I think it is safe to say that the gap of time between the advent of any particular breakthrough technology is narrowing as society becomes accustomed to the rapidly changing industry and the profit potential embedded therein. The need for businesses to stay productive is no exception, hence the influx of enterprise-wide productivity suites and new methods of communication in the most recent past…ALL within the last 2 decades! It is hard to imagine the days of manually delivered notes and messages when email is SO much more effective and convenient. In today’s corporate culture, hand-delivering a note would just not be practical when everyone is trying to save time and get more done with less.
Increasing productivity is a common goal of all enterprises, regardless of size and nature of business. For example, in manufacturing operations it means a greater volume of output for a given unit of input, which in turn drives the firm’s ability to maximize its resources to reduce operation costs and increase profitability. This allows for the greater inflow of cash to drive business growth and gain market share.
Productivity gains are often achieved by leveraging technology and the accompanying efficiencies. At a higher level, these can be broken down by productivity in sales operations and production and productivity among employees and support functions – the profit-side and the cost-side.
A major driver of cost-side productivity is enterprise collaboration and the way in which employees interact, exchange information, and support business operations and growth. A company with greater productivity can streamline its operations, which in turn reduces its costs. According to a recent white paper by Oracle “The Business Case for Enterprise Collaboration”, collaboration has changed dramatically over the last 3 decades through the use of information technology and tools to become more productive. Below is a timeline that I have made to illustrate the stages of change in the enterprise collaboration space with respect to productivity from Oracle’s piece.
Enterprise collaboration solutions (also called groupware) is a broad term that includes components ranging from collaborative project management tools, such as workflow administration, knowledge management, and social software to unified communications, such as video/web conferencing, online chat, and email.
Vendors often offer cutting-edge products and services in collaboration with partners. The channel partners offer customized solutions via design and consulting services to meet the needs and requirements of the business.
What does this mean in terms of opportunity for the small and medium sized business (SMB) space? AMI research shows that of the enterprise collaboration categories which includes the following: IT Services (Integration & Development, IT Consulting, and Process Management Spend for enterprise collaboration software), Software (On-premise and SaaS email, productivity suites, collaboration, and project management software), and Telecom Services (Unified communication services and software); the Software category shows the greatest percentage of spend this year. Over the next 5 years, it is projected that software as a service (SaaS) productivity suites and video conferencing spend subcategories will see 39% and 51% compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) respectively. These are the two highest CAGRs across all 14 enterprise collaboration subcategories assessed in the SMB space.
What SMBs require in the next couple of years? Since there is often a lack of a dedicated IT resource on-hand in the SMB space, it is my opinion that it will be increasingly important for a vendor/partner to come in and provide support. They would offer extensive training and techniques for integrating multiple solutions across a single platform as well as integrating new technologies with existing technologies and legacy systems. SMBs are looking for customized solutions that are scalable for future growth and cost effective for the life of the solution. Additionally, bundled packages/suites will be more desirable. Those vendors that are one-stop shops and can provide seamless implementations, training, and support services will definitely gain an advantage over their competitors and win sales.
-Autumn Watters, Associate