Secure communications landscape is now ‘Established,’ says Forrester

April 19, 2024

The new Secure Communications Solutions Landscape Q2 2024 (subscription required) report, from Forrester Research, categorises the secure communications marketplace as having progressed from ‘Emerging’ to now be identified as ‘Established.’

There are many milestones on any journey, but we feel this is a significant one.

Analyst firms create market ‘categories’ when they identify a distinct new area of technology development. To be part of an ‘emerging’ category is, of course, exciting as it signifies a bold new vision and approach. But it also makes for a challenging environment for secure communications vendors, as end-user organisations tread slowly and carefully into new territory. Tech advocates might like bleeding edge, but organisations prefer something a little more tried and tested.

That Forrester now sees the secure communications landscape as ‘Established’ takes the marketplace past early adopters, innovation projects and pilots - and into the mainstream.

Source: Forrester Research, Secure Communications Solutions Landscape Q2 2024

That certainly chimes with what we’re experiencing as a business. Our early adopters - such as the French government, BWI and the German Armed Forces, UK MoD, the US Navy and US Space Force - continue to develop and expand their deployments. Many more governments and public sector organisations have significant implementations underway, most notably the entire German healthcare sector standarding on Matrix (the open standard on which Element builds).

Likewise, we now also have formal relationships with multiple partners including Adesso, Bechtle, Dataport, Deutsche Telekom, IBM and Tele2.

Why has secure communications come of age?

Element and Matrix were initially devised to protect end users’ privacy, most notably as an alternative to Big Tech’s “you’re the product” apps.

But we quickly saw demand from public sector organisations - particularly those in the EU - that wanted the same freedom from Big Tech platforms. That demand has intensified as the world has, sadly, become more unstable.

The main three drivers for the secure communications marketplace are:

1. Changing geopolitics and 'reglobalisation'

Global events like COVID-19, conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, polarised political parties, and the rise of extremist groups around the world, highlight the need for reliable and trustworthy communication platforms. International relations are restructuring to meet the changes. The early 2000s marked a time when the global economy witnessed increased integration. Now, in some ways, due to the nature of relationships between various countries, trust is shifting. We are living in a period of reglobalisation. Legacy and consumer-grade messaging apps are too fragile in such circumstances. Governments and public sector organisations must use the new technology available to them to own and control their communication solutions.

2. Stronger awareness among users and buyers

There is a growing realisation about the risks posed by the insecure communications solutions. Many are starting to take steps to ensure employees don’t use personal devices for work-related activities; and increasingly restricting the use of consumer-grade apps such as WhatsApp and iMessage in the workplace is commonplace. The ever blurrier lines between personal and work devices increases the exposure to risks such as data breaches and ransomware attacks, especially when insecure applications are being used.

3. Systemic problems with the status quo

Cyber espionage and cyberattacks are a primary concern for national security, and digital communication is in many ways the battleground. To improve their defences, public sector organisations are moving away from unencrypted email and real-time apps like Microsoft’s Teams, Cisco’s Webex and Safeforce’s Slack. In their place they are using secure comms tools that safeguard sensitive information whilst also avoiding the creation of yet more communication silos. The era of workplace collaboration tools is giving way to a new age of secure communications. This change must accelerate to minimise the disruption and damage caused by the situation as it is today.

Our own market prediction: Matrix will be a category soon

Forrester has always had a sharp focus on security, and was an early champion of the ‘zero trust’ concept. It’s no wonder, therefore, that Forrester is the first major analyst firm to really track secure communications.

But we believe secure communications is more of a ‘rising tide’ for communications in general, not a niche sub-category. Indeed in many ways, for Element, ‘secure’ is the most straightforward part of our unique selling proposition (USP). End-to-end encryption is incredibly well established, albeit - rather oddly - primarily in the consumer world. What Element has solved is an end-to-end encrypted platform that gives the end-user organisation oversight and control.

Digital sovereignty (giving the end user organisation complete ownership and control of its communication platform and the data within it) and interoperability (using an open standard so that people can easily connect with each other, just like people can with email) are far more complicated to deliver and are far more transformative than security alone.

So just as ‘secure communications’ will replace ‘workplace collaboration tools,’ we also envisage that analysts will start to track ‘Matrix-based’ as its own category.

The number of people and devices using Matrix-based communications continues to explode, but that’s a well established trend.

What we’re now seeing is governments and public sector organisations issuing tenders that specify a Matrix-based solution. Element responds to these tenders, not just against similar fast growth companies such as Rocket.Chat (who are also included in the Forrester Research Secure Communications Solutions Landscape Q2 2024 report) and Famedly, but also established global giants like IBM and Deutsche Telekom.

Germany’s entire healthcare system - for example - has mandated the use of Matrix for real time communications, stopping the use of traditional insecure solutions such as Microsoft Teams and consumer messaging apps.

Such is the scale of Matrix-based communications that earlier in April Automattic (owner of WordPress, and an investor in Element) purchased Beeper, a Matrix-based app aimed at consumers, in a deal valued at $125 million. This is the first Matrix-based acquisition of such a scale, and signals the start of how quickly the business world is recognising the transformative power of Matrix.

While we warmly welcome Forrester Research’s conclusion that the secure communications marketplace is now ‘Established,’ what we really look forward to is the first report to analyse the Matrix category. A category of communication that offers digital sovereignty, native interoperability and security - a category that replaces email, legacy collaboration tools, insecure voice and video and consumer messaging in the workplace.

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