Report Examines Collaboration App Usage

Unify Square and Osterman Research highlight friction between different generational users and IT

Unify Square, management software and services provider for ensuring outstanding meeting, chat, and call experiences, released a report in partnership with Osterman Research: “Teamwork and Collaboration: The Rise of the Millennials and the Growing IT vs End User Discord.” The report examines a number of unique transformational aspects of the current workstream collaboration (WSC) and unified communication (UC) evolution. Specifically, the generational differences of app usage —how users are employing these apps within enterprises, the benefits they see from their use, as well as how IT is managing these application platforms.

Friction between IT and End Users
The survey identified a multitude of ways that IT and end users aren’t in sync with one another. Overall, IT takes a more conservative view about how users perceived satisfaction with WSC and UC apps than the users themselves reported. For example, while IT believes that 44% of users are “very satisfied” with these apps and 47% are “somewhat” satisfied, users themselves report satisfaction levels at 51% and 34%, respectively.

Another gap that was exposed is that end users are relying on a somewhat different set of applications than the official collaboration and communication apps that IT teams have deployed. Across all generations, 54% report using unapproved apps at least a few times per year, yet 83% of IT decision makers maintain the belief that changes in app usage are being driven by IT.

Millennials Go Rogue; App Choices Differ from Other Generations
The younger the worker, the more likely they are to not let IT know about their WSC and UC app usage. Millennials are 1.5 times more likely to use unapproved apps for collaboration than other generations.

  • 28% of millennials report using unapproved apps two to four times per week, and a total of 71% reported using unapproved apps at least a few times per year.
  • Only 45% of Gen Xers use unapproved apps throughout the year, and even fewer (41%) baby boomers look beyond the approved set of collaboration apps provided by IT.

app usageIn addition to millennials usage of WSC and UC apps, their choice of apps differ. So, while the top WSC and UC apps remain locked up by the big players—Google and Microsoft—millennials are using apps like Slack, Zoom, and Workplace by Facebook more frequently compared to older age groups. In fact, Slack is being used more by millennials than any other age group within organizations today. The differences by age group, include:

  • 8% of millennials are using Slack, compared to 8.8% of Gen Xers and 4.8% for baby boomers
  • Similarly, Zoom is used by 19.6% of millennials, compared to 11% of Gen Xers and 8% of baby boomers
  • Workplace by Facebook follows a similar pattern with 13.3% of millennials using it, compared to 7.6% of Gen Xers and 4.8% of baby boomers

The Collaboration Battle Rages On
In spite of recent data showing that Microsoft Teams is leading Slack in market use and subscriber growth rates, the Unify Square survey shows that the ultimate shake out is still to come. In fact, 85% of end users report using multiple platforms for their collaboration and communications needs. It’s clear that some combination of IT and end users are still working to settle on the correct formula for WSC platform use success.

“The fact that most users employ multiple WSC and UC apps, many or most of which are not managed by IT, introduces even more friction and opportunity for productivity and/or security degradation into the work process,” said Scott Gode, Chief Product Marketing Officer, Unify Square. “Many of these apps don’t share information with one another, causing “islands” of communication and collaboration to form, negating much of the benefit of using apps that should be better than e-mail at enabling users’ productivity. Consequently, there is a need to monitor, govern, and otherwise manage these apps and users’ experience with them in a new way. IT needs to shift from ‘command and control’ to ‘trust, but verify’ in order for organizations deploying WSC platforms to realize the greatest value from their investments.”

IT Continues to Breathe Life into E-mail
The survey results reveal that e-mail continues to be a popular tool for collaboration and communication across all of the age groups surveyed. In fact, 47% say e-mail is the most preferred mode of communication for work-related communications. The stronger-than-expected preference for e-mail communication by younger workers is not all that surprising given the large number of WSC and UC apps in use. The lack of detailed and effective management tools for WSC and UC platforms, the Shadow-IT led “standardization” and deployment patterns, and the ongoing proliferation of platforms available in the market, continue to breathe life into e-mail as a platform for collaboration and communications despite its purported antiquity and shortcomings.

About the Research
Osterman Research conducted two surveys on behalf of Unify Square:

  • A survey of 600 end users specifically distributed across three age groups: millennials (born from 1981 to 2001), Gen-Xers (born from 1965 to 1980), and baby boomers (born in 1964 or earlier)
  • A survey of 188 IT decision makers and influencers

Primarily large organizations were surveyed in both groups: the end-user surveys were conducted with organizations that had a mean of 15,738 employees (median of 1,000), while the IT surveys were conducted in organizations with a mean of 19,801 employees (median of 1,450). The organizations included in both surveys covered a wide range of industries.