Digital collaboration: potential by far not exhausted


5 years of German Social Collaboration Study proves numerous weaknesses in companies.

  • Between 2016 and 2020, the maturity level of companies increases by 17 percent 
  • The number of companies with collaboration tools grows from 67 to 81 percent
  • High expectations for new technologies such as AI or Big Data have so far not been borne out in practice

In the past five years, companies in the German-speaking region have made considerable progress when it comes to the use of social collaboration tools. But there are still a number of areas that require improvement. These are the conclusions of the German Social Collaboration Study that has been conducted as a time series study every year since 2016 by Technical University Darmstadt and the management and technology consulting firm Campana & Schott.

Accordingly, on a scale from 1 to 7, the social collaboration level of maturity increased almost every year – from 3.48 in 2016 to 4.08 in 2020. This means: In Germany, more and more employees are using modern tools for communication purposes. However, the companies still have a long way to go to reach the maximum value of seven points.

AI & Big Data: Big expectations, little action

In 2018, over a third of companies were already using Big Data/Data Analytics technologies, and over a fifth used technologies from the IoT segment. The majority of those surveyed expected that over the next five years, work processes would be influenced by artificial intelligence and augmented/virtual reality. 

These expectations have not been borne out in practice. While almost half of participants consider AI to be a key technology in 2020, almost three quarters do not use any AI, Business Intelligence or Analytics tools for analyzing data that is relevant to their business. Still, companies see chatbots, automatic image processing and machine translation as promising future application scenarios.

The top priority: A better corporate culture

The primary reason for introducing social collaboration tools is to improve the corporate culture. It is an objective that is actually achieved, as the study has demonstrated in every single year. Higher customer satisfaction became the second-highest priority in 2020. It means that companies are increasingly looking outside themselves and are putting customers at the center of their activities.

Obstacles for connected collaboration

The biggest obstacles are purchase and implementation costs, costs for the required infrastructure (e.g. mobile connection of all employees) and data privacy risks. In 2018, the limited usability of the tools as well as a lack of mobile access were also mentioned as obstacles. Current solutions appear to have solved these problems.