The same industry that’s meant to streamline workflow in other industries is suddenly grabbing headlines as the next hot thing in tech.
Collaboration or enterprise software has been a boon to small businesses, especially at a time when it makes less sense to keep employees cloistered in an office all day.
A mobile workforce has created the need for professional communication outlets and companies like HipChat and Slack have stepped in to help.
But the industry has become quickly saturated and it can be difficult for small business owners to figure out what exactly they need in order to work better.
Applications like Slack, for instance, are great for messaging among members of a team, file sharing and voice and video calling.
But do you want to incorporate project management? There is a different app for that and the two need to be able to integrate successfully.
Luckily, as the relatively new market stabilizes, some mergers and acquisitions will make these integrations pretty simple.
Last week, enterprise software company Atlassian acquired Trello, a project management app, in a $425 million deal.
Atlassian owns collaboration platforms that allow users to do many different things: HipChat allows coworkers to chat in private and group settings, Bitbucket allows companies to collaborate on revision control projects, Confluence is used to create content and JIRA tracks software projects.
Each acquisition by Atlassian usually results in some tweaks that make all of its software platforms compatible for integration with the others.
The acquisition came just after MarketsandMarkets predicted that the enterprise collaboration market will hit $26.7 billion this year, and double that by 2021.
The industry is so promising that even tech giants are getting in on the action. Back in October, Facebook launched Workplace in beta and signed 1,000 organizations for an 18-month run-through.
Microsoft has Teams and its Office 365 Planner.
But strategic advisory firm Constellation recently released its list of top enterprise suites with project features.
In its report, Constellation wrote that the “explosive growth” of enterprise collaboration software has created a new set of demands on employees’ time and attention.”
“As people openly share information with their colleagues across a variety of tools, including email, social networks and file-sharing services, staying organized and knowing what needs attention is a real challenge,” the firm reported. “A new type of tool is needed – one that combines the collaboration features of social networking software with the organizational and task features of project management software.”
Top rated was Bitrix24, a free platform that takes its inspiration from Facebook with activity streams, badges and photo galleries.
Igloo Software, a cloud-based “intranet” that takes on the look of the company that is using it, is a also highly rated.
But 2017 promises even more innovation. Tech publication CIO reports that a few things to look out for this year will be advanced business intelligence, predictive analytics and even artificial intelligence.