How collaboration tech is changing for the new hybrid era

The smart use of collaborative tools will be essential to successful hybrid setups.
By: | November 11, 2021

To say a lot has changed since the onset of COVID-19 is an understatement. How we live, work and function as a society has undergone a complete overhaul and included in this are how organizations and their staff have embraced the most significant working transition in history.

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In fact, even as the office and travel begin to open up, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds. Of course, we do know that a distributed hybrid working model will be part of this future, as illustrated by research that found 58% of U.S. workers say they’ll remain remote on at least a part-time basis. But with recent McKinsey research finding that nearly 7-in-10 organizations haven’t created or communicated a plan for hybrid working, it’s clear that many organizations are still in the dark.

Indeed, with the post-COVID future of collaborative working drawing nearer and nearer, it’s time for enterprise and HR leaders to align their focus and ensure stability in the new workforce. And critical to this is their accountancy of three key drivers of success for this new era for work: the successful integration of third-party and bespoke tools; tools and infrastructure architected to support cross-team value streams; and the introduction of more visual collaboration tools and increased workflow automation.

Author Simon Haighton-Williams. Photo by Ben Stevens

Not only are these challenges at the heart of collaborative work moving forward, but they’re also crucial to ensuring business continuity and transformation. Here is how enterprises can address them in the new distributed world.

Placing tools for collaboration at the center of hybrid strategies

The past 18-plus months would have looked very different if it weren’t for the availability of collaboration technologies that proved crucial for businesses working from home. Not only did they help organizations pivot at a moment’s notice, but they made it possible for colleagues, clients and customers to connect and collaborate from anywhere in the world.

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Of course, these tools—and the need for them—existed before the pandemic. But it’s fair to say it took COVID-19 to cause companies to embrace them fully. And now, as a result, we see these tools actually inspire businesses to buy into the hybrid landscape. In fact, research conducted by SWZD found that more than three-quarters of companies plan on implementing long-term IT changes due to the pandemic, including an increase in cloud and managed services spending in 2021.

It’s critical that with this increased adoption of distributed technologies comes a greater emphasis on the user experience so that teams across locations can continue to quickly—and visually—share ideas. After all, organizations want greater efficiency and productivity from their collaboration tools, and as they continue to embed this new hybrid working model, demand is only set to increase.

Adopting a broader set of tools across teams

Transitioning to a remote-working environment has naturally meant a growing reliance on Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. It’s no surprise that the average enterprise is now using around 288 SaaS applications—up 30% year over year in 2020. Undeniably, SaaS applications create new possibilities for organizations, are quick to implement, and easier to manage and upgrade than bespoke software solutions.

Related: 10 things Microsoft has learned about successful hybrid work

However, this new wave of SaaS deployments is typically being done alongside existing on-premise software, creating an increasingly hybrid deployment landscape. Running a mixture of SaaS applications and on-premise solutions adds greater complexity to operations, forcing IT departments to deal with data spread across many different systems and locations.

The trend has developed a new problem for organizations: How can they connect disjointed tools and create operational harmony? The only way to really address this is with planned integration. By integrating disconnected tools, organizations are afforded an amazing opportunity to bring best-of-breed tools together with their own unique business solutions to have the best of both worlds. Integrating all of the data held by SaaS platforms across an organization is key to a healthy and successful business.

Boosting efficiency by automating workflows 

According to the Adaptavist 2021: State of the Atlassian Ecosystem research, automating manual workflows is the top driver for organizations wanting to make changes in their DevOps strategy (81%), and it’s easy to understand why. Today, a DevOps mindset is no longer a “nice to have,” but a “must have” in the software space, as organizations are under pressure to adapt faster and become more agile.

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In fact, a GitLab survey recently found that 60% of software developers are releasing twice as fast as ever before. This stat showcases the importance of DevOps for companies that otherwise risk slowing down production because of their own internal friction, causing inefficiencies with slow turnaround, poor quality, little teamwork and a lack of accountability.

With a well-thought-out DevOps strategy, organizations accelerate delivery and maintain quality, ensuring continuous development with consistent feedback loops. Uniting software development and technology operations helps organizations smooth the path from ideation to production, creating an end-to-end pipeline that includes every stakeholder in the process. At its best, it changes the way people think across an organization in all aspects of development and operations, and subsequently, changes the way everyone works.

See also: Onsite COVID testing has arrived—but there’s a catch

Embracing tools across departments

Collaboration tools are no longer just for employees and departments where tech is a core part of their role. Interestingly, the aforementioned Atlassian ecosystem report also found that there’s a significant increase in operations, customer support and marketing teams using software tools, suggesting a step-change in the way organizations are collaborating and communicating. This increase in usage means that user trends have shifted to meet the new ways of working.

With more work being done across applications and systems, and more and more people using different tools, work needs to be done to integrate the applications and procedures that teams are using to improve overall business efficiencies and productivity. Connecting data across organizations streamlines operations and enables smoother, more innovative means of unlocking business-critical information.

While we’ve seen many organizations struggle with pandemic-driven requirements for change, others have taken it in their stride and relished the opportunity to transform the way they operate. However, one thing is clear: Organizations already using flexible tools and services have had the power to steamroll ahead and seamlessly transition to different ways of working. Those that were not had a jarring and disruptive change forced upon them. Organizations should now be looking to build new levels of flexibility, and the resilience to rapidly adopt changes.

CEO of Adaptavist since 2010, Simon Haighton-Williams has been responsible for Adaptavist’s hyper-growth in over 60 markets, its diverse customer base including more than half of the Fortune 500, and its recognition as a Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 company. Haighton-Williams has been in software development since the ‘90s and has worked both with the private and public sectors.