The Future of Intercompany Collaboration

The Future of Intercompany Collaboration

Nearly 70% of the 635 organizations benchmarked by Nemertes Research are now using a team collaboration application such as Cisco Webex Teams, Microsoft Teams, or Slack.

By shifting group conversations out of email and instant messaging into persistent chat, team collaboration applications offer measurable benefits including shortened project cycles, faster customer response, and reduced need for time-consuming meetings.

Increasingly, team collaboration applications are becoming a digital work hub, meaning employees use them as their primary means of engaging with their co-workers to manage tasks and workflows.

Team collaboration is rapidly extending beyond enterprise boundaries as companies look to embrace team apps to improve engagement with partners, suppliers, and customers.

Until recently, the ability to support intercompany collaboration in a manner that meets security and governance needs has been limited by lack of federation solutions.

Currently, 44.2% of organizations rely on guest accounts to enable external access to their own team collaboration instances or to allow their own employees to use external team collaboration apps to connect with partner organizations.

Why Guests Accounts Aren’t the Solution to Intercompany Collaboration

Guest accounts are problematic for several reasons:

  • No ability to enforce security politics or to monitor what is being shared by employees on external team apps
  • Revocation of guest account access is difficult to manage for those using guest accounts to allow external access to internal team spaces, and for employees who are using external team apps.

As a result, the use of guest accounts represents a significant security threat to an organization’s information resources. Guest accounts are also inefficient for employees and create administrative overhead for IT managers.

Native Solutions for Intercompany Collaboration

To address this challenge, vendors like Cisco and Slack have introduced native solutions that allow customers to federate their team collaboration instances with other organizations using the same platform.

Native federation allows organizations to maintain their own security and governance policies covering requirements like access control, content sharing, retention, and archiving. If a participant in a federated team space leaves the company, their access to the team workspace ends as soon as their single sign-on access is terminated.

For example, if two entities use Slack, they can take advantage of Slack’s shared channels feature which enables each entity to enforce their own policies for single sign-on, file sharing restrictions, and access controls.

While not available or announced yet, it stands to reason that Microsoft will eventually roll out a similar solution to allow native federation between organizations using its Teams product.

Today’s Available Federation Options

The federation solutions that are available from vendors like Slack and Cisco today are useful only when everyone is using the same team collaboration app.

However, the reality is that the market is extremely fragmented and nearly 42% of organizations even run more than one team collaboration app internally.

Furthermore, not everyone uses team collaboration apps, which means many organizations still need to communicate with legacy instant messaging platforms like Skype for Business and Cisco Jabber.

It may seem obvious that the solution is for team collaboration vendors to work together to enable cross-platform federation. There is, however, little incentive for a vendor who is trying to capture team collaboration market share to enable federation with a rival and monetizing such federation would be difficult.

In the absence of native options, third party applications from vendors like Mio are enabling intercompany collaboration between organizations that use Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Webex Teams. Solutions like this allow each company to implement and manage security and governance policies in line with their own regulatory and business needs.

Without such cross-platform solutions, enterprises are likely to continue to rely on guest accounts and thus be subject to the security risks and inefficiencies that they entail.

The ideal federation solution would not just support messaging interoperability, but also cross-platform meetings and content sharing. Support federation between more than two entities would enable use cases such as supply chain management through channels that are federated with all members of the supply chain.

Customers are increasingly looking to extend the benefits of team collaboration beyond internal teams. In the future, expect to see more usage of intercompany collaboration options like Mio that connect companies using different team collaboration applications.

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