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Collaboration App Sprawl: How CIOs Should Tackle it Head On


A whopping rise of collaboration software such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom as a result of the pandemic and following the shift to remote work, points to the fact that there has been a collaboration app sprawl that needs immediate attention.

A new report by digital experience management company Aternity shows that managing and maintaining the growing array of enterprise apps often give CIOs nightmares.

Mike Marks, Head of Product Marketing, AternityIn a recent chat with CXOToday, Mike Marks, Head of Product Marketing, Aternity states that CIOs need to tackle the collaboration app sprawl smartly and effectively, so as to ensure a positive employee digital experience and manage the growing hybrid workforce.

The study highlighted that living in a data-driven world the ongoing challenge of collaboration app sprawl is a sign of healthy collaboration activity, as the more we collaborate, the more sprawls we create. The report also shows the huge growth in the collaboration apps market that;s evident from the desperation of tech giants to capture the market.

For example, last year itself Salesforce bought Slack, and Microsoft has announced tighter integration with SAP business software. More importantly, 2020 marked the dominance of other business collaboration platforms such as Zoom that’s frequently held up as a pandemic success story, with massive growth despite security problems that cropped up during the early part of 2020.

The study showed Zoom tripled is usage share to 6.9% in 2020, while Slack and Webex more than doubled their shares to 4.9% each. The combined enterprise usage share of Zoom, Slack and WebEx increased from 6% to 17% between February and December last year. Besides, there were many domestic collaboration apps that enterprises used and many will float around in the coming years.

Challenges before the CIO 

According to Marks, “IT teams are now faced with additional tools to manage and support which can be overwhelming for teams that are already stressed by the additional pressures of supporting a remote workforce.

In addition, this collaboration sprawl can reduce the productivity through degraded performance of devices, a lack of training in how to use the various collaboration apps, and simple confusion over which apps to use.

“Collaboration app sprawl is real and it is a problem for your IT team. Even if your organization only officially supports one collaboration application, it is extremely likely individuals or teams within your organization are using at least 2-3 applications. It is critical to gain an understanding of which applications are being used in your organization and monitor their performance,” he explains.

Marks notes that the first step for CIO/CISOs in tackling the cybersecurity implications of collaboration apps is to understand which apps are being used by your organization.

“It is very likely your organization is using several different applications which can increase your risk exposure drastically. Begin by developing a way to monitor and track collaboration app usage so you can develop a plan for further risk mitigation,” he says.

The other interesting trend Marks notes is that, if 2020 was defined by the shift to remote work, 2021 will be defined by the shift to a hybrid remote workforce. “In such a scenario, CIOs should clearly define flexible work policies, analyze current collaboration app usage and performance, reassess their collaboration app portfolio and eliminate redundant tools and abilities.”

He believes, businesses should make collaboration apps part of their mission-critical technology stack and track the impact of IT performance on the remote employee experience.

Key Takeaways for CIOs

Given the increasing reliance on collaboration applications for the work-from-everywhere enterprise and the trend toward the future hybrid work environment, here are the key takeaways for the CIOs:

  • Define/refine flexible work policies through internal discussions with key organizational stakeholders. With the policies established, identify the technical capabilities required to make these policies achievable.
  • Analyze the current collaboration app usage and performance across the organization to determine a baseline and identify opportunities for performance, cost, and productivity optimization.
  • Reassess your collaboration app portfolio within the context of your newly defined or updated flexible work policies, ensuring employees will have the tools needed to work effectively and succeed regardless of location while minimizing cost.
  • Eliminate redundant tools and capabilities through rationalization of your collaboration app portfolio as you transition to a hybrid work environment. Closely manage migration projects to ensure no negative impacts on employee experience.
  • Make collaboration apps part of your mission-critical technology stack (e.g. the integration of Salesforce and Slack and SAP and Microsoft Teams) and implement the proper support, maintenance and monitoring to ensure high levels of performance.
  • Track the impact of IT performance on the remote employee experience as the organization begins to shift to a hybrid workforce.

So, as enterprise collaboration software continues to boom and usher in new trends such as hybrid workforce, Marks concludes that the time is now to put in a plan in place for managing an enterprise that is working from everywhere.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com