In my predictions of major collaboration trends for 2012 (part one and part two), I highlighted big data, social and mobile, and cloud and mobile. Clearly, these trends will continue to evolve through 2013 and beyond. In my outlook for the coming year, I'd like to offer a perspective on five new directions that these trends are likely to take.
1) Increasing Technology Adoption
There's no question that adoption of online collaboration technology will continue increasing across all geographic regions. In regions with healthy economies, the uptake will be driven by opportunities to accelerate revenue growth. In regions with troubled economies, it will be driven by the need to reduce costs. In either case, online collaboration will enable organizations to save time and money, while managing risk and ensuring accountability.
2) From Software to SaaS
In the last couple of years, we've seen providers of on-premise collaboration software introduce Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions to complement their existing offerings. This has occurred across multiple segments, from enterprise IT to verticals like construction and engineering. The expansion from behind the firewall to the cloud responds to the compelling economic and practical advantages of SaaS - including no hardware or software to install and maintain, fast release cycles and 'pay-as-you-go' usage. These advantages will drive more collaboration software companies to launch cloud-based solutions in 2013.
3) Vertical Specialization
Look for growing penetration of collaboration solutions that are specialized for vertical segments. These solutions will more closely match user needs and take market share from generic tools. For instance, certain verticals have special requirements for document management and file sharing which often exceed the capabilities of email, FTP sites and plain vanilla collaboration software. These requirements will be met increasingly with purpose-built tools that support processes and information unique to specific verticals. Prime example: collaboration around Building Information Modeling (BIM) in construction and engineering.
4) Mobility Follows the User
The Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) trend shows how IT strategy has responded to user behavior - and how viral mobile apps in the workplace have become. Real-time communication is vital to collaboration. Anytime, anywhere access to information has improved efficiency across teams and accelerated delivery schedules. In 2013, we'll see mobility grow rapidly as a critical attribute of collaboration tools - and vendors without it will be left behind. This trend will continue to be driven by users with mobile lifestyles, and it will positively impact their employers' bottom lines.
5) Big Data - Challenge or Opportunity?
Big data is only getting bigger - it can make or break multiparty collaboration. How effectively teams are able to manage the growth of files and correspondence throughout their collaborative processes will be crucial in 2013. To be competitive, online collaboration solutions will require unlimited capacity - for file sizes, numbers of files, types of documents, system usage, numbers of users, and numbers of user organizations. Both internal and external data will need to be managed with maximum consistency, flexibility and searchability - such that stakeholders have the information they need when they need it.
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