Social software and collaboration market forecast to net $4.5 billion in 2021

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There’s significant growth in this area of industry, largely because of the need to support remote work jobs, according to the latest Gartner forecast.

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Look for the social software and collaboration market to grow 17% in 2021 to $4.5 billion over last year, as forecast by Gartner. Social software integrations within other enterprise applications is driving significant growth, and as a result of the pandemic, remote work needed support, the firm said. 

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“Technologically enabled remote knowledge workers have been around for decades,” said Craig Roth, research vice president at Gartner. “I’ve been a remote knowledge worker for two decades now. But this was not the norm in most organizations. The need to suddenly empty out office buildings while keeping businesses afloat gave a jolt to many markets with social and collaboration being at the forefront. Social and collaboration products went from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’ within a period of a few weeks.”

It was evident early on that it would be a challenge for most—if not all—staff working off the premise to maintain easy social interactions that often took place around the proverbial “water cooler,” and the enterprise quickly became reliant on the social and collaboration market to provide a virtual version. The distributed workforce had to be well coordinated, and absolutely essential as remote employees often cited lack of one-on-one communication with their supervisors as an issue that perpetuated their feelings of isolation coupled with Zoom fatigue from an abundance of meetings as employers tried to strike the right balance to have a team that worked together efficiently without the need to schedule several daily virtual meetings. 

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

“The need to reach out to employees with important messages about ever-changing work policies and procedures was acute in companies with dispersed workforces like retail, energy, and transportation,” Roth said. “Other organizations, like media and engineering firms, needed to continue the collaborative brainstorming that takes place on whiteboards in conference rooms by using digital whiteboards and innovation tools.”

Now, workers are beginning to return to the office, but Gartner found the coronavirus caused permanent damage to the workforce structure, and will “require additional investment in technologies to facilitate, capture and organize open conversations and information sharing.”

Gartner predicts in its report “double-digit growth projected through 2022.”

Worldwide social software and collaboration revenue in millions of dollars, per Gartner: 2020 social software and collaboration software $3.8 million (8.7% growth), 2021 social software and collaboration software estimated $4.5 million (17.1% growth), and a prediction of more than $5 million social software and collaboration software (14% growth predicted). 

Social software has been integrated as an embedded capability in other applications and platforms and this has been a key trend driving market growth.

By 2025, Gartner predicts close to 65% of enterprise application software will have included some form of social software and collaboration functionality in their software product portfolios.

“Remote work is here to stay and social and collaboration tools will be increasingly necessary to maintain the connectedness and culture of an organization that was taken for granted in the office,” Roth said. “Companies that don’t feel the pinch yet may feel differently as they onboard new remote employees not shaped by a given company’s office. Either we are a bunch of independent freelancers temporarily working toward the same goals or we truly belong to organizations that breathe their own unique life into how work gets done. I predict we will double down on social interactions and collaborations that last beyond any one project and team.  But I’ll be watching the signs carefully to see if that isn’t the case.”

Gartner’s “Forecast Analysis: Social and Collaboration Software in the Workplace, Worldwide”  is available to Gartner’s clients.

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