The collaboration market explodes, but stays in crisis mode
The market for collaboration tools has seen exponential growth during the COVID-19 crisis. We are now in an era where the tools available are dramatically more powerful than before, but deployment and usage models have remained in crisis mode.
The new online collaboration tools combine video meeting solutions, workstream collaboration chat (group tasks and flow), communication and content collaboration. Intelligence is added using machine learning via bots and cognitive service APIs that allow integration and automation with business processes. All these benefits can be achieved within one user interface and ensure strong and focused collaboration and productivity, while achieving the best end-user experience.
Gartner has called this the “new work nucleus” and identified it as the engine by which work will become more mobile, creative, collaborative, analytical, automated, integrated, and agile.
So, how do we make the best use of not just collaboration tools, but the experience, knowledge, and uniqueness of each individual involved, and what is the role of technology?
From productivity to performance, make technology work for your employees
Atos is enabling this new work nucleus by reimagining new ways of working. By leveraging the techniques listed below, enterprises can move from crisis mode to power collaboration mode:
- Empowering employees
- Reinventing the office
- Implementing business workflows and bots
- Enabling citizen developers
- Employing mixed reality and remote specialists
- Decarbonized workplace
- Digital Inclusion & accessibility
Below, we will examine each area in detail and explain the key factors required to engage employees and improve performance.
The recent Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index detailed the results of a global survey of 30,000+ employees in 31 markets. In the report, Microsoft stated that:
“Strong workplace networks are more than just a ‘nice to have.’ They impact two things important to the bottom line: productivity and innovation. Specifically, people who said they felt the most productive in our survey also reported strong workplace relationships and feelings of inclusion at work. And, on the contrary, respondents who reported weaker workplace relationships were less likely to report thriving at activities that lead to innovation, like thinking strategically (–9 percentage points), collaborating or brainstorming with others (–10 percentage points), and proposing new ideas (–9 percentage points).
People who interacted with their co-workers more closely than before — by meeting their children and pets over video, or even sharing a cry — not only experienced stronger work relationships (+12 percentage points), but also reported higher productivity (+23 percentage points) and better overall wellbeing (+9 percentage points).” 
Atos believes that the use of collaboration tools must be optimized to strengthen workplace relationships by optimizing productivity without the burden of additional overheads. Only by simplifying communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing will individuals and teams be empowered to grow — creating better connections so everyone can be at their best.
Improving productivity and wellbeing
Cloud-based content collaboration allows any employee anywhere in the world to access the information they need through a single pane of glass. They can access the knowledge and expertise they need at any time, from anywhere and on any device. They no longer need to worry about where information is located – they can simply search for whatever they need.
Organize knowledge and expertise
Users can easily share documents across teams without having to battle with large email attachments. Moreover, content collaboration, co-authoring and reviewing capabilities mean they can collaborate on the same material in real time, with immediate access to their colleagues’ most recent updates.
Reinventing the office
The pandemic has disrupted all workplaces, with as the new norm.
With vaccinations rolling out, the reason for going back to the office is more to meet up and brainstorm together. Some interactions are difficult to do virtually, so physical meetings still play a key role for improved employee experience.
The authors of the Microsoft report cited earlier turned to Dr. Mary Donohue, Founder of The Digital Wellness Center, for her insight into the psychological cost of virtual work, writing:
COVID social distancing rules will continue for some time, so the use of bring your own device and proximity join collaboration devices will be the new no touch requirement within the office.
Organizations will therefore need to rethink the office space and set up more meeting rooms with remote access to collaboration tools. These remote hubs have the potential to improve employee experience and by enabling virtualized in-person meetings across a country or across the globe.
The exhaustion we’re feeling can be blamed on the speed and urgency of virtual work. In-person conversations give our brains a chance to assess things like tone, social cues, and body language to make meaning. But technology can create digital static: ‘the gap between what you try to communicate online and what the person receiving the message understands.’ And as that digital static increases, so does employee fatigue, anxiety, and burnout rates — while motivation and engagement decline.
Implementing business workflows and bots
In this digital-centric world, business priorities are evolving towards app development, automation and workplace modernization. To succeed in a highly competitive marketplace, organizations must automate workflows and business streams, integrate data assets and value streams, and innovate their offerings, employee and customer interactions.
One in three organizations expects a low-code platform to provide business user-friendly usability, adequate enterprise app integration and seamless integration with productivity and collaboration apps. Integrating industry-specific vertical software within the same collaboration tool enables contextual interactions for faster, more accurate decisions.
The new collaboration technologies use low code applications, bots and APIs to open up massive opportunities for line of business workflow automations.
Enabling citizen developers
A citizen developer is someone that develops with low code, no code, business intelligence (BI) or robotic process automation (RPA). Gartner predicts that by 2023, over 50% of medium to large enterprises will have adopted a low code platform as one of their strategic application platforms. 
A low code platform uses model-driven or visual development paradigms supported by expression languages and possibly scripting to address use cases such as citizen development, business unit IT, enterprise business processes, composable applications and even SaaS applications.
Atos provides support for customer citizen developers as well as supports their collaboration productivity environment.
Employing mixed reality and remote specialists
With the COVID impact on travel, the ability for remote consultants to guide on-site execution teams is becoming a major new collaboration requirement.
Mixed reality applications enable users to stream video of what they are working on to remote colleagues, who can provide guidance and directly annotate the scene in three dimensions. These applications can be run on dedicated mixed reality devices for hands-free usage, and on Android and iOS mobile devices for improved employee experience. They enable users to:
Solve problems in real time: Technicians can share their real-time view with experts in remote locations to get the help they need, reducing travel time and cost.
Walk the site without being onsite: Remote inspectors can assess product quality without traveling by using a mixed reality application integrated with a collaboration tool for enabling a remote user.
Communicate detailed and complex instructions visually: Rather than communicating instructions via audio call, onsite workers and remote collaborators can use drawings and arrows to refer to specific parts of a machine or asset. Remote collaborators can insert reference images, schematics and other helpful information into the technician’s physical space so they can refer to the schematic while working heads-up and hands-free.
We should not underestimate the extent to which strong workplace relationships can impact our wellbeing, innovation, and performance. Striking the right balance between in-person and remote teams will be crucial going forward.
At Atos, we believe that enabling customer collaboration tools with business automation has a large role to play in improving employee experience as well as user and business performance.