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2021 Trends in Collaboration Technology

December 8, 2020

This post is part of G2's 2021 digital trends series. Read more about G2’s perspective on digital transformation trends in an introduction from Michael Fauscette, G2's chief research officer and Tom Pringle, VP, market research, and additional coverage on trends identified by G2’s analysts.

Trends and predictions in collaboration and productivity software in 2021

The B2B software market has been shaken by the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, and plenty of B2B companies are still looking for their footing several months after the initial global lockdown. Collaboration and productivity software has been particularly resilient given their nature of supporting work in office and remotely, but some types of collaboration software received more attention than others. 

We’ve seen massive fluctuations in traffic across G2’s software categories, and taking a closer look gives us some insight into businesses’ priorities at multiple points across the year. As of November 2020, the pandemic is far from over, and some countries are facing the possibility of a second hard lockdown. By analyzing how priorities have changed, we can make some predictions about what kinds of collaboration tools businesses will lean on should a second lockdown over the winter and spring occur.

Collaboration software trends following COVID-19 lockdown

The global lockdown in March 2020 turned the world on its head, and businesses scrambled to implement effective remote work solutions. Companies that were already leveraging cloud communication tools like video conferencing and business instant messaging software were able to handle the initial change with relative ease. The pressure was intensely felt by businesses who relied heavily on on-premises solutions and those who didn’t utilize cloud communications tools much or at all.

At the beginning of the lockdown, many G2 categories experienced an enormous surge of traffic, and our traffic data shows where businesses focused their initial efforts to go remote.

graph showing traffic to G2 categories focused on collab tech January through October

The Video Conferencing category experienced one of the largest surges of traffic as a result of the lockdown. For many, video conferencing tools were used daily even before the pandemic, but businesses that traditionally didn’t need them suddenly realized they needed one to continue daily operations. In an industry report from 2019, it was found that 45% of employees used video conferencing tools on a daily or weekly basis. By April 2020, 58% of businesses reported implementation of a video conferencing tool. 

March 2020 saw a wave of businesses looking to quickly implement software tools to help them stay connected remotely. Video conferencing, webinar, and VoIP were the first categories of software businesses needed to lean on to allow them to continue strategizing how to move forward during the pandemic.

Related: Collab Tech and its Impact on Who Gets to Work Remotely 

Current trends in collaboration software

By June this year, G2’s category traffic trends began to shift. Many communication software categories that had experienced significant increases in traffic (video conferencing and screen sharing, for example) started to see their traffic decrease then plateau. This data aligns with the assumption that businesses likely found their video conferencing or webinar solution of choice early on in the pandemic. Many of these categories are still experiencing higher traffic compared to pre-lockdown averages, but the summer of 2020 saw traffic move to other collaboration-focused categories. 

A few collaboration and productivity categories have seen steady traffic growth since the beginning of lockdown and show no signs of slowing down. 

graph showing steady traffic growth to G2 categories January through October

The beginning of lockdown was a mad dash for businesses to find effective communication tools. However, after several months of remote work, it appears many are pivoting their efforts toward productivity and efficiency. 

Categories like Note-Taking Management software and Screen Sharing software experienced a boom in traffic at the start of the pandemic, but unlike many other categories, they are gaining more traffic month over month. In the case of the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) software category, traffic dipped in March, but by April, traffic began to climb far above its pre-lockdown averages and rapidly grew over the summer.

Traffic increasing in these categories indicates that businesses are showing interest in refining their remote collaboration strategies. Dedicated OKR tools assist in aligning team goals with broader company goals, a critical reassurance many businesses are more concerned with than ever. Remote work doesn’t provide many opportunities to organically collaborate with coworkers; to combat this, many businesses are leaning on visual collaboration platforms. Visual collaboration platforms provide a flexible, shared canvas fitted with features like diagramming and drawing as well as communication tools like commenting and messaging which users can edit simultaneously. These platforms allow teams to collaborate with significantly more tools at their disposal compared to video conferencing or VoIP software. 

Sustained growth in these categories is a strong indicator that many businesses have moved past the need for standard communication channels and are now focusing on more deliberate tools for remote collaboration.

Our analysts reveal what's big right now in their 2021 Digital Trends reports.     See our predictions here →

Predictions for collaboration software on 2021

There are two key trends we can glean from G2 category traffic:
  • At the start of lockdown, businesses focused on finding cloud communication software like video conferencing and VoIP solutions.
  • By the summer, many businesses were more concerned with refining their remote work strategies, focusing on tools like note-taking management, OKR, and screen sharing.

For countries or regions looking at a second lockdown, we can expect businesses in affected areas to again look for cloud communications platforms. While this wave will be much smaller than the last, there will likely be more businesses looking to invest in high-quality solutions for the long term. It has been several months since the onset of the pandemic, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that a long-term remedy for COVID-19 is not coming anytime soon. If businesses haven’t made a long-term commitment to a video conferencing or VOIP solution, a second lockdown will push holdouts in that direction. 

However, regardless of a second lockdown, we can expect solutions that support structured collaboration to experience continued growth. More businesses will find themselves looking for tools to facilitate specific types of remote collaboration as the months wear on. With their cloud communication needs covered, businesses will continue to explore options that provide more intentional features built for remote work. In particular, we could potentially see increased interest in software like meeting management and visual collaboration platforms; while traffic to these categories is less impressive compared to others, they are seeing a definitive upswing that appears to be steadily increasing as the year presses on.

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