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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to fundamental changes in the way that people communicate inside of, and beyond, company boundaries. Now, according to Metrigy’s recent Workplace Collaboration: 2021-22 research study, approximately 87% of employees work remotely, up from 34% prior to March of 2021.

This massive shift of the workforce from offices to homes has led to rapid adoption of new technologies to enable human-to-human interaction. For example:

  • Video conferencing has become near ubiquitous, with 82% of companies using it for all or most meetings, internally and externally
  • Team collaboration applications are now used, or will be used, by nearly 68% of organizations to enable conversations and collaboration in the context of workflows and projects
  • More than 65% of companies now use social channels. or consumer messaging services like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, to communicate with customers

Due to the need to quickly move away from the traditional office, many organizations adopted these new capabilities at the team, workgroup, or line-of business level, rather than via a structured, IT-led approach. This has led to a situation in which 41% of companies now use more than one meeting app while 38% use more than one team collaboration platform. What’s more, 65% are using team apps to engage in conversations with individuals outside of their organization.

The reality for many companies is that the collaborative landscape is more diverse than ever before. This new paradigm has created significant challenges in managing risk, and for those responsible for governance, compliance, and security. These challenges are exacerbated not just by the increasing number of apps, but also by the collaboration functions offered by them. For example, today most meeting applications now support in-meeting chat, file sharing, and transcription, creating content that requires protection and governance. Collaboration and communication channels that span company boundaries create additional concerns from potential data leakage and the need to manage external access. And, the growing use of consumer channels means that conversations are happening in applications outside of IT’s control.

Putting all these trends together creates a fundamental truth: with the growing number of humans-to-human connections, implementing an approach that provides a single point of visibility, policy enforcement, and security is a minimum requirement to secure the new way of work.

Unfortunately, security leaders have been slow to respond to these new risk factors. Metrigy’s study found that just 40.8% of participants have a proactive security plan. However, having one strongly correlates with a positive ROI and/or productivity gain from collaboration investments: 66% of those with the highest measured benefit from their collaboration spend have a proactive security plan versus just 28% of those with below average performance. For those with a strategy, factors like DLP, compliance management, and monitoring of team collaboration channels are key components. Success is also correlated with the collaboration team having involvement in security strategy development and implementation versus those functions solely being carried out by the CISO/CSO.

The reality for most organizations is that collaboration and communications, internally and externally, is more diverse than ever before. Security and collaboration leaders must work together to develop a cohesive strategy, and take advantage of tools that enable unified security visibility and control to ensure success.