Building the future enterprise digital workspaceDawn

Digital workspaces are now commonplace in enterprises around the world, and those businesses are having to work to keep employees in touch, engaged and productive. Our needs around communicating with colleagues, sharing and collaborating on work, and getting things done digitally, wherever we are, continue to grow.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella said to the FT this week that Teams could become as significant as an internet browser. The question then becomes, ‘why now?’. The pandemic has flooded companies with tools (so they can achieve the above). But once those tools have captured eyeballs and mindshare, they have to earn the right to keep them.

Despite there being an established and highly competitive market, traditional intranet solutions lack the breadth of integrated functionality required to successfully drive employee communication and engagement. There is, therefore, significant opportunity to build, and a market of $3–4bn+ up for grabs.

As well as growing in size, the market is also growing in complexity.

For customers, intranet and comms budgets are merging, in part because vendors are realising that comprehensive, modular solutions simplify their go-to-market strategies. On the flip side, these merged budgets are then increasing the complexity of sales for vendors, because customers require cross-functional buy-in across IT, HR, Comms and Ops.

What’s more, significant product advantages are needed to drive firms to switch — one, because doing so poses some organisational risk, and two, because the market is more competitive than ever before.

Yet for those building in this rapidly evolving market, there is an opportunity to create a category-defining company — one that streamlines the processes of orchestration and governance, from identity management, onboarding and offboarding to data recording and audit trails, for companies large and small.

The differences between players are changing. While vendors broaden their offerings, integrations are becoming more focused. We see real opportunity for those who can amalgamate intranet, community and employee communication — which have historically been fragmented.

Enterprises are still realising that you can do far more than simply reach employees: part of the assimilation of intranet packaged systems (IPSs) and employee communication apps (ECAs) will be built on a combination of necessity (we need automated processes on top of our now remote or hybrid working lives) and educating the market.

But to achieve this, vendors need to keep in mind complex requirements across large, multi-stakeholder buying decisions. Increasingly, the person ultimately responsible for endorsing buying decisions of these types of products is the CEO, which also changes the nature of the sales process.

Each frontline team within a business is different, and the requirements of each of these teams must be considered. Complexities such as the interaction between full-time members of functional teams and contractors, for example. All become part of the buying requirement (and also part of the opportunity).

We spoke to businesses to understand better the range of needs:

“I started looking for a platform because we needed to have an easy-to-use employee-wide communications platform. I was not looking for a repository.”

“For a Fortune 500 company to buy a product like this, there needs to be an identified need. In our case, we were merging two companies and the size of our workforce doubled overnight.”

“It would be a huge risk for me to replace my current intranet with a new vendor. They would need to be addressing a previously unidentified customer need.”

“In the past, most of these tools served a top-down need. But with covid, employees are disconnected and having a variety of communication channels bottom-up is here to stay.”

“I picked [x] because the client base resonated with me and I felt they could address the specific needs of our frontline employees.”

Regardless of these complexities, there is still a huge opportunity to create the infrastructure that coherently manages orchestration and governance across these tools. But it is important to remember that this infrastructure is increasingly one of the most critical decisions a company makes: building — and selling — successfully in this space requires the right product and the right sales strategy.

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