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.