Collaboration trends in 2015 : more perspectives

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I’ve already shared my thoughts on the main trends in collaboration in 2015.I’d like to complete this post with this excellent analysis made by Alan Lepofsky from Constellation Research. There are a couple of things in common but I really like the way he organizes and explains things.

In short :

No more tools but tools that do more

The landscape is already overcrowded with lots of tools doing many things or one specific thing. We don’t need more tools but tools that are more efficient, more integrated, more consistent with each other. We need the tools we have to complete one another, articulate better to be better at helping us getting work done.

My Pov : As Facebook is joining the already overcrowded market of enterprise social networking solutions I say “STOP !”. The point is not the intrinsic qualities of such or such solution, what it does or not, but the way all solutions help us to get things done by working better together. A consistent and cross-application experience. And, most of all, never forget that the primary goal is not collaboration but getting one’s work done. About that I’m real fan of the idea of “purposeful collaboration” that Alan Lepofsky has been promoting for years. Collaboration must start with core business applications, not from third part ones that split work into silos.

Focus on what matters

We are at the crossroads of collaboration and analytics. Contrary to what vendors promised, collaboration solutions did not make us more productive. Analytics will help us understand how our environment works, what happens, what matters. What should be prioritized and what should be ignored, always with the idea of getting work done.

My POV : As I repeated it a lot over the last months, collaboration is not the employee’s primary need in their Maslow’s pyramid. The first thing they need is to re-emerge and take control over their informational environment. As long as employees are lost in their flows and stocks of information, there’s no way to make them collaborate or do anything together in a joint and smart way. Prioritization is key because time is the only scarce resource.

The dawn of lightweight collaboration tools

We’ll see the dawn of lighter tools that those we know, like chats, very well integrated with more traditional solutions like file sharing, VOIP etc….

My POV : yes…but no. These tools must make new kind of integration possible, make things easier and simpler but never go against the #1 priority that is to stop adding new solution to focus on making the existing ones coexist better. On this point we can expect things from the new vendors mentioned by Alan Lepofsky but – why not – from traditional vendors coming with a more minimalist approach to their current interfaces. Facebook at Work could be a part of this trend if only it integrated with existing applications instead of coming with its own chat, file sharing etc. That’s what makes Facebook irrelevant in my opinion. More than a new form of collaboration, I see that as a leaner experience that may come from existing vendors if they catch then trend fast enough.

Email is still a critical business application

Despite of the progress made in social collaboration, in 2014 we saw major announcements from major players like IBM, Microsoft and Google in the field of email. These products come with major improvements in terms of integration, information display and information management. That’s not the revenge of email but a new and heavy trend  : email getting better integrated with all the tools we have.

My POV: That’s the starting point of my post on the trends for 2015 so I have nothing to add.

Niche networks to improve context

Until now, a lot has been done on sharing and transparency, what paradoxically lead to information overload and new silos. In 2015 we’ll see networks forming on small and specific matters like a task or a problem to solve. People will be able to focus on a given issue instead of getting lost in a larger ecosystem before they find what matters and ave a have a downgraded experience.

My POV:  yes but it can take many forms. First, is it about networks as platforms or networks as people. It’s consistent with the dawn of lightweight tools provided they are fully interoperable with the rest of the collaboration IS or can be the result of an intensive use of analytics to offer subject centric work environments. That’s also the Grail of “activity specific social networking” that struggles at becoming mainstream.

Mobilité

It’s not about mobile as a technology or device but as a way of working. It’s the transformation of organization and processes to take into account many things from GPSs to wearables.

My POV : connected objects will become major players in processes and a new collaboration interface between people in a Human-to-machine-to-human approach.

Bring structure with task management

The more information we receive through an increasing number of channels the more we need to sort things out in the perspective of work to be done. No matter we call it project management, social project management, social task management…it’s about helping users to organize their information and work environment in the perspective of wha needs to be done. Some of these applications will be standalone, some will be more integrated with the rest of the collaboration IS.

My POV : the social turn had an impressive potential in terms of collaboration but has been bed astray because the focus on the unstructured part made employees lose their way. An imaginary silo was built, separating the “old” and structuring collaboration from the “new” and unstructured one while the goal was to make them work together. So we need to bring structure back and go beyond conversations only as a way to collaborate. But it’s like “activity specific social software” : it’s promising, it works every time but few dare trying it because they have a biased understanding of new forms of collaboration that would be about conversations and communities only. From my own perspective, I think that – at different scales – solutions like Azendoo or Projexec really get it. But I’m not sure that 2015 will be the year when clients will break what is not a technology but a psychology barrier. However, I really share Lepofsky’s idea that we need to structure social collaboration around tasks to make it count for anyone.

The war of cloud file vendors

We’ve seen the proliferation of such solutions, ranging from Google to Box, but what matters is not the number of files stored but they way they’re being used. After a massive but often chaotic adoption, the time has come for questions about security, industry based use cases and development environments.

Mon POV : I’m not doing to do my “anticonversational show” once again but there’s been too many speeches on conversations replacing processes and documents while they were supposed to add value to processes and documents. So there’s no surprise if process and documents are striking back. I had the chance to work on this matter last year, thanks to two colleagues conducting a deep work on the future of documents, and I confirm that the actual challenge is not technology. Documents have new life cycles, is management in new ways that requires us to reinvent everything we used to take for granted in terms of document management. Most of all in terms of governance. What will matter for vendors is the capability to help their clients with these new use cases, to establish new forms of governance that will make them move to the next stage or not.

Suites vs “best of breed”

The battle between large integrated suites and best of breed solutions is going on. Until now the first used to be more consistent but had lacks while the others were easier to integrate in the cloud, had less lacks but were also less consistent seen as a whole. Today suites are catching up and may become the enterprise first choice.

My POV : functional excellence has long been prefered to global experience. Many solutions being very good at something specific rather than one with a large coverage but performing less on very specific needs. Integrated solutions with inconsistent experiences rather than consistent experiences. I don’t think enterprises must make a choice : they need both at the same time. Lepofsky’s prediction makes a lot of sense but will face another psychological issue : many IT departments still love DIY, what also makes it easier to please every stakeholder because they all will get the solution they wanted. But as large suites are getting cloudified, standalone solution will be less and less relevant.

Image Credit : Trends by Artkwin via Shutterstock