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.