The new workplace – moving to generation 2 for remote work and beyond

Organizations struggled with getting remote workers enabled when the pandemic hit, and while many implemented Generation 1 approaches, a new wave of Generation 2 solutions is now becoming available that will require enterprises to rethink their existing implementations.

The early stages of the pandemic forced companies to rethink their workplaces, as employees moved to extensive work from home. Many companies were unprepared for the remote work revolution, and the necessity of providing remote extensions to existing corporate apps accelerated the digital transformation of many companies by years. Nearly every organization is now deeply engaged in making remote work accessible to their employees. But many are still stuck in “Generation 1” systems, with patches and add-ons that are not the most efficient way to maintain what will be, for many enterprises, a permanent class of remote work users.

Gen 1 consisted mainly of add-ons that were stand alone capabilities necessary to get things done. Collaboration tools like Slack were common before the pandemic but took on a new meaning afterwards. Zoom, Cisco’s WebEx, Microsoft Teams, and others were added to enable a semblance of meeting spaces for internal teams and external customer interactions. But the companies who had already moved to a Modern Workplace environment (e.g., Citrix Workspace, VMware Workspace One), had a major advantage in enabling users with a more integrated workspace that integrated many of the required tools into a single pane of glass for access. And key players in office suites (e.g., Microsoft, Google) began a more integrated approach to their product sets, with Google creating its Workspace to replace G Suite, and Microsoft tying Teams more closely to Office 365 and integrating increased capabilities.

But, all of this added complexity and additional burdens to the IT staff trying to make sure users had the most efficient tools to get work done. And many users have individual preference for tools that required IT to support overlapping capabilities from a disparate set of components. Clearly this is not optimum for the efficiency of the organization.

Moving to a Generation 2 approach

The major collaboration and office suite companies are moving towards a Generation 2 capability that provides a more complete set of integrated tools and hope to limit or even eliminate add-ons. Much like the integration of personal productivity tools into one suite (e.g., Microsoft Office, Google Workspace), we’re now seeing a move to extend the typical office collaboration suite to include the necessary capabilities to support remote workers. Some examples of this include:

Citrix Acquisition of Wrike

Citrix’s ability to deliver virtually any corporate app to any device at any location in one unified experience, and do so securely and with minimal IT intervention, has enabled it to power many “work from anywhere” organizations. Enhanced with a high level of security and built in analytics, and it’s “microapps” app integration capability has put it at the forefront of the modern workspace environment. Citrix now plans to expand that capability even further by acquiring Wrike, a collaborative work management platform that can extend the Citrix platform capabilities to the fast emerging workflow management functions necessary to keep the modern organizations running efficiently.

Citrix’s acquisition of Wrike fills a gap in its modern workspaces strategy by offering a way to not only manage apps but also mange workflow and data movement for various teams. Being able to extend Citrix Workspace to encompass a broader set of organizational work patterns and needs, managing teams and task work, and having an ability to integrate with preferred tool sets while maintaining a “one pane of glass” approach, should do well in the market and put Citrix ahead of most competitors.

Microsoft release of VIVA (some of which won’t be available until later this year)

What Microsoft refers to as its Employee Experience Platform, is aimed at broadening its approach to delivering information to the end user. It includes not only its productivity suite of tools but also consists of the following components:

  • Viva Connections – an extension/add-on to Teams to provide internal communications and access to corporate documents like policies and benefits.
  • Viva Insights – a worker/workflow monitoring capability to enable managers to see what teams are doing, analyze their effectiveness, and use trends to identify which teams are struggling and recommend changes, and include data from Zoom, Slack, Workday and SAP SuccessFactors, etc.
  • Viva Learning - training and professional development focused solution that aggregates company learning resources and includes integrations with learning management systems like Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba and SAP SuccessFactors, etc.
  • Viva Topics – an add on that uses AI to analyze Microsoft 365 and Teams data and surfaces topic cards within conversations and documents, with the ability to integrate knowledge from third-party services such as ServiceNow and Salesforce, Viva Topics, etc.

While Microsoft VIVA will appeal mostly to existing Office 365 and Microsoft 365 customers, which is a majority of large organizations, the move to integrate wellness features along with productivity and collaboration in a unified offering sets it apart in the market.

Google’s reorganizing G Suite into Workspace

While G Suite was originally very popular with consumers and smaller businesses, its popularity has grown with large organizations as well, particularly in the public sector, but increasingly in private sector. To make it more appealing, Google has renamed the product to Google Workspace and added a number of integrations with collaboration tools, admin features and security enhancements.

Google Workspace provides a business email, collaboration tools like Gmail, Calendar, Meet, Chat, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Sites, and more.  Google Workspace includes:

  • An integrated experience that brings together chat, email, voice and video calling, and document collaboration into a single, unified place.
  • A new brand identity, that reflects this more connected, flexible experience with new branding and new four-color icons.
  • Tailored offerings to encompass a quick implementation for smaller businesses, as well as large enterprises with complex implementation needs and require support.
  • Advanced security features to facilitate secure communication and give admins increased visibility and security controls.

What all of this activity means is that many of the stand-alone products (e.g., Zoom) that enterprises use today will have a tough time longer term competing with integrated workplace management solutions, much as standalone spread sheets and word processors faded in the path of integrated personal productivity suites (e.g., Microsoft Office, Google G Suite). Not only is the path for IT easier with integrating from a single vendor (as much as is possible), but the cost and user satisfaction is more compelling. No doubt there will be niche capabilities necessary to enhance the suites, but it’s likely those capabilities will be short lived, as popular ones will make their way to the suites within a reasonably short time.

Bottom Line: I expect to see further acquisitions in this space as the larger vendors creating the Modern Workspace look to broaden their offerings and provide a more consolidated workplace environment. Further, stand-alone “one trick pony” apps will have a tough time making a go of it longer term in enterprise deployments. Finally, users will be much happier having a single pane of glass in which to get their work done, and needing to learn a single interface rather than understand all of the various features/functions unique to each tool. This will make for more efficient workers, and well as reduce the stress on IT and help desk. Enterprises must be moving towards a generation 2 approach to remote work now, and implement an integrated workspace suite over the next 1-2 years, if not sooner.