8 Collaboration Trends to Expect in 2017

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Collaboration is at the heart of radical transformation. Perhaps one of the most well known examples of this is the International Space Station (ISS), which is a result of 15 nations working together. People have lived in space every single day since the year 2000. The space station has become a home in orbit from where people do research, which cannot be done on Earth.

No matter if you’re a large enterprise or a small startup, live in Shanghai or San Francisco, work from home or the ISS, we all face the same challenges. We need effective collaboration to achieve magic together.

In a raging disruptive world, it is difficult to distinguish signal from noise. That’s the exact reason why we sat down to think about what trends we believe might shape the year ahead. We wanted to use these insights internally for ourselves, as well as share it with you now!

1. Collaboration tools move beyond social

The last 5 or so years have seen an explosion of social collaboration tools. Apps such as Yammer have done a tremendous job in connecting people. But while connecting people was an obvious first step to go, all our work processes remain highly siloed and disconnected. Why is that?

Many of the apps we use today are limited by structure and technology. They have been developed to work individually and in silos. The result is broken work processes and a productivity potential waiting to be realized. A software development team might be using one system for tracking bugs, another to invoice clients and a third to track time.

Trying to stitch legacy apps together has previously been time-consuming and required lots of development hacks. But open API’s and a standardized cloud are making integrations of different software apps much more easier than before.

The next step will be to connect broken work processes and apps.

Instead of having work processes existing in closed apps, we’ll see new platforms emerge, converge and work together in unimaginable ways. The collaboration market will effectively become an ecosystem in its own right. Once closed project management apps will integrate to task management apps. Task management apps will integrate to invoicing apps. Invoicing apps will integrate to time tracking apps etc. Connecting work holds a promise of higher productivity waiting to be unleashed.

2. Bring your own collaboration tools to the office (BYOS)

The boundaries between work and home are blurring, so collaboration software must allow people to work seamlessly across platforms, devices and locations. Many companies now allow users to bring their own device to the office. This is also known as Bring Your Own Device or BYOD. If you walk into any modern enterprise, it’s not uncommon to see all kinds of phones being used and governed by IT and users – something previously not allowed.

In a similar way, we foresee that 2017 will be the year when Bring Your Own Software (BYOS) to the corporate workplace will kick off. People are already using a variety of software to collaborate. From Dropbox to Box, Google Hangout to Skype, Wrike to Asana, Slack to Skarpline, Trello to Pivotal Tracker and the list could go on.

Most of these products offer simple transparent pricing plans, which are easy to administer and govern. Instead of having IT dictating what to use, why not let users become strong ambassadors, manage their own software and decide what’s fit for their role?

Using software to access BYOS has several benefits to the user and company. The user will often have access to a wide range of services. Is Google Hangout down? Use Skype. Or vice versa. And companies enjoy solutions that come with freemium packages in most cases.

Radical? Perhaps not in 2017.

3. The collaborative organization

Many organizations have invested heavily in technology over the past decades. These investments are often pursued top-down and measured on ROI. But how do you measure ROI when implementing a collaboration tool?

The next step for technology organizations is to become collaborative organizations. Collaborative organizations implement tools buttom-up. Instead of looking at ROI, they look at usage. Are our employees actually using these tools? Do they provide a better fit for the individual employee and his or her work process? Do these tools ‘almost’ implement themselves using smart onboarding and intuitive interfaces?

Collaboration only improves productivity if it is accompanied by changes in how we work. Research shows that productivity growth only happens when technology is accompanied by concurrent changes in how we work. In fact, technology adoption alone, without the accompanying changes in work practices, have little or even a negative impact on productivity.

Don’t pursue collaboration tools for the sake of cool technologies. Pursue it with an intention to improve how you work. Most solutions offer freemium or trial version to get you started. Measure the usage. If people are using it, you’ll see an increase in performance, productivity and happiness at work.

4. Collaboration around IoT

Internet of Things or IoT is currently one of the hottest buzzwords around. To us at Skarpline, we define IoT as Connected Devices. Much of the hype around IoT has been spent around the latter word, Devices. From Sonos and Tesla to new innovative products on the Kickstarter and Indiegogo platforms, we’ve all seen amazing IoT devices coming out. But less effort has been spent on the first defining word of IoT, Connected.

2017 could become the year when innovative software platforms start massively to connect with IoT devices around us. While startups and incumbents already have solutions on the market, none have yet captured the potential which lies beneath the IoT market.

Collaborating around thousands of IoT devices is a massive task and one with great potential. Fueled by open interfaces and open collaboration platforms, we’re excited to see new ways to communicate and work with these intelligent connected devices.

One teaser video we personally like ourselves is this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhlp7x4GyUM

5. Bots everywhere

Bots are ‘conversational software robots’, which have exploded in usage the recent months. They are mostly found in messaging and chat applications, but given their collaborative nature, we expect to see them across a variety of collaboration tools in the near future.

Bots help us automate conversations and tasks. They can help us get started with an app, reserve dinner appointments, schedule meetings or pay online. Without interacting with another person. Instead of you typing a command, a bot is typing commands for you. All you do is having a conversation with what seems like a real person, but in fact it is a ‘bot’.

2017 will bring us a variety of new use cases centered around bots, and some will come to feel like artificial intelligence. We’re already now seeing several open platforms offering platforms for other platforms. It truly is an open world of collaborative platforms!

6. Collaborate like startups

The quest for impact and avoidance of being disrupted are forcing many companies to take a good look at themselves and their internal processes. True collaboration improves a business’ competitiveness by enabling better communication and work processes between employees, external partners, consultants etc. Cloud based software solutions have the ability to integrate information, reach a large number of people, capturing and sharing knowledge, expanding use-cases and workflows, reach remote colleagues and tapping into new sources of innovation and expertise.

During the last decades, many companies have been prone to implement new management practices, such as lean manufacturing, agile project management, and total quality management. Much attention is now drawn towards the methodologies used in startups including agile development and the lean startup methodology.

Using tools and techniques such as minimal viable product, business model canvas, timeboxing and pivots, businesses of all sizes can shorten product development cycles, reduce risk and increase overall productivity output.

Can your enterprise collaborate like a startup? Should it?

7. VR and visual collaboration

We’ll increasingly see new collaboration tools experiment with new user interfaces to simplify and make collaboration more intuitive.

The next wave of usage onto less technical people will bring a new wave of user experiences to the market. Many collaboration tools have been embraced by technical communities. But just as Windows took over MS-DOS and became an intuitive operating system for a larger audience, we’ll see collaboration solutions do the same.

Imagine using virtual reality headset to collaborate. Or gigantic touch screens in every office room from where you can manage your project with a single touch. Several products are already highly visual and capable of this transformation. From project management solutions such as Trello and Asana, roadmap and process solutions as Aha! and ProductPlan, recognition tools as DaPulse to communication tools as Skarpline.

Improved visualization and usability will lead to companies not only purchasing online collaboration software but an increased number of employees actually using the software and hence achieving the benefit of a higher productivity.

8. Collaboration as an eco-system

Most cloud services today include some collaboration features. Whether that is to invite another person or share specific content, we often see some degree of collaboration in today’s cloud services. Even the smallest personal note taking services on the cloud, often include invite and sharing options.

What makes a cloud service a collaboration service?

Well, we’d say that if a service main function is centered around collaboration, let’s say that more than 50% of its core functionality is focused around collaboration, then it can be categorized as a collaboration service.

But since so many apps overlap collaboration features, most apps become indirect competitors to each other. The image ‘you are a competitor or you are not’ simply does not fit modern collaboration as we see it in 2017.

In fact, with so many overlapping features, many services become complementary to each other. For instance, both Skype and Google Hangout have chat features, but we also see a wide range of other platforms integrating intelligently to those services using their public API’s.

The market for collaboration apps is becoming an eco-system in its own right. Rather than being enemies and competitors, vendors choose to integrate to each other and create compelling and complementary services to the benefit for us all.

Who’s the winner? The end-user!

Dan Storbaek

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