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Summary:

Effective teamwork is one of the most critical keys to success. As a result, collaboration tools are one of the hottest sectors in software. Blaine Mathieu of Mindjet maps out five important trends in collaboration solutions.

collaboration_Ernst Vikne

Effective teamwork is one of the most critical keys to success. As a result, collaboration tools are one of the hottest sectors in software. New solutions ranging from startups, such as Trello and Central Desktop, to established players, such as Microsoft, Salesforce, Jive and my own employer — Mindjet — are vying for a piece of the market.

Below are five important trends in collaboration solutions. Think carefully about how the solution you are using (or considering) reflects this rapidly changing dynamic.

1. Collaboration equals integration

Collaboration means many things to many people. For some, it’s document management and sharing. For others, it’s social networking (within a business context). And for others still, it’s project or task management for teams. However it is defined, effective collaboration solutions will increasingly combine the elements of project and work planning, file sharing and social task management into one unified whole.

The pendulum is swinging from point tools to integrated collaboration solutions. We all know that breaking down silos in organizations is key to ensuring effective collaboration. Similarly, the tools that those teams use must also break through artificial barriers between domains of collaboration. Approaches to breaking these barriers range from the numerous, external integrations of Tibco Tibbr to our all-in-one system, Mindjet Connect. Either approach is equally valid and worthy of consideration.

2. Integration does not equal complication

The trend towards integration may seem to imply increased complexity, but the most successful solutions will prevent that from happening. The war in this space is not being won by complex features; it is being won by usability. Because a satisfying user experience is paramount to driving user adoption — and a collaboration tool is worth nothing if the team members won’t actually use it on a daily basis — people will move towards collaboration solutions that are simple to use and immediately gratifying. Do.com is a good example of a simple-to-use collaboration tool that combines usability with capability.

3. Public and private co-exist

While the dramatic push to cloud-based collaboration continues, on-premise collaboration products still maintain an important role for enterprises not yet ready to make the transition. Even organizations that require some of their content to be stored — and for collaboration to take place — behind the firewall still require the ability to collaborate seamlessly with external parties in the form of the three ‘C’s: contractors, consultants and clients. As a result, many organizations that have not fully embraced public cloud-based collaboration solutions will still require a combination of on-premise and public cloud solutions to meet their needs.

This is often seen in the case of organizations that are using Microsoft SharePoint, which includes the majority of large enterprises today. Although SharePoint has been a strong tool for document storage, sharing and basic task management behind the firewall, external collaboration has never been its strong point. Now many organizations are beginning to supplement SharePoint with other tools to break through that barrier and generally improve the usability of SharePoint. Solutions that play particularly well with SharePoint include Box and my own company. Box’s SharePoint integration provides users with access to files in SharePoint. And Mindjet has a version of Connect that runs entirely on-premise on top of SharePoint.

4. Collaboration mobilization

Like everything else in the world of technology, collaboration is going mobile. Recently, the daily time spent in mobile apps surpassed desktop and mobile web consumption. Driven primarily by the remarkable popularity of iOS and Android platforms, it took less than three years for native mobile apps to achieve this level of usage.

The majority of web-based collaboration platforms today have a mobile component. Huddle, Asana and Mindjet  all have natively-written mobile applications for various platforms that largely function as add-ons to their core platforms. As mobile technologies continue to mature, the focus of these applications will shift from being second-tier clients of cloud-based applications to being the main point of interaction between users and the collaboration services. For many knowledge workers, mobile will soon shift from being the exception to being the rule, and successful collaboration solutions will reflect this.

5. From vision to action

The purpose of collaboration tools is not just better communication — it is to get real work done. Software will continue to make huge strides in terms of helping teams of people turn vision into action more effectively and more efficiently than ever before. Executives must encourage the use of these solutions by being avid users themselves. Those that are successful in leveraging these capabilities will have a significant competitive advantage.

Blaine Mathieu is the chief products officer at Mindjet, a provider of collaborative work management solutions.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Ernst Vikne.

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  1. ramblingbog Sunday, April 1, 2012

    Reblogged this on ramblingbog.

  2. douglas baumwall Sunday, April 1, 2012

    This article failed to mention Google Apps For Business.

    1. There are definitely a lot of applications in the collaboration space, loosely defined.

  3. Michael A Green Sunday, April 1, 2012

    Blaine, We are currently involved in a lot of Enterprise Social Network evaluations and put together this blog: Enterprise Social Networks – 5 Roads to Failure
    http://igo2group.com/blog/enterprise-social-networks-5-roads-to-failure/

  4. Sahil Parikh Sunday, April 1, 2012

    “The war in this space is not being won by complex features; it is being won by usability”

    This is one of the most important points! At DeskAway (www.deskaway.com) we have always tried to keep a balance between simplicity, power (feature-richness) and affordability.

  5. Hey Blaine,

    Great article. I particularly like point 3 about mixing an on-premise and cloud components to meet enterprise cloud needs.

    Ben
    http://www.sabisu.co

  6. Blaine, Great article and your points about unified collaboration (we need a new term for this), integration, ease of use and mobile components are all right on. We at http://www.binfire.com working on project management and collaboration for virtual teams,

  7. Cloud Evangelist Monday, April 2, 2012

    Especially #3 _Public and private co-exist_ is something to consider. While the cloud based solutions like Yammer or Salesforce.com’s Chatter gain traction enterprise should ask themselves whether they really get the best out of the existing tools like e.g. SharePoint.

    I would have named #3 differently though and called it On premise and in the Cloud. Private and public co-exist to me is bridging the gap between work worlds and private worlds which calls for identity management and federation. If you want to learn more in this are look here: http://clouddiscussions.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/identities-the-real-fight-club-in-the-cloud/

    1. Really good point – another aspect of cloud-based collaboration tools is they are increasingly being used to blend the worlds of work and non-work. That is why many of these tools are being brought into organizations “from the ground up” vs. from IT-down (although that is starting to change).

  8. I’m a bit surprised myself that Google Apps (for business, or free) weren’t mentioned. Working on a Google Doc with someone else is exactly what collaboration is all about :) At the end of the day, it’s all about communication. Today we do it through our tools, not just the ‘conventional’ channels (email, phone, etc.).

    AviK
    http://www.happytodos.com

    1. Good point Avi. I definitely was not purposely attempting to exclude Google Apps or Docs. I do think it is great to expose people to a wide variety of collaboration solutions so they can pick the tools that best fit their needs.

  9. Great article Blaine. Another thing I would add is the increasing integration of email and collaboration software, traditionally distinct categories. The reason is that actual adoption of collaboration software lags behind promise, with people still using email for most information management. Integration with email lets people continue using email, and pulling them to the right tool right through email, when the need arises.

  10. b2bportal007 Monday, April 16, 2012

    Hello Blaine,
    Nice post..Tour points are very important and informative..
    thanks for sharing this informative piece.

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