While it would be wrong to suggest that there are fashions when it comes to collaboration tools — you don’t absolutely have to have the latest and greatest tool to walk down the runway — there are certainly trends that are going to impact the tools we use in the coming year.
A Move to the Cloud
The number of employees who expect to be able to telecommute at least part time is rising. For IT, that means either finding ways to let those employees access internal tools from off-site or choosing a solution with remote access options built-in. More and more, that means cloud-based tools.
In the longer term, cloud-based tools may offer lower costs and productivity benefits, so it looks likely that more organizations will select cloud-based tools when choosing new software.
More collaboration tools are adding social components to their feature lists. One key benefit that social features provide is that they give team members a reason to keep logging in and maintaining connections with their colleagues, which helps to make collaborative processes smoother. Such features also make it easier for telecommuters to become a key part of the team, even if they never set foot within the office.
It seems likely that the developers of different collaboration tools will be experimenting with social network-style features. It remains to be seen how much those tools will help individual organizations.
Going hand-in-hand with tools moving into the cloud, developers will look for more options to allow tools to work together. Many business applications, such as accounting software and newsletter software, already have some level of integration available, but such integrations are set to become more widespread.
Greater integration should make collaborating easier — providing simple and quick access to information in other tools, without having to copy and paste, for example — and should improve productivity.
It looks like 2011 will be a good year for collaboration, with plenty of new tools, along with new features for existing software. However, just because there’s a shiny new feature on an application doesn’t mean that you need to make the switch to a new tool immediately. It takes a considerable investment of time and resources to change tools, and, after all, your software provider may also have something similar in the pipeline.
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