Slack and Zoom Video made wildly successful debuts on the public markets earlier this year, with their stocks gaining 48% and 72% in value on the first day of trading. Today, the combined valuations for the two collaboration market leaders is over $40 billion, which says a lot about how important collaboration tools have become for the operation of all types and sizes of businesses.
Slack and Zoom are now amongst the few publicly traded single product companies improving remote collaboration. How are products like Slack and Zoom changing remote collaboration, and what can we expect next? In this entry, I discuss recent observations from the field.
Collaboration Tool Advancements Rewarded by Enterprise Adoption
Adoption of collaboration tools has evolved at different paces, based on the types of activities in which employees are engaged. For example, virtual collaboration in software companies includes code reviews, documentation writing, and project planning. Remote code reviews have been quite efficient for close to 10 years already thanks to collaboration tools. Compare that to my jobs in the early 2000s where my manager would print out the code and we’d meet every week to discuss code changes!
Remote collaboration is not a new trend by any means - the home office in its current version has been around since the early 2000s, if not earlier. Similarly, video communication has existed for the last 30 years in the form of room-based conferencing systems. However, the main focus of these products was to enable collaboration between enterprise sites. The products of the past essentially equipped us to congregate in a dedicated meeting room to make a call to another meeting room.
Slack, Zoom, and a slate of other single product companies offer a very different vision for modern remote work.
These products have increased trust between collaborators, which is a significant advancement for organizational behavior. By increasing communications effectiveness, remote work tools help build explicit and implicit trust. In-built features help set organizational expectations, coordinate project changes throughout a team, or enable members to ask for assistance early.
The tools enable organizations to distribute tasks among multiple independent teams to build parts of a product. Further, the move from email to messaging has allowed for fast-paced communication between parties.
Dropping costs and increased reliability are another aspect of the ascent of modern remote work: Cost of room systems has come down dramatically from $50,000 per room to $2,000-4,000 per room. It’s heartening to see that nowadays you can get a high quality camera and speaker/mic for $800 and $400 respectively.
From the business side, seat-based pricing models that are now available are a huge leap from old equipment based pricing that make it easy for organizations to plan and scale. The cloud services allow people to join from anywhere without the need to be in the same physical space (or access to high-end video conferencing hardware) to have high quality communication.
Tackling isolation and other remote-problems
Remote workers often feel isolated from the team, which is something we encountered at callstats.io when we started to grow our remote employee base. Companies are tackling isolation head-on by either changing the culture or making policies that do not isolate remote workers. Messaging apps are a tremendous help.
In the near future, more products will tackle the problems faced by remote teams. They will help build, support, and propagate good culture, or improve communication practices and accountability. For example, our team are fans of StatusHero as it offers a single-purpose, low-noise tool for our teams spread across various time zones.
Future: Chat apps to rule them all #nocode
In the past few years, the “zero code” movement has taken root, i.e., build tools and workflows without writing any code, just wiring APIs from one service to another. For enhancing remote work, I observe that chat apps are becoming a central focal point to a team’s workflow. Use cases vary from bots to deploy code, build and redeploy ML models, monitor and notify when operational errors occur, answer support tickets, figure out if your product is on time, or interact with sales CRM. All this occurs without leaving the comfort of your chat app. The tap on the shoulder or verbal interrupt from across the room now happens in chat channels.
Further out, I foresee a need for consolidation amongst remote work tools: Once we have figured out what we need, products will imbue features from other complementary apps or just straight out assimilate those apps. And we’d need data to be shared or federated between these complementary apps.
Slack and Zoom’s impressive stock market debuts should be celebrated by the entire remote collaboration space. Next, we are expecting to see more single product companies emerge to tackle very specific issues in remote-working, as well as a further-down-the-line consolidation of features and apps.
Am I correct in thinking that Slack and Zoom might be the first among many future remote collaboration tool companies to IPO? What do you think are the next hot tickets for collaboration? I look forward to your comments, below.