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Chris has worked as a journalist and Linux systems administrator. He has particular interests in open source, agile infrastructure and networking. He is senior editor of content and a DevOps analyst at Fixate IO.
Which technical solutions do businesses need to implement to thrive in 2021? Ask most people in the IT industry that question and you’ll probably hear answers that align with trendy technology topics like hybrid cloud, artificial intelligence and hyper-automation.
Those may well be among the keys to success in the future. But here’s another critical area of focus: collaboration. Though it may seem mundane, collaboration has assumed unprecedented importance for a business’s ability to thrive in the modern IT landscape.
To be sure, the importance of collaboration is nothing new in a conceptual sense. Businesses have needed to ensure effective collaboration between employees, partners, customers and other stakeholders for decades, if not centuries.
Today, however, the ability to collaborate efficiently and effectively has reached a new level of urgency. To prove the point, here’s a look at several major IT trends that have made collaboration solutions a must-have asset for 2021 and beyond.
Permanent Distributed Workforces
In 2019, only about 3.4% of U.S. employees worked remotely. Two years and one pandemic later, and analysts estimate that more than 20% of the workforce will work remotely well into the middle of this decade.
The takeaway here is clear: From now on, a significant number of employees will work remotely, at least part of the time.
In this context, companies that make collaboration tools need to change the landscape. They shouldn’t assume that most employees work face-to-face most of the time and only need collaboration solutions that allow them to connect remotely some of the time. If anything, they should operate on the premise that employees are remote most of the time and only occasionally, if ever, on the same physical site.
Distributed workforces also set the bar higher for the performance of collaboration tools. When your employees spend all day in front of videoconferencing software, it’s not OK if call quality is just OK. Collaboration software vendors and the IT teams who support their platforms need to deliver top-notch user experiences on a routine basis.
Ever-Increasing Customer Expectations
Customers are a demanding bunch, and they’re growing increasingly exacting in their expectations.
A decade ago, five seconds was the baseline for how long users would wait on a website to load before becoming frustrated. Today, that number is closer to two seconds.
Likewise, according to Gartner, more than two-thirds of businesses now compete based on customer experience, compared to a little over one-third in 2010.
What do statistics like these have to do with collaboration for IT organizations? In short, everything. If developers can’t collaborate effectively, they can’t deliver software continuously to roll out new and improved applications on a regular basis. Likewise, IT and site reliability engineers need to collaborate seamlessly to maintain a smooth customer experience when problems arise within software environments.
More Complex Applications
Compounding the challenge of maintaining a positive customer experience, IT organizations now have to manage more complex software systems than ever.
Instead of monitoring a few virtual machines and monolithic apps as was the norm about a decade ago, teams now must keep tabs on dozens of microservices spread across dozens or possibly hundreds of containers and servers. There are orchestration layers to manage now, too. Add what was mentioned above to how all these IT resources may be spread across multiple clouds, on-premises servers or both, and you start to appreciate just how complex software environments have become.
Collaboration is essential to keep track of what is happening within these complex environments, ensure that the right stakeholders have access to the correct data, solve problems and improve the software over time. You can’t survive, let alone thrive, in managing modern software architectures if your collaboration strategy consists of ad hoc email chains or bi-weekly sit-downs. You need fast, efficient, comprehensive collaboration solutions that allow team members to connect anytime and anywhere.
Pervasive Security Threats
As software has grown more complex, so have the challenges associated with keeping it secure. 2020 was a record-setting year for the volume of cyberattacks, and it looks like 2021 will be no different.
And it’s not just the rate of cyberattacks that is increasing. The complexity of attacks is growing, too, as threat actors become ever more creative in the way they launch attacks like sophisticated phishing schemes and target software supply chains, as a way to compromise assets.
Faced with challenges like these, how can businesses keep their IT resources secure? Part of the answer is integrating security into the application lifecycle so that software is tested and validated for security initially, rather than only after production. Another is to ensure efficient coordination between stakeholders when a breach is detected.
Both practices hinge largely on collaboration. Without technology that allows multiple groups — developers, IT engineers and security analysts — to work together, it’s impossible to bake security into all aspects of the software delivery life cycle and ensure that teams can mitigate security issues rapidly.
Conclusion: Collaboration as the Future of IT
Technology that drives collaboration has always been important. But it has assumed unprecedented urgency in the current IT environment. Today, shifts in the way people work, increasing customer expectations, growing complexity within application environments and pervasive security challenges require multiple stakeholders to coordinate workflows and share information more efficiently than ever before.
Feature image via Pixabay.
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