January 23, 2015

What Workplace Collaboration Will Mean In 2015

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This is a guest contribution from Maricel Rivera. She manages content for Comindware, a software company that delivers project, process, and work management solutions.

It’s that time of the year again. Whether it’s about social media, digital marketing, or enterprise technology, the new year has spawned plenty of predictions for what2015 has in store. Although they shouldn’t be perceived as gospel in any way, shape, or form, such predictions are fodder for interesting discussions.

Here are five workplace collaboration predictions for 2015:

1. Mobile collaboration

One hundred fifty times a day – that’s the number of times the typical mobile user checks their device, according to analyst Mary Meeker. And from 1.75 billion in 2014, eMarketer predicts that smartphone adoption will continue to climb through 2017.

Based on these stats, it’s clear that 2015 will be a year when mobile will make a huge impact on the way people collaborate. As more and more companies begin to appreciate that the flexibility afforded by mobile collaboration is an advantage to be leveraged (and an opportunity for remote and mobile work), the need for mobile-ready collaboration tools will expand.

Collaboration tools from enterprise software providers that do not capitalize on this trend will, as Project Lab foresees, “be left on the shelf, figuratively and literally.”

2. Integrated solutions

App integration will be another dominant player in workplace collaboration in 2015. While some providers integrate numerous business tools into one solution (such as Comindware Project), there are companies that still use multiple, disparate apps for their various needs. These include chat apps for messaging, document management software for file sharing, task tracking solutions for task distribution, and so on.

Because data sharing is a staple in most collaborative endeavors, software integration will be seen as a way to seamlessly move data between applications. This can be done by hiring a developer, deploying business apps with ready-made integrations with the solutions your company already uses, or using services like Zapier.com.

3. Social collaboration tools versus email

Email is a tough nut to crack. Many have predicted the demise of email, but to this day, email is alive and well, several notches ahead of social media in terms of relationship nurturing and customer acquisition – for online selling, at least.

In the collaborative sense, email will be less favored in 2015, as the business advantages of corporate social networks and cloud-based collaboration tools become more evident. Not to disparage the already proven benefits of email in direct communication, but with email, context can be lost as conversations are digested in bits and pieces. Urgent updates can be missed, and key decision-makers can be left out of essential threads.

Email isn’t as effective in terms of document versioning, either. Without an efficient method of tracking which file versions are the most up-to-date, teams are in danger of working with outdated information. Social collaboration tools provide a unified workspace where all collaboration is in the context of work, and newly onboarded members can easily grasp project objectives and requirements without going through unrelated email conversations.

4. ROI measurement to prove the value of enterprise collaboration tools

Experts and industry observers predicted that 2014 would be the year organizations started using analytics tools to measure the value of their business initiatives. Sadly, the actual results have fallen short.

This isn’t all bad news, however. Analytics advocates’ relentless bid to educate decision-makers about the importance of ROI measurement will come to fruition in 2015, an event that will extend to enterprise collaboration and social collaboration platforms. As Bloomfire’s Trey Tramonte asserts, “As with most technologies, it’s all about proving value.”

5. Gamification for better engagement

Gamification isn’t new. And as more and more companies shift from hierarchical management practices to more collaborative approaches, gamification will play a role in encouraging better engagement and behavioral change among employees, and fostering innovation within organizations.

Gamification taps into people’s fundamental motivators and, when used in the right context, can significantly improve employee participation. As an example, in an article by Rajat Paharia, a gamification expert, it was noted that at T-Mobile, after integrating gamification into their employee collaboration platform, “participation increased 96 percent, contributions jumped up 583 percent and responses skyrocketed 783 percent.” Those were on top of a 31 percent improvement in customer satisfaction ratings and 40 percent call deflection scores that ultimately lowered support costs, among other things.

Gartner, in a 2011 press release, also predicted that by 2015, more than half of innovation management organizations will gamify their processes.

Final thoughts

Some trends can be anticipated via extensive data gathering and analysis, or hype cycles and magic quadrants, as research firm Gartner uses to visualize its market analysis. But although research firms have done a good job of pinpointing emerging technology trends, keep in mind, over the years, there also had been misses.

As ZDNet’s Charles McLellan points out, “In the end, there’s probably no reliable shortcut: know your business, read widely and make relevant connections.”