Unusual Suspects Set to Move the Collaboration Space in 2012

B. Shimmin
B. Shimmin

Summary Bullets

  • The human-centricity of collaboration software invites innovation driven from many disparate industries and technologies.
  • Natural interface design, information foraging techniques and game theory are set to change the collaboration landscape in 2012.

There are few certainties in this world. And yet, as if bound by a cosmological force greater than the pull of gravity itself, at this time every year, those of us in the technology industry feel an unshakable pull, an unrelenting need to prognosticate. I am in no way immune to such innate stipulations, so it is with great pleasure that I bring to you my own forecast for 2012’s enterprise collaboration platform marketplace. But, just to keep things interesting, what follows are the three most unusual yet profoundly influential trends I think we are likely to see play out this coming year.

Game Theory. This one is a bit of cheat, as the use of techniques commonly found in games (e.g., badges, achievements, leader boards, and others) has already begun influencing collaboration products, particularly those with social networking facilities Already, the broad, horizontal use of awards, progress bars, virtual currency, etc. as a way to motivate basic user participation has found its way into many collaboration suites. This is the case with point solutions such as DoubleDutch HYVE, a tool for sales people featuring highly visible leader boards. But what we have seen thus far only represents at taste of what’s to come. Software will soon allow companies to apply gamification practices more pointedly to business processes like employee onboarding and business objectives such as the reduction of travel costs. Such applications will let companies harness some very powerful, non-technical motivators such as the need to be perceived positively among one’s peers.

Natural Interface. Consumer devices such as the iPhone dramatically altered the enterprise collaboration landscape once before, and they will do so again, not through their mobility but through their growing use of more natural input methods. We’re not yet looking at thought-driven commands or inner-eye screen real estate. But it is easy to imagine an enterprise ecosystem of products evolving around the neural linguistic programming logic found in Apple’s voice-driven Siri. Similar functionality has already found its way into other consumer products like Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect Voice Control, giving Xbox users both voice and physical gestures as input methods. More innovations are sure to follow in the consumer space and eventually find their way into enterprise devices, giving users a more effective and natural way to interact with people, information and services.

Information Foraging. Apparently, scavenging for corporate data today and foraging for food on the Serengeti thousands of years ago aren’t very different from one another. In an effort to overcome the increasingly difficult task of providing relevancy within enterprise event streams, some vendors are turning away from traditional filtering methods to embrace the anthropological theory of information foraging. Newcomer Lyzasoft is betting heavy upon the idea that we all leave traces of ourselves on everything we come in contact with. Time spent in a file imparts importance to that file, for example. This “scent” can be used by others to more effectively locate resources that are contextually meaningful.

It is unlikely that such wild ideas will ever replace existing collaborative conventions employed within the enterprise. But they are without a doubt destined to influence those conventions, changing not just products but also the very nature of how users interact with one another and with the systems that make an enterprise.

What do you think?

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