2017 State of Enterprise Collaboration

Much has been written about the fast rise of collaboration apps and their impact on productivity, but we don’t really know how these tools are being used on the ground. How many collaboration apps are most businesses using? Do they make us more or less productive? Are applications being deployed strategically or on an ad hoc basis? And what does this tell us about the future of collaboration?

To find out, Smartsheet surveyed more than 1,000 IT decision makers at businesses across North America.

Some of what we learned surprised us, but a central theme emerged. Enterprise collaboration has reached the tipping point.  It is no longer a nice to have; the vast majority of respondents consider collaboration apps essential to their ability to compete effectively.  Most said their company has a defined strategy for deplying and managing cloud collaboration tools and most use them not just internally but with customers and partners too.

This is a big shift; we’ve come a long way from the days of downloading Slack at work and upsetting the IT department. 

We’re now being more strategic in deploying these apps, which is a giant step forward. Businesses are carefully curating their cloud collaboration apps so they see increased productivity and efficiency, but also maintain security and compliance.

This new phase of adoption is marked by several characteristics.  More than 80 percent of IT decision makers say their collaboration apps are used across their entire business and 70 percent have a top-down strategy for how those tools are implemented and used.  Business leaders have recognised the vital role that collaboration apps can play i their overall IT strategy. 

Increased productivity was cited as the main driver for the adoption of cloud collaboration apps, followed by an improved collaborative culture and greater visibility for management. More than four out of five respondents said companies are at a competitive disadvantage if they have not deployed these apps, and most organizations plan to increase spending on collaboration tools in the coming year. Collaboration is clearly seen as an essential driver of growth, and as critical to staying competitive.

The survey also reveals that no single vendor or product category dominates this market. And perhaps none will. Almost half the respondents said their organization was using at least six collaboration tools, and 16 percent were using more than 10. To succeed in this landscape, vendors will need to provide greater interoperability among products — even those that compete fiercely in the market. Customers are demanding tools that allow their employees to work seamlessly across platforms. Collaboration will require tools that play nicely with other workplace technologies.

The wide range of tools in use also suggests that a period of consolidation lies ahead. Most fast-growing markets attract numerous entrants in the initial stages, and the field narrows as vendors are acquired or go out of business, and enterprises will increasingly choose vendors with a strong business foundation to minimize potential disruption ahead.

Deploying collaboration tools more strategically has other implications, too. In the business world, the old adage says that if you’re not paying for something, you can’t expect a lot from it.  Enterprises have specific needs in areas like security, compliance and management that need to be met.  Moving forward, companies will take a hard look at the apps they’re using and commit only to those that meet those standards and are worth paying for.


The collaboration landscape has permanently shifted. Work is being moved out of legacy tools like spreadsheets and into more sophisticated platforms that provide the flexibility to share, organize and manage work in more efficient ways. Enterprise collaboration, it seems, is growing up.

Conclusion: The Collaboration Tipping Point

The business world has reached a tipping point in terms of collaboration, with a level of sophistication that has far reaching implications. Work is being moved out of legacy tools like spreadsheets into more sophisticated platforms, and organizations are recognizing they need to think about these tools strategically – and invest accordingly – to maintain a competitive advantage.

In 2017, organizations are ultimately looking for collaboration tools that connect seamlessly; are easy to use – internally, as well as with customers and partners outside the organization; provide the flexibility to share, organize and manage work in more efficient ways; and meets their needs for security, compliance and management.

Smart collaboration vendors will pay heed to this shifting dynamic, and evolve their products to meet these changing business needs.