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The future of collaboration tools and the three key drivers for change

By Simon Haighton-Williams, CEO of Adaptavist


The last 18 months have afforded us all with the stark realisation of just how quickly life can change. With rapid shifts in how we live, work, and function as a society, COVID-19 has forced change at scale, for individuals, governments and particularly for businesses.

While some businesses relished in digital transformation prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, others had resisted, forcing the overnight implementation of new processes and tools such as Zoom, Google Docs and Slack. Now seemingly second nature, tools like these have enabled us to connect with people during periods of forced isolation and they’ve also helped organisations to pivot at a moment’s notice while empowering teams to collaborate from anywhere.

However, we’re now approaching a new phase in the pandemic. Teamed with a workforce that’s demanding continued hybrid working, a portfolio of new collaboration tools and an element of uncertainty, organisations are seeking a new level of resilience to ensure business continuity. Here are three key challenges that IT leaders are looking to address in this new distributed world:

Integrating third-party tools

Research from SWZD shows that 76% of companies plan on long-term IT changes as a result of COVID-19 and will increase cloud and managed services spending in 2021.

Transitioning to a remote-working environment has naturally meant a growing reliance on third-party technology and for most, the likes of SaaS applications have opened up new possibilities for companies in the face of the pandemic. SaaS provides pre-canned solutions that are easy to buy and start using, rather than needing extensive deployment.

However, this wave of externally deployed, off the shelf solutions in the last year or so is creating an increasingly hybrid landscape – meaning companies are running a mixture of SaaS applications and on-premise solutions. This balancing act brings complexity to those who manage systems, the data in them, and the business processes they embody, developing a new challenge of deploying and managing tools across platforms and across a broader network.

Integration planning is key to bringing a company’s broad number of communication and collaboration tools together. Through integration, companies can create a solution that’s essentially built for them using the selection of tools they love, providing a much more powerful, flexible and adaptable means of working for the future.

Non-technical teams using tools

Another important challenge for IT teams is that these new tools are no longer exclusive to the IT department. In fact, our 2021 State of the Atlassian Ecosystem report found that an increasing number of operations, customer support and marketing teams were also using Atlassian tools, suggesting a step-change in the way organisations operate.

This increase in non-technical teams using tools suggests that there’s a shift-change in the way employees work, brought on in part by remote and hybrid working environments. Of course, with more users operating these tools, more work needs to be done to connect the disjointed applications and systems they’re using. If not, it could result in critical business information not being managed in a unified way across the company, running the risk of mismatched data held in applications and on-premise systems to the detriment of wider business operations.

In order to better align teams and the work that they’re doing, it’s a similar requirement to the proliferation of different types of tools. Companies must integrate their disparate tools to maximise their productivity. In the same way, unifying data across different teams will streamline operations and enable a smoother, more efficient means of unlocking business critical information.

Automating workflows

Organisations are having to adapt faster and be more agile. A recent GitLab survey found, for example, that 60% of software developers are releasing code 2x faster than ever before. It’s no surprise therefore that automating workflows is a top driver for companies that are looking to introduce or update their DevOps strategy. In fact 81% of survey respondents in our 2021: State of the Atlassian Ecosystem report cited automation as an important driver for implementing DevOps.

We’d like to think that we’re a far cry away from how workflows used to be managed when companies would spend weeks of time to deploy small upgrades or fix bugs, responding to inefficiencies with slow turnaround, poor quality, little teamwork and a lack of accountability. Companies can unite development and technology operations, and accelerate software development while ensuring continuous improvement with tighter feedback loops. Plus, having an end-to-end view that showcases the journey from ideation to production is invaluable. If companies want to change the way employees work, in all aspects of development and operations, this is how it’s done.

In summary, the future of collaboration tools looks bright. In order to ensure business resilience and future growth, IT leads are increasingly focused on how to integrate third-party tools across an organisation, as well as across different teams. They’re also addressing the need for greater workflow automation. Companies have to take their tools’ strategy seriously. And those that do will be the ones that are successful and that survive.