Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams downloads soar as companies shift to remote working

With the announcement that dozens of colleges and universities across the United States told students during spring break not to come back until the end of the summer and with major corporations like Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook closing offices across the West Coast, it’s clear that businesses in all industries are preparing people for a new reality dependent on work or meeting apps like Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft. Teams.

Entire cities across China, South Korea and Italy have already faced lockdowns, and data shows employees across industries have flocked to a variety of collaboration tools to help them stay connected as governments work to stop the pandemic from spreading further.

“From what we’re hearing, I think most vendors in the video conferencing space are reporting increased usage, and in some cases there’s been tremendous growth in these types of video conferencing applications,” said said Mike Fasciani, Gartner. research director for unified communications and collaboration.

“This is happening in markets across Asia and China in particular that hadn’t adopted these kinds of services much in the past, but are now turning to these apps as their workers are increasingly isolated each other.”

TO SEE: Working from Home: Success Tips for Remote Workers (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Online meeting, desktop sharing, and video conferencing software service GoToMeeting told TechRepublic it has seen a 20% increase in usage worldwide since the onset of coronavirus concerns, with the number doubling. use in Asia.

Lexi Sydow, senior market research manager at AppAnnie, said her researchers have seen a massive increase in remote work app downloads in Italy since February 24. According to company data, during the week of February 22, 417,000 business apps were downloaded. on iOS and Google Play in Italy, marking the biggest week for business app downloads in Italy.

“This was up 10% from the previous week and 30% from the average weekly level of the previous 52 weeks. As of March 3, the top three daily downloaded business apps on iPhone devices in Italy were Hangouts Meet from Google, Microsoft Teams and ZOOM Cloud Meetings,” Sydow said. “With the high rate of coronavirus cases in Italy and many businesses in affected areas adopting work-from-home policies, we are seeing workers turn to mobile applications to communicate, collaborate and teleconferencing to continue without interrupting work.”

TO SEE: 6 videoconferencing platforms bringing major events online (TechRepublic)

Sydow added that AppAnnie researchers saw similar trends emerge in China during the week of Feb. 2, which was the biggest week on record in China for app downloads. There was a huge surge in downloads of work and education apps as schools closed and companies implemented work-from-home policies. Throughout the first half of February, business and education apps were downloaded at levels roughly twice the weekly average for 2019.

“While we have yet to see an increase in business app downloads in the US, UK, France or Germany, we expect these markets to follow a similar trend if the virus continues. to spread and for companies to adopt work-from-home policies to limit potential infection,” Sydow said.

Cloud platforms and smartphone apps dominate

Fasciani said globally, the top tools that are likely to be used more by businesses are Zoom, Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams. But in China, people have stuck with more consumer-focused apps like DingTalk or WeChat, sometimes supplementing those foundational messaging and video apps with other, more robust meeting apps.

Fasciani added that he believes the apps that will gain the most new users will be those that are cloud-based and others that are accessed and consumed through people’s smartphones. It can be harder for traditional apps that need to be the perfect tool for conference rooms to keep up with a new generation of work apps designed for mobile use.

Despite the somewhat dire circumstances, Fasciani noted that now is a great time for companies to test a variety of workplace collaboration tools now that many companies will be offering them for free over the next few months.

“For businesses that have yet to digitally transform their unified communications landscape, now is the time to start testing and using these new free services to see which best suits business needs.” , he said.

Intelligent workspaces and desktop virtualization

In addition to video conferencing apps and messaging tools, there are other global platforms designed for a universe of workplace needs.

According to Chris Marsh, research director at 451 Research, smart workspaces and desktop virtualization platforms are now being adopted by some enterprises to boost collaboration and replicate the desktop environment.

Vendors like Citrix, VMware, and Microsoft are big players in this space, offering tools that virtualize the workplace by giving employees a place they can securely authenticate and use to access all of their work apps. business.

“There are also collaborative work management providers, what we call CWMs, like Smartsheet, Asana, Wrike and Workfront. Many in this space that initially emerged as lightweight project management software have since evolved into work-scale platforms for different types of work,” Marsh said.

“We’re very interested in those for remote work, because remote work isn’t just about collaboration. It’s not just people who can message each other. It’s about transparency, visibility, being able to follow the work and getting everyone on the same page. I think people alignment is really important if more people are working remotely, and it’s these kinds of tools that allow people to do that.

TO SEE: 5 Video Conferencing Tips for IT Managers During the COVID-19 Outbreak (TechRepublic)

Marsh also mentioned digital canvases like Atlassian’s Confluence program, NotionHQ, and Coder, which help employees upload content, generate ideas, distribute tasks, have conversations around projects, and edit them like Wikipedia pages.

He also mentioned that digital whiteboard platforms are gaining popularity for some companies looking to keep remote workers engaged and involved in day-to-day tasks.

One of the main problems that companies can face now that many employees have no choice but to work from home is that it is easy for people to feel disconnected if they are not with colleagues. .

“If this goes on for a while, people may feel connected to their team or their manager, but they may start to feel disconnected from their business. Anyone making decisions about what technology is going to be deployed in their company should probably think about it,” Marsh said.

“There are tools for team collaboration, but you also have to keep people engaged and aligned with what the business is trying to do on a strategic level.”

What does this mean for the future?

Some companies are using the influx of homeworkers to expand their business and make telecommuting a norm.

On Monday, Poshu Yeung, vice president of Tencent International Business Group, announced the creation of Tencent Meeting, a conferencing platform integrated with the company’s suite of apps and tools.

TO SEE: More Slack Tips: A How-To Guide (TechRepublic)

“In recent years, more and more companies have implemented remote working policies, giving employees more freedom and flexibility. We are also pleased to win the trust of our government and industry partners, including the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Singapore and the Government of Chongqing, by using our services for the signing ceremony of their collaboration. We look forward to equipping more businesses and customers with our efficient and reliable technology in the future,” Yeung said.

Through its cloud platform, Tencent offers its customers secure, high-definition multi-person cloud conferencing tools to rival Huawei, which Fasciani said was the leading conference room-based and on-premises video conferencing service. in China.

Although some workers return to their offices in Chinathere will be many employees around the world who may not want to return after going through weeks or even months of working from home experience.

Marsh and Fasciani mentioned that many companies that create these collaboration tools and work platforms are eager to let companies use their tools for free so people get used to them for more than a short time.

“Once you get people used to working from home, how do you get them back into the office? I think what we are seeing now with the expansion of the use of these video and work collaboration services is the start of a new generation of adoption of these types of applications for the remote worker experience said Fasciani.

“I don’t know if it’s back to how it was before. This impact will have long-term legs.

Image: Rawpixel, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sam D. Gomez