By now, it’s clear the pandemic has permanently altered the future of work. The technology required to meet today’s needs and tomorrow’s challenges stretches beyond IT and touches every corner of an organization. Businesses are rethinking enterprise-class data, systems, budgets, and the SaaS solutions required to adapt and thrive in permanent hybrid and remote work environments.
As Chief Product Officer at Calendly, I am both a witness to and an influencer of many of these changes firsthand. Companies are adopting our modern scheduling SaaS platform as part of a strategy to boost productivity and collaboration, enhance the employee experience, optimize the customer experience, and revamp their tech stacks. We’ve watched our 10M+ users adjust to the distributed, digital workforce over the past year. Three particular themes have surfaced as indicators for SaaS adoption in the enterprise in 2022.
#1 Growing enterprise budgets and the rise of Product Led Growth (PLG) companies will force greater collaboration between IT, end-users, and product leaders.
CIO budgets are soaring, and historically this has signaled a tilt in the enterprise power dynamic toward IT. However, a greater focus on the employee experience moving into 2022, and the PLG companies that enable it, will shift buying patterns toward a more bottom-up approach.
Enterprises recognize that employees have keen insight into the tools they need to be more productive day-to-day, especially when it comes to remote work. This focus on productivity will result in a more collaborative dialogue between IT, end-users, and product teams when it comes to adopting new tools in the workplace. The transition to remote work demonstrated the frontline employee’s capacity to take the necessary steps to build their own tech stacks, including doing research, beta testing, and paying for tools online.
Given these shifting dynamics, to continue to be successful in the enterprise, product leaders at successful PLG companies like Calendly need to continue to build productivity-focused experiences that delight users while simultaneously accounting for IT’s needs from the start of building. They will increasingly have the added responsibility of developing SaaS products with the enterprise user and IT team overseeing them in mind. Regardless of how strong an employee champion may be within an organization, a product that doesn’t meet the security, scalability, and administrative control requirements out the gate will be a non-starter.
#2 Fostering collaboration and flexibility will be the top leadership challenges as the digital workplace becomes a permanent fixture.
The post-COVID workplace will feature an ever-changing cocktail of remote, hybrid, and in-office employees who will make up teams tasked with driving productivity regardless of their physical location. Leaders will need to recognize that automation and collaboration tools will need to be seamlessly adopted into the everyday workflow of enterprises at a greater rate than ever before to support workers’ demands for collaboration and flexibility.
The impact of the “no one size fits all” approach will reverberate in the tech stack as much as it does in the conference room. Only 1 in 4 enterprise meetings will be held in-person in the next three years according to Gartner’s Digital Worker Experience survey. The organic interactions we once counted on, such as turning to a team member sitting beside you in an open office floor plan, brainstorming over coffee, or strategizing in a colleague’s office, are no longer our common realities. These conversations need to be scheduled and intentionally managed in this digitized hybrid model.
Zoom and Slack filled the void admirably during the onset of the pandemic. Moving into 2022, we’ll see these and other next-generation, enterprise-ready tools like virtual whiteboard MURAL, recording and transcription services like Otter.ai, and scheduling automation platforms like Calendly, help workers navigate heavier meeting demands, streamline workflows, and support more asynchronous work.
To complement the vast number of modern tools available to help facilitate better meetings, leaders will seek out new ways to foster collaboration in a digital-first workplace. We’ll see a rise in platforms helping to recreate serendipitous watercooler conversations through the use of technologies like augmented reality to help teammates feel more physically connected in a remote world.
#3 The adoption of AI and analytics will accelerate to become a must-have means to creating a personalized, customer-centric experience amid distributed work and evolving consumer habits.
The pandemic has reshaped the ways end-users and their customers view AI as a means to digitizing the workplace and the value it brings for improving efficiency, personalization, and agility. At the onset, the pandemic forced businesses to implement AI technology at a breakneck pace as a way to remain competitive. Now, that sense of urgency has turned into long-term expectation. IDC predicts that spending on AI will increase 24.5% annually to $204 billion by 2025 as this sharp increase in investment becomes more of a necessity as enterprises seek to rapidly implement and deliver a more personalized experience to accommodate shifts in working arrangements and consumer purchasing.
Analytics, optimizing the customer experience, and sourcing new revenue channels will drive the future of work forward as we begin to see vastly expanded use cases for AI across consumer-centric industries like retail and banking. At a macro level, machine learning and predictive analytics will detect patterns and trends that will power solutions for the labor shortage and supply chain challenges. Meanwhile, on our laptops and mobile devices, customers and employees will see AI-powered SaaS tools personalize their user experience, improve productivity, and streamline customer service with natural language processing to power chatbots and intelligent agents.
Business trends that would once take 6-24 months to gain traction will do so in a matter of weeks. Enterprises will be expected to keep pace with such advancement and future-proof with an investment in AI or risk getting left behind. Businesses that have been built around traditional on-premises systems will be unable to keep up with the processing pace needed for modern businesses and will either need to quickly adopt AI-driven tools or acquire companies that have them.
Stay Flexible for the Road Ahead
While we hope to steer clear of another pandemic-like event, there will always be external factors that accelerate trends in business. The ability to react and adapt quickly often determines which companies come out on top following these pivotal events.
This need for agility rings true for both enterprises and tech vendors. It’s especially true for us at Calendly as we announced our Calendly for Enterprise plan earlier this year. Our platform supports large teams and organizations with the security and reliability features they need to navigate these global workplace trends on the horizon.
The companies focused on improving productivity and delivering a positive employee experience will be well suited to meet the current needs of their customers and well-positioned to thrive in 2022 regardless of what the next major disruption may bring.