Throughout the pandemic, the collaboration tools market experienced a major boom with the rise of remote work. However, the recent acquisition of Slack by Salesforce has reinforced the growing separation between workplace tool suites and specialized collaboration tools. Suites have become “one-stop-shop” solutions that can fill multiple functions for companies and employees, which brings into question, what value is there for niche solutions?
Here are three reasons why specialized collaboration tools will remain a valuable investment for companies:
Specialized collaboration tools excel in specific tasks and can be a valuable addition to existing toolkits. Developers behind these tools typically focus on a particular set of scenarios, design functionality, user interface (UI), and features within those parameters. On the other hand, the software in platform suites is designed to integrate with other applications to create an ecosystem, making them strong as a unit but often causing a lack of features and capabilities in individual elements. For example, videoconferencing for large groups of over 250 would exceed the limit of Google Meet (Enterprise), 300 for Microsoft Teams, and businesses will have to find dedicated platforms if 1,000 participants plan to attend. Other elements like security, flexible implementation, and novel features (e.g., suppressing dogs barking in the background) are often hard to find in-suite solutions. To bypass these limitations and ensure access to desirable features, companies will continue to invest in specialized solutions.
Another problem for developers is feature creep – where the software becomes bloated with new features that are seldom utilized by the majority of the user base and end up overcomplicating the tool. Generally, specialized collaboration tools get split into multiple categories. Meanwhile, development focuses on improving core software functionality. For example, videoconferencing platforms focus on improving video and audio quality, latency, and maybe even virtual backgrounds. Implementing additional features without the proper optimization can lead to longer loading times, cluttered UI, and lower performance. Businesses want productivity, and employees need reliable, fast, and secure tools to get work done.
More specialized tools have emerged as standalone products with new and better features compared to the current offering in the existing market. The advantage that specialized tools have over suites is that they often come into existence to solve a specific problem or fill a particular market void. For example, Slack emerged in 2013 and revolutionized workplace communications by providing a feedback-driven, fun alternative to traditional emails and standard message service (SMS) systems, which ultimately inspired other vendors to create similar offerings. Newcomers impact existing tool suites, which often have limitations on the development and deployment of new features. Changes to software architecture would have to be accounted for across multiple applications to maintain compatibility and accessibility. That makes it difficult for suite tools to implement complex features like end-to-end encryption, which would require an overhaul to incorporate. Larger companies often acquire smaller specialized applications and their features (e.g., the recent Salesforce purchase of Slack), but doing so could risk the possibility of a government antitrust intervention. By disrupting the collaboration market, specialized tools can directly and indirectly reshape and improve the work environment for employees everywhere.
With more productivity tools available than ever before, companies and employees have many options to cover their business needs. Rather than stick to workplace tool suites, businesses are leveraging the best of both worlds by incorporating specialized collaboration tools into their workflow in certain areas as they see fit. Overall, these tools play an important part in driving innovation within the industry and providing workers a choice in their toolset.