What Is Collaborative Work Management (CWM) and How Can Enterprises Use It for Competitive Advantage?

The tidal wave of recent events has brought swift and lasting change to the way work gets done in enterprises. To support these new and still evolving work models, Collaborative Work Management (CWM) solutions are gaining traction and providing many enterprises a competitive advantage. Still, many leaders have not yet been able to wrap their arms around what CWM is and what collaborative project management software could mean for their organization.

Here, we answer several frequently asked questions surrounding Collaborative Work Management solutions.

What is Collaborative Work Management?

The most recent Gartner® Market Guide for Collaborative Work Management shares “Collaborative work management (CWM) products are being used by business users to model, manage and automate common repeatable and reportable work patterns, including intake, triage, planning, execution and reporting.” Gartner continues to expand by saying “CWM tools bring together several strands of collaborative activity, blending planning and management oversight with work execution.”

At the highest level, CWM can be described as an emerging market where future focused solutions are being developed to support business users by acting as unified hub for project planning and execution and enabling next-level project orchestration across an organization.  

Why are CWM solutions getting so popular so quickly?

CWM deployments in large enterprises doubled from 2020 to 2021 and continue to rise in 2022. In fact, according to the Gartner, “The level of interest in collaborative work management has been growing steadily over the last few years, with a notable rise consistent with the increase in hybrid work.” We believe, this is in large part occurring because more people in more roles are making project-critical decisions and are doing so in a remote and hybrid work environment, as part of dispersed teams across a range of time zones and environments. Read more about the rise of CWM in our recent post on trends in collaborative work and project management.

How does Collaborative Work Management differ from traditional Project Management?

Traditional project management solutions typically focus on starting, carrying out, and completing an individual project or portfolio of projects. In contrast, CWM solutions provide broader functionality and blend workflow, project, and activity management along with capabilities such as automation, composability, analytics, collaboration, and more for business users and stakeholders. Gartner shares “Products in this market are defined by their purpose (work planning and execution), by their target users (all nontechnical business users) and by their broad functionality.”

How are early adopters and enterprise organizations using CWM solutions to gain a competitive advantage?

With an end-to-end CWM solution, organizations are gaining complete visibility across the entirety of project lifecycles, enabling full orchestration of complex projects and tasks at every stage (from order to delivery), and supporting stakeholder alignment and collaboration across every project phase. CWM is also helping enterprises address the impact of “digital friction,” which is defined as undue energy or effort expended by workers in using technology to advance a task or complete a goal. CWM solutions are reducing this digital friction by providing easy to use technology that is business-friendly, adapts to different work scenarios, and is focused on eliminating low data quality, complex/inconsistent workflows, repetitive tasks, and much more. 

What features and functions should a CWM solution include?

According to Gartner, “The core value proposition of CWM is to improve activity coordination in a flexible and agile manner. With this in mind, in our opinion CWM solutions should include:

  • Task and project management functionality
  • Content and workstream collaboration tools
  • Tailorable work templates
  • Automation and integration capabilities with other systems and solutions (including commonly used chatbots)
  • AI and advanced analytics
  • Dashboards and reports

Ideally, CWM solutions should also be Composable (which enables faster response to change and with fewer resources) and focus on Order-to-Delivery planning and management so that key parts of a project’s lifecycle (e.g., pre-sales and opportunity stage activity) are not ignored. They should also enable disparate workstyles, adapting and connecting different methodologies across projects, teams, and departments, and enabling hybrid approaches.

When selecting a CWM solution, what should you look for in a solution provider?

Gartner reports that on the demand side, buyers “Expect simple, intuitive and easy-to-use tools for activity coordination in teams and projects where the outline and constraints of what needs to be done are known, but the details can be worked out as work unfolds.” With that in mind, in our opinion, CWM solution providers should not push one-size-fits-all approaches, but instead offer fully dynamic, customizable, and user-friendly features that meet your enterprise’s unique needs. CWM solution providers also need to provide scalability that supports seamless response as demands change and your organization grows, reliability that empowers end-users and decision-makers with accurate and up-to-date information, and visibility that enables informed strategic decisions and work momentum.

The rapid rise of Collaborative Work Management solutions is projected to persist as enterprises continue to evolve work structures and processes and innovate customer interactions and delivery models. Organizations that have not yet taken a hard look at CWM solutions should do so now to solidify on-time project delivery, recognize revenue faster, elevate teamwork, and move ahead of the competition.

– Gartner, Market Guide for Collaborative Work Management, By Nikos Drakos, Mike Gotta, 27 October 2021

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.