Where is SMB Collaboration Headed?

—by Sanjeev Aggarwal and Laurie McCabe

 In today’s digital age, location no longer needs to be a barrier between co-workers. Whether the other person is sitting next to you or on the other side of the world, collaboration solution—such as email, audio and video conferencing, cloud-based file sharing and stream based messaging—make it easier for people to communicate and get their jobs done.

However, the business and technology landscape is always changing. Solutions that may have worked fine in the past may not be the best fit for new requirements. As shown on Figure 1, 34% of SMBs agree that they “spend too much time going back and forth” between solutions, and 42% say employees use collaboration tools without IT approval/support.

Since collaboration solutions are key to improving employee productivity and customer satisfaction, business decision-makers need to periodically reassess their collaboration needs and how they’re filling them to make sure they have the right mix of solutions.

Figure 1: SMB Views On Collaboration Solutions

chart1Source: 2016 SMB Communications, Collaboration and Mobile Study

SMB Group’s 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobility Study shows that small and medium businesses are expanding their use of collaboration solutions (Figure 2). While use of more established collaboration solutions, such as file-sharing and instant messaging is pervasive, SMBs are also adding newer solutions, such as video conferencing and stream-based collaboration. This highlights the fact that businesses are looking to create a more social collaborative environment. Interestingly, however, SMBs are not displacing older solutions with newer ones, but instead expanding the types of tools they use to better meet evolving collaboration needs.

Figure 2: SMB Collaboration Solutions Use and Plans

chart2

Source: SMB Group 2016 SMB Unified Communications, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Brands SMBs Use For Collaboration

The good news is that SMBs have a multitude of choices when it comes to collaboration solutions, and the cloud has made them easier and more affordable to access and use. The bad news is that it’s often hard to figure out which ones are the right fit. In fact, 41% of SMBs in our survey say that “figuring out which solutions can best help my business” is one of their top 3 technology challenges.

In our study, we asked business decision-makers what brands they’ve selected in the solution categories used by them. Here’s how the rankings stack up for a few of them.

Email:

Microsoft Office 365 tops the rankings, followed by Microsoft Exchange. Google for Business came in third as the top email solution provider chosen by SMB owners. Microsoft’s two solutions now own more than 50% of the U.S. SMB market, Google is losing momentum and now has about a quarter of Microsoft’s adoption.

File Sharing & Data Storage

DropBox is the top file sharing service used by small businesses (companies with 1-99 employees), followed by Google Drive and then Microsoft OneDrive.

Figure 3: Small business file sharing and storage solutions 

chart3

Source: SMB Group 2016 SMB Unified Communications, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Among medium businesses(companies with 100 – 1,000 employees), Microsoft OneDrive is the top solution, followed by Dropbox, on-premises solutions and Citrix ShareFile.

Figure 4: Medium Business File Sharing and Storage Solutions

chart4

Source: SMB Group 2016 SMB Unified Communications, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Video Conferencing

SMBs are most likely to se Citrix GoToMeeting for video conferencing. Microsoft Skype for Business is number two, Cisco WebEx number third and Google Hangout has the number four spot.

Stream Based Messaging

Although relatively new to the market, SMB adoption of stream based messaging is gaining momentum. SalesForce Chatter and IBM Connections, which were among the first to offer these solutions, lead in adoption, followed by Citrix Podio, Slack and Flow.

Figure 5: Small business stream-based messaging solutions

chart5

Source: SMB Group 2016 SMB Unified Communications, Collaboration and Mobile Study

 

 

Figure 6: Medium business stream-based messaging solutions

chart6

Source: SMB Group 2016 SMB Unified Communications, Collaboration and Mobile Study

 Perspective

As the pace of business accelerates, we all have to operate in and connect with more people and business networks, and connect to and collaborate with people in different locations, in different ways and on different devices. The right collaboration tools can help people more easily share and manage information, get their jobs done and make better business decisions.

With so much of our business work being done today within digital environments, creating an effective digital workplace that empowers people to work more efficiently and effectively should be a top priority.

SMBs that start by reassessing their collaboration requirements and employee preferences will find it easier to sort through the proliferation of available collaboration solutions, and make the necessary adjustments to ensure they have the right tools in their collaboration toolkits.

For a complete table of contents and ordering information for SMB Group’s 2016 Communication, Collaboration and Mobility Study, click here.

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