In the last decade, the nature of work has been increasing in complexity. The proliferation of software has caused a surge in the number of apps one employee uses to get their work done. But the desired efficiency through tech adoption has been superficial — with more apps and software comes the problem of compromised security, data, and information, which are stored in multiple locations, sprawling communication across numerous channels. And with COVID-19 exacerbating the issue, there’s still a heavy reliance on often cumbersome tools, such as email and video conferencing to collaborate.

As we shift to hybrid work environments and remote working arrangements continue in many organizations, the level of complexity in the way we work will only increase. To better understand what the ideal technology stack looks like for the future of work, we teamed up with the Pulse executive knowledge community. We surveyed hundreds of IT leaders to dig into the challenges organizations are struggling with this year and the changes or investments needed to power the hybrid workforce in this next phase of work. Here’s what we found.

Synchronous tools aren’t enough

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, work-from-home requirements forced millions of people to drastically transform the way they worked. Teams hastily adopted a wave of basic synchronous communications tools like Zoom, Slack, and Google Suite to keep people online and connected. Not surprisingly, remote meeting technology (28%) and internal communication tools (27%) were the two most critical technologies adopted by organizations over the past nine months. These apps, for the time being, were sufficient to keep operations running.

However, organizations are gradually realizing the limitations of operating through a wide variety of non-integrated software with mixed employee adoption rates. Decentralized collaboration and reporting leads to communication breakdowns, missing files, and stifled productivity. Our research found that, even with remote meeting and comms tools deployed, IT leaders are still seeing challenges with engagement (56%), burnout (53%), and productivity (52%). As employee efficiency begins to suffer, so does company revenue and customer satisfaction. 

With the world now considering what the New Normal looks like, working models need to change to accommodate extended, long-term remote teams alongside in-person operations. Hybrid collaboration will shape the future of work, and organizations — led by IT departments — need to be prepared to support it by investing in more sophisticated remote work technology

Pioneers of a new frontier

For many companies, IT represents the vanguard of future work management solutions and the key to an entirely new work environment. According to our survey, 85% of IT leaders expect their overall budget to increase or stay the same this year, and Gartner forecasts worldwide IT spend to grow 6.2%. 

With IT departments now responsible for defining what a “return-to-office” plan may look like, they’re tackling critical workplace issues like productivity challenges and employee burnout. They’re primarily doing this through the use of new technology, which is a requirement for enabling hybrid work. The difficulty lies in precisely identifying the issues and finding the perfect solutions to address them. 

Asynchronous collaboration solutions allow teams to work as one

When asked why IT leaders invested or will invest in remote work technologies, it all comes back to collaboration. Fifty-nine percent of respondents want to make it easier for employees to collaborate, 51% want to make sure said collaboration is secure, and 46% want to enable external collaboration. Because of this, collaborative work and project management technologies have become the number one priority for enabling remote work, with 58% of IT leaders planning to implement or increase investment in this software over the next 12 months. 

A few other critical takeaways from the report include: 

  • IT teams are feeling pressured to do more than ever before 
    • IT leaders noted that they’ve become pressured to drive improved collaboration across and outside their organization, establish secure working environments, and provide increased visibility into projects and individual workloads. 
  • Investment into collaborative work management (CWM) solutions has more than tripled 
    • Nearly half of all respondents stated that remote work technology is now a top four priority, with total investment into project management and CWM tools more than tripling since 2020. 
  • Integration and security are a must for long-term solutions
    • Responders overwhelmingly chose integration and security as the top two most important features in CWM solution providers. 

The feedback from our research was clear — organizations need a secure, long-term solution that can support any number of teams in any location, while providing comprehensive project management and a single source of truth from a unified platform. The solution needs to be a collaborative work management platform that’s sustainable and scalable, as models implemented now will impact processes and productivity for years to come. As IT deploys CWM enterprisewide, they need to employ the platform that supports distributed work across a variety of teams and use cases, while allowing data flows, reporting, and governance across the organization.

It’s time for IT to lead the charge once more and overcome their organizations’ challenges by equipping employees with the digital workplace solution they need to do their best work and stay productive. 

Here’s a deeper dive into insights gleaned from hundreds of IT leaders on the future of collaboration, and why CWM technology for hybrid work is key to business success.

Wrike Research Uncovers the Technology That Will Power Hybrid Work 1-1