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At a time in which few organizations have been able to conduct business as usual, knowledge management solutions have sustained momentum and even accelerated their growth. Increased use of collaboration, cloud technology, AI, language processing solutions, and graph databases have all contributed to a robust environment for knowledge management.

The impetus to adopt these technologies was accelerated by the need to reconfigure the work environment due to COVID-19, but much also resulted from planned evolution or digital transformation initiatives. In either case, the contributions of these enabling technologies went a long way toward providing solutions to a challenging work scenario.

Collaboration and the hybrid workplace

The need for technology-supported collaboration increased dramatically in 2020—and a hybrid work environment is likely to remain the norm even after the impact of the pandemic subsides. The use of collaboration platforms was already growing, but the pandemic increased the rate of adoption. For example, Microsoft reported that the number of daily users of its Teams collaboration product jumped from 20 million daily active users in November 2019 to 115 million in October 2020, which is more than a fivefold increase. Just between April 2020 and October 2020, usage increased more than 50%.

Videoconferencing has become pervasive as a substitute for in-person corporate meetings, industry conferences, and one-on-one interactions. From January through April 2020, use of this technology increased 84%, according to ZoomInfo (a research company unrelated to the videoconferencing provider Zoom). Revenues for Zoom showed a 10-fold increase over the past 2 years, and initially, Zoom was the primary beneficiary. Webex reported its usage doubled between March and October 2020. Despite the drawbacks of online interaction, there have been some silver linings in terms of lower travel costs and increased spontaneity and, along with remote work, the use of videoconferencing is expected to continue to rise.

In addition to videoconferencing, collaboration tools include file sharing and intranets, project management, analytics, and enterprise social networking. The enterprise collaboration market was $36 billion in 2020, according to Mordor Intelligence, and it is expected to grow 10.7% per year over the next 5 years. Adroit Market Research predicts a $45 billion market by 2025.

A new addition to collaboration is Microsoft’s Viva employee experience platform. It is presented as an application within Teams. It is targeted at employee engagement, well-being, learning, and knowledge, and it taps into some existing Microsoft solutions. Viva Connections, which provides a newsfeed and dashboard, was launched first as a desktop application with a mobile app to follow. Viva Insights provides analytics related to employees’ use of time and is presented as a dashboard. It incorporates information from Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and Microsoft 365 apps and services. Data from a variety of social media applications such as Zoom and Slack is also available through Viva Insights.

Viva Learning is available now through Teams and will be more broadly available later in 2021. It contains content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, third-party course content, and in-house content. Finally, Viva Topics provides project source material based on Topics Cards. These cards are generated automatically from Office 365 and Teams applications, and it uses AI to identify topics and related resources, such as files and people working on this topic, and writes up a summary.

Cloud gets a boost

Going hand in hand with the collaboration side of the hybrid workforce is cloud technology, since geographically workers need to access common information. The three major components of cloud are software as a service (SaaS), which offers online applications; platform as a service (Paas), which provides an environment for application development and deployment; and infrastructure as a service (IaaS), which provides servers, storage, and networking in the cloud. According to Gartner, SaaS will grow 16% over the next year to reach $117.8 billion. PaaS and IaaS will each grow 27%, to $55 billion and $65 billion, respectively. The market leader in the public cloud sector is Amazon, with Microsoft second, and Google and Alibaba vying for third place.

Forrester has raised its previous forecast of growth for the global public cloud market in 2021 versus 2020 from 28% to 35%, predicting a market of $120 billion. Deloitte also expects a growth rate of more than 30% per year from 2021 through 2025, driven by COVID-19, greater flexibility in scaling, and, in many cases, cost savings. Upfront costs are far lower than in traditional data centers, but some companies have recognized that moving very large amounts of data into the cloud can be problematic. In addition, in some cases, organizations prefer to keep data on-premise for security reasons, although cloud providers have made a convincing case for their expertise in this respect. The advantages of cloud for backup and disaster recovery are also significant. It is likely that most companies will opt for a hybrid model, using cloud and on-premise for the purposes that each one best supports.

Content services, a new category that was defined by Gartner in 2017, is also moving to the cloud, although the majority of content services applications remain on-premise. Content services represents the next generation of enterprise content management that includes an extensive set of capabilities such as records management, process management, search and metadata, and intelligent capture of content. Research and Markets predicts annual growth in this space of nearly 24% from 2021 through 2026. The prediction from Data Bridge Market Research is slightly lower—with growth of about 22%— reaching $100 billion by 2026.

Data from IoT is increasing demand for cloud storage, as billions of devices such as industrial sensors and consumer products alike are generating large amounts of data. IDC estimates that by 2025, connected devices will generate nearly 80 zettabytes of data from many of these devices may be processed at the edge, i.e., near the device, rather than being sent directly to an on-premise data center or the cloud. This approach is essential when near-zero latency is required, such as in the case of an autonomous vehicle, or in other types of autonomous systems. In addition, it can be used to reduce the amount of data that is subsequently sent to a central location. According to Gartner, 91% of today’s data is created and processed in centralized data centers, but by 2022, about 75% will be analyzed and acted on at the edge.

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