Every year I get asked “What’s next for collaboration?” I did 10 predictions for 2011 and followed up last month in CMSWire on how well I did with those predictions. I was about 80% right (by my reckoning): let’s see if I can be more accurate this year. Some of my predictions for 2011 did not come true. Oracle did not acquire OpenText, but maybe that will happen this year, since there is a good relationship already.

This year, keeping some of my 2011 predictions in mind, I have 10 new predictions that cover a wide range of collaboration topics from community management to reinventing the supply chain. Don’t get your elves all in a twist, there will be plenty about technology. In this article I offer my first two predictions.

#1. Broken Meetings are Changing

I wrote an earlier blog called “What if Web Conferencing was Wrong?" I actually don’t think it is all the fault of the software, the process of meetings seems to be broken also. There have been various attempts to fix meeting logistics like TimeDance, TimeBridge and Doodle, but these tools just get you to the meeting, not through the meeting.

With today’s technology there is really no need for in-person status meetings, it is a waste of precious time and money. Most of that stuff can be done online through activity streams. I usually save meetings for more intense interactions that require higher bandwidth and a higher level of security. Many of the functions of web conferencing are being subsumed by social networking products. Activity streams with presence and the ability to escalate to IM/chat, a conference call or even a video conference are becoming very common.

The other issue is recordings: not so much the recording itself, almost all conference calling and web conferencing tools can record a session, it is going back through the recording to find that one minute of critical information, or to remember what your boss said in last week’s meeting. Tools like Altus, with post production allow you to index these recordings down to the word. Recently we saw a demo of Symposia, which is voice-focused allowing you to drop a tag on something you are interested in (while in the meeting). It will also auto-tag based on activities like adding an image, a new person to the meeting, etc.

Imagine a tool that would not only allow you to see a streaming text of what is being said in the current meeting, but would allow you to search across the Internet for everything that person has said about that specific topic. I predict that some of these technologies will find their way into meeting tools in 2012. I also predict that meetings as we know them will start to shift into a different social form. What about a “Tweet & meet” or a “Text and meet.” With location-based services you can know where everyone you want to meet with is.

#2. From Teams to Crowds

Last year I talked about the nature of teams changing to include more permeability and also more geographic distribution. In 2012, some of the work done by teams will be done by crowds. I did a recent white paper on the Business Value of Crowds. 2012 is not about how teams have disappeared or become less distributed, but about how some of the work in all sized businesses is shifting towards crowds.

It is about how crowds can help your business in many ways: product/service feedback, project funding, micro tasks or micro work (think Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, or CrowdFlower) and innovation amongst other things. 2012 will be the year that businesses discover the awesome power of crowds. After all, the crowds toppled 6 dictatorial governments last year.

Some businesses will be based on crowds (I just read a tweet about a comedian in Boston who just last month did a digital distribution experiment to sell his latest standup performance independently that generated over US$ 1 million), others will just use crowds for specific tasks or feedback. What is clear, and what I warn about in my paper, is that these Crowd-Based Businesses (the title of my next book) are the next stage in disintermediation: the elimination of intermediaries in the supply chain (see figure 1).

Amazon disintermediated Barnes & Noble and Borders, Netflix disintermediated Blockbuster, and now this comedian is going straight to the crowd to sell tickets, cutting out the middle man (Ticketmaster, Ticketsnow, etc.). He keeps more, the crowd pays less and everyone is happy (except the middle man who is being disintermediated).

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Not to go off on too much of a rant, but the SOPA legislation, though vague, seems to provide a legal way for the record and movie industries to control their properties on the web. Personally, I am not in favor of SOPA, and will be switching my site hosting from GoDaddy (who does support SOPA) to a vendor that does not. I think Napster did a great job of disintermediating the record industry. Come on guys, the horse is out of the barn, you can't put the genie back in the bottle, do something constructive. Crowds are bad for monopolies, they are also bad for a dictatorial focus of power (Arab Spring), but more often they are good for business. In my paper I derive the Crowd Corollary, which is a corollary to Metcalfe's law which states that a crowd can gain value much more quickly than a network because of the level of engagement of the members of the crowd (read the paper if you want the details).

Even the search for talent is being crowdsourced. I got an e-mail the other day saying if I can recommend a friend for this job and if they get it, I get US$ 10k. Another such service, Jobs2web, offers a social or crowd-based solution to talent acquisition, again disintermediating the recruiter (as middle man). I just got a note from Charles DeNault, the Director of Product Marketing at Success Factors (recently acquired by SAP), saying,

Social networks are just one part of what our recruiting dashboard does -- it's a comprehensive approach including other elements like search optimization, job board, career sites, etc. What Jobs2Web does it consolidates the management of each of these elements so the VP of Talent Acquisition knows what's going on and can manage the process. I believe Jobs2Web also helps with managing each element."

I will be supplying more of my predictions for collaboration in 2012 in subsequent articles.

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