Collaboration in 2013: What Predictions Came True?Before I look forward to what 2014 might hold for collaboration, I wanted to look at how I did with my 2013 predictions. It turns out my crystal ball was working well, but some of the trends have been slower to start.

Here is some data to validate the trends I saw:

1. New Collaborative Tools for HR

The war for talent has only gotten hotter, and HR is under the gun to not only make recruiting and on-boarding processes more efficient and effective, but they also need to look in new places to find those “rock stars” that companies are demanding. 2013 has been a banner year for new HR tools.

According to the Bersin by Deloitte Talent Acquisition Factbook for 2012 it takes an average of 55 days and over $3000 to hire a new employee, and a turnover rate for new employees of 14.5 percent. But these new tools are not just about HR, but about making the whole hiring process better. If you are looking for a job, Glassdoor is a way for candidates to take a look at what it might be like to work at say Apple, or Walmart, or 220,000 other companies.

I would call this prediction correct, and that the trend will continue for the next few years, until all the HR processes become more efficient. This may be a challenge for some legacy systems.

2. 3-D Printing Will Change the Supply Chain

2013 was a big year for 3-D Printing. You can now buy a 3-D printer at Staples for $300-$400 (about the cost of a good laser printer). There are printers that use a metal (instead of plastic) substrate that are down to $1500, and the cost should halve in 2014. People have been able to print things from kidneys to a house.

Aside from printing plastic guns (and the legislation that is trying to catch up), 3-D printers have not replaced the supply chain but they are being used for lots of amazing things today, and we have seen 3-D printing advance rapidly.  Printed guns are now illegal (at least in Philadelphia and the UK) -- when laws are made against a technology (or a product of a new technology), then that technology is moving into the mainstream very quickly.

I think the use of 3-D printers will start to move from a “hobbyist tool” to more of a production tool. GE and Rolls Royce are using additive manufacturing (3-D printing) to print fuel nozzles for their LEAP engines. Revenues from 3-D printers are set to triple to $6B by 2017.

In 2014 I expect that the number of cloud services offering 3-D printing will increase, as well as 3-D outlets, where they have higher quality printers, you just send in your design and they can tell you when to pick it up. I expect FedEx/Kinkos, Staples, Office Depot, Walmart and maybe even Safeway to offer these services.

3. Ubiquitous Video

Tools like Vidyo, Fuze, Blue Jeans Netrworks and Magor allow you to attach to any end-point, even Telepresence, so there’s no more excuses (about cost or complexity) to not have videoconferencing in every meeting room. With video conferencing now available on any mobile device , you should have a “mobile first” approach for video conferencing. Often working with the least screen real estate makes you get down to essential features, with one click to use them.

So hybrid meetings are easier to hold (generally 4-5 people, locally in the room, and others at a distance), which by our research are one of the most common forms of meetings. But this only works if it is seamless and the complexity of the technology does not get in the way.

In a look towards the future I saw an interesting demo last night of Oblong Mezzanine, which is a 3 screen videoconferencing system, with acoustic input from the room (like a telepresence room) and the ability to move any item on the screen around to any other screen using a wand. The underlying technology here is originally from MIT Media Labs, the same tech as the custom interfaces seen in “Minority Report” and “Ironman,” where they gestured to move screens and objects.

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4. Collaboration around Big Data

Think I was a bit too early on this one -- maybe in 2014 we will see more tools that help people visualize and work together on large data sets. Oil companies, media companies, health care, marketing, and gaming are all areas where big data is making significant changes, but most of the tools today focus more on publishing and analytics. I think the next step in 2014 and beyond will be on how people can collaborate around these large data sets. Greenplum (acquired by EMC) was one of the first tools in this area and Pivotal is working with EMC and VMWare to make this into a platform for consumer level applications for big data.

5. The Changing Workplace

In 10 years there will be more Millenials in the work force than Baby Boomers. Anthropologist and business school professor, Andrew Jones, analyzes the impending shift in his new book, The Fifth Age of Work: How Companies Can Redesign Work to Become More Innovative in a Cloud Economy. Jones notes that work will change in 3 ways:

  1. The search for new talent will diversify, companies will recruit people with other perspectives rather than chasing MBAs.
  2. Workspaces will change physically and more people will work virtually. (83% at least 1-2 hours a day based on a recent Wrike survey). Sixty six percent believe they will work virtually by 2015, and 89% see working from home as a benefit (who wants to spend hours commuting in traffic?). Seventy eight percent said they would sacrifice other benefits, like food, a cell phone or other mobile device, or even a 25% pay cut, to be able to work from home
  3. BYOD has ushered in an era of anywhere – anytime work (on any device). Larger enterprises and their IT teams have been struggling with this for several years now.

6. The New Collaborative Conversation

No matter what Microsoft tells you about the hundreds of millions of people using SharePoint in the enterprise, don’t believe them. At best it is a document repository (and a poor one at that). There are now hundreds of other more agile, less expensive, and easier-to-use collaborative applications available today that require little or no IT resources. What is different from the past is that an enterprise would not listen to these smaller companies -- now they are. Box, PBWorks, Central Desktop, Moxie, SmartSheet and many others offer alternatives to SharePoint.

7. Everything is Connected

Not only in a philosophical sense, or a network sense, but also about people connecting to things (Internet of Things). There will soon be 50 Billion things (devices, sensors, phones, etc. currently connected to the Internet, and this number will only grow in 2014. So I think I nailed this one also!

8. Organizations Are Becoming More Networked (Relationship Model)

The nature of organizations is changing, and we’re seeing the rise of the freelancer economy (eLance, oDesk). Companies are moving towards a core of a few hundred people for management, strategy, and coordination, and then outsourcing (but with a more permanent relationship) marketing, HR, IT, R&D, etc. to other companies that have the specific talent needed. Expect to see more of this in 2014. Although we saw a few examples of this in 2013, I think organizations are slow to change, and that this might be a better prediction for 2014 - 2020.

9. Me, Me, Me: More Personalization and Customization

We now have the ability to do mass customization. People are very interested in personalizing their computers, cell phones, cars, etc. I believe this is a drive everyone has to express not only their unique identity, but self expression. You can customize everything from phone cases to running shoes, and the options will only get greater.

10. Development of a Collaborative Reputation

In social technologies reputation is everything. In a year where we found out that the NSA was spying on all of us, trust -- of the government and other institutions -- is at an all time low. One of the ways to validate not only someone’s identity, but their work and experiences is through the way other people in their community see and evaluate them. As privacy and Identity become more and more of an illusion, we see more people taking their identity from the groups they are in, and their reputation within those groups.

What Does the Future looks like?

Title image by Sergey Nivens (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more of David's thoughts on collaboration in Does Collaboration Bring Productivity?