Following up on my last two posts, here are predictions five and six for what 2012 holds for collaboration in the enterprise:

#5. Reinventing the Collaborative Supply Chain

Supply chain is one of the most siloed processes in the enterprise. It is one of the 6 critical processes I have talked about in the past that has “collaborative leverage":

  1. Sales & marketing (proposal development)
  2. Customer service/support (exception handling)
  3. R&D (new product development)
  4. Value network management/relationships with external organizations, DPM and project management (exception handling)
  5. Training (internal and external)
  6. Decision support/crisis management

In a process where collaboration meant leaving a spreadsheet for someone else to read, we are starting to see the migration of collaboration tools into this process. Supply chains require lots of data, often big data, as big data becomes a key basis of competition, it will also necessarily become the foundation for new forms of collaboration.

In 2012, those that want to utilize collaboration will have to start to abandon e-mail and file sharing and start using some of the many to many collaboration tools available today. My view of the integration of collaboration into supply chains makes the chain more of a circle and has a radically more transparent process. Below is the current state of the five step Executive S&OP (sales & operational planning) process

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Figure 1 - The 5 step ES&OP Process - Tom Wallace, From Tom Wallace, Executive S&OP: The Executive's Guide

You can see from this diagram how siloed each step of the process is, and how data or content is transferred with very little or no interaction between parties. If this is a collaborative process that eventually results in a meeting for executive decisions, then I would think that collaboration would be a top priority. Here is the way I see, and have re-drawn this process to be both more transparent and collaborative.

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Figure 2 - Collaborative ES&OP (David Coleman)

This figure shows a much more open and interactive process, and one I hope to see some companies moving to in 2012. In this process many people in the company are not only part of supplying data that is current (as opposed to older data supplied in all of the steps in Figure 1), but also part of discussions with executives and each other. The decision is no longer a closed-door process, but rather an open one that can often have serendipitous consequences.

I talked with the CEO of one of the biggest players in this market, Steelwedge, and was very impressed with their understanding of the value of collaboration to the process. However, many of these principles don't seem to have been implemented in their software yet...hopefully this will happen in 2012.

#6. Bring Your Own Device: The Changing Nature of Video Conferencing

It was not so long ago that we were looking at high-end video conferencing (called Teleconferencing) technologies that cost US$ 250K per room (and you need at least two rooms). But over the last 3 years video conferencing has started to change.

Video Conferencing has always had three main barriers:

  1. Complexity (poor ease-of-use)
  2. Cost (expensive)
  3. No real standards (interoperability)

But the last few years have shown a substantial change in both cost and format, which has happened over time and in several stages:

  • First we had high-end, high-cost room-based systems (Polycom, Tandberg (now Cisco), etc.)
  • Second we had very high cost room-based (Telepresence) systems (HP Halo, Cisco TelePresence)
  • Third we had low end Web cams popping up on all sorts of devices (netbooks, tablets, smartphones, etc.)
  • Forth people were willing to exchange video fidelity for mobility and cost.

These new devices (BYOD - bring your own device) were not as inexpensive as a Web Cam, but they were also not as expensive as a Telepresence room, and they gave people more flexibility in how they could interact (where, when, how and who). We see this as a standard part of the maturation process for most technologies. Initially they are only built in hardware, next the hardware becomes a platform and lots of solutions proliferate, then there is a time of incremental iteration and refinement, and finally the technology is mostly software based (but can run on a wide variety of devices).

It is at this level of maturation where we start to see some of the causes for the "Perfect Storm" that is transforming videoconferencing. Mobility, Better UI, lower cost and greater ubiquity are all driving changes in videoconferencing.

It is the mobility and plethora of devices that is driving standardization (that means that an HP Halo system will work with a Cisco Telepresence system) as well as seamlessly integrating with my iPhone, Android tablet or head cam. A better UI (driven by consumer-oriented devices) is making it easier for anyone to create a video conference with the tap of a few buttons.

What does the video conferencing system of the future look like? It is probably all software that has the ability to run anywhere. By anywhere I don't only mean smart phones and iPads, but it will run on any surface you paint an OLED screen on...it could be a piece of paper, a wall or a billboard. It would probably have a voice-driven interface where you issued commands from something like your Bluetooth headset (only smaller and cooler). You would move through all stages of a video conference with the help of an intelligent agent like Siri (on steroids) that would do some of the more common tasks for you so you could focus on the content of the conference.

This Siri-like agent could: schedule the conference, invite all the people, deal with any technical difficulties, post an agenda beforehand and create a virtual space where all documents pertinent to the conference are posted. It can also generate a real-time transcript of the event, automatically record the conference, and index it down to the word, so you don't have to spend time searching. Can you say "Siri find me the spot in my latest video conference where John lost it, and started raving about how the project was not going to be done on time or on budget?"

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