The idea of “unified communications” sounds good in theory. I mean, who wouldn't want to have only one vendor to worry about for email, phone, instant messaging, calendar, contacts, office software and storage. However, in practice the suite-style solution doesn't really pan out as planned because it’s difficult for a vendor to be the best solution in all of those areas.
This is increasingly the case as we’ve seen innovation in enterprise technology accelerate over the last decade. A new crop of up-and-comers are focused on solving a unique business pain point, and they’re crafting best-in-breed products that outclass similar products one might find in a suite.
This industry upheaval poses an interesting question to business and IT leaders today: Do we need a “Jack of all trades, master of none” suite-style solution, or an “a la carte” approach where we get exactly the applications we need, but maybe they don’t work great together?
Luckily for those on the fence of how to proceed, the tech tools of tomorrow are getting smarter about partnerships and integrations to fuel more consumer choice. Here is how the next era of business collaboration and productivity will be powered by work apps that play nicely together.
App integration now trumps consolidation
While the suite isn’t going to disappear anytime soon thanks to products like Microsoft Office and Google G-Suite, there has certainly been a shift away from app consolidation to app integration in the enterprise tech space. And no one is setting the example on deeply customizable options quite like messaging platform Slack, which integrates with dozens of other new, popular tools.
This includes entrenched players like Google, supporting bots for Google Drive and Hangouts, as well as newer platforms such as task manager Wunderlist. There are even fun integrations for sending GIFs or avoiding spoilers.
The problem with one vendor building multiple tools is simple: a lack of specialization can lead to a more mediocre product or feature. Meanwhile, those companies focusing on addressing one, singular business problem with laser focus can create a more targeted solution.
Companies need more specialized tools (and want options)
Enterprise tech’s big play on integrations has taken many platforms to the next level, allowing a centralized avenue for consumers who want to create their own ecosystem of specialized apps and services.
Providing a simple experience that brings together the smorgasbord of tools companies are using to power business right now is a huge advantage. And as the pace of business continues to accelerate and specialize, companies will require even more dedicated tech to address their most difficult challenges.
For example, a fashion company with multiple offices (and remote workers) may need a bevy of tools to perform their jobs at a high level: a visual collaboration platform like Asana to schedule and track projects, MailChimp to manage email marketing efforts, and all-in-one video conferencing equipped with advanced screen-share options to show-off new designs.
The consumerization of enterprise tech
As these trends continue to shape the future landscape of business apps, we’re also seeing an overall trend for enterprise tech to be less complex and more like what users have come to expect from consumer apps.
Before the proliferation of technology, Enterprise apps and systems were reserved for only the largest, most wealthy companies. These clunky (and since outdated) platforms were also notoriously complex and difficult to learn, which meant hours of employee training sessions. In today’s age, consumers do not expect technology to work like that, and they have become accustomed to downloading a new app or service and being able to quickly navigate the core functions in a matter of minutes.
Enterprise tech is now destined to follow down the path. Business users don’t want to perform five unique actions to access some specific feature or integration. They want all that baked into an app with simple to use buttons that unify their workflow seamlessly – no technical hassle or extra steps required. This has put us at a crossroads where legacy providers with older systems must now evolve rapidly to keep pace with a new crop of agile collaboration players. Those newcomers can move more quickly to satisfy the growing needs for simplified experiences and connected apps, while legacy platforms have a more difficult time adjusting their platforms.
Smart integrations are playing a major role in that transition to a more simplified and personal experience, and it’s almost becoming the expectation for great apps and services to do so. As innovation continues to provide companies more specialized options to solve their business problems, enterprise tech that is thoughtful about how it integrates with other platforms will continue to flourish.
This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?