions faster to maintain the accelerated pace of doing business. Organizations across industries have accelerated their digital initiatives to support borderless collaboration. Connecting with customers, partners, and external teams — not just internal ones — has become imperative in these challenging times.
As Gurlé went through his keynote, he described four key pillars of this new, pandemic economy. They are as follows:
  1. Borderless collaboration was the first element he highlighted in his keynote. All the collaboration vendors can enable internal workers to collaborate, and many vendors have added guest access. Symphony was built on the concept of democratized access for all participants in this industry, as enterprises in financial services typically work with other firms. The ability to make collaboration seamless across company borders is growing increasingly important in this vertical but also for healthcare, education, and any business where working with people cross company is important. If you can’t talk to your suppliers, customers, and others, you won’t be effective at all.
  2. Mission-critical reliability was next, and this goes hand-in-hand with borderless collaboration. The infrastructure companies use to communicate hasn’t always been reliable during the crisis. Spotty Wi-Fi and power outages are just some examples of issues remote teams often run into. Organizations need to prioritize connectivity that teams can rely on 24/7, so they stay connected to customers and partners overseas. Collaboration vendors can’t fix all these issues, but they can certainly minimize the chances of an outage by ensuring their cloud is built to withstand the surges we have seen.
  3. Global presence addresses the flattening of the world and how tools like Symphony have removed the distance and time zone barriers. Gurlé was realistic in explaining the difficulty of working across multiple time zones. He mentioned that he worked with his teams across four time zones, and collaboration tool made it possible to do so in an era where travel is no longer possible. In many ways, we can meet with more teams in more time zones, and while it might be inconvenient to be on a call at 10 PM, for many, it’s better than hopping on a plane and being away for a week.
  4. Finally, security and compliance are the key elements that help organizations withstand cyber threats and meet regulatory obligations as part of their day-to-day operations. This means being able to connect with colleagues, customers, and partners using any app or network, while meeting stringent regulations. Symphony securely integrates with WeChat and WhatsApp Connect, a feature that is in high demand from sales teams and wealth advisors whose clients commonly use those apps. Compliance may be something only regulated verticals need to worry about, but all organizations should care about data security.
So, where does Symphony go next? One challenge Symphony’s customers have brought up consistently is how to grow their business and keep costs in control at the same time, Gurlé said. He described modern workers as “jugglers” of information, as we move between agile teams. One of the struggles is that we need to juggle faster, faster, and faster.
Symphony’s goal is to build out its platform to enable the complete “workflow pyramid” that consists of connectivity as the foundation, which would enable seamless collaboration where people can share ideas across the ecosystem and improving productivity. While working all the time might seem like a grind, many business leaders have seen productivity reach new heights. I don’t believe this model is sustainable, which is why the next layer of the pyramid is workflow automation. If that’s done correctly, then businesses can get back to a growth mode instead of merely surviving.
As an analyst, it’s fascinating to see how the vendor community has altered its vision as the pandemic has raged on and created more and more what looks like working from anywhere becomes the normal. I’m sure we will eventually return to offices, but even when that happens, businesses will still need to embrace the connectivity and collaboration economy.