While it's always fun to make predictions for what the next year holds, it is rare when someone returns to those predictions to see how the fantasy held up to the reality. That is exactly what David Coleman does with this piece: Reviews his predictions for 2011 with the benefit of hindsight. 

2011 Predictions

#1. To team or not to team?

The very nature of teams is changing; no longer are teams just one group of people, but others move in an out of teams based on their expertise or ability to do a task. This type of team permeability can happen with local teams, but it is more common with geographically distributed teams.

#2. More consolidation of collaboration vendors

With 2000+ solutions available, that is more than anyone can consume. Many of these vendors are “zombie” companies (as I have written about in earlier blogs). More of these zombie companies will realize that they are dead and really die, so hopefully the noise in the collaboration market will lessen. One acquisition I expect is for Oracle to acquire OpenText, as they already have a good relationship and it would fill some holes in the Oracle product line.

#3. Time shifted teams

I do it with my TV, why not the teams I work with? This has more to do with time zone issues than network TV programming. Not everyone on a team is a full time employee and distributed teams can work at any hour of any day or round-the-clock if needed. You do need to be fair with virtual team meetings and not always have one team member meeting in the middle of the night. You need to have your team be aware of local context (more on that in another blog).

#4. Clash with open source

This has been brewing for a long time, and there are many collaboration tools that are available in open source, but the issue is more about adopting the open source model for trust, especially in software projects. Trust will be extended to those who perform and collaborate through various types of reputation models. However, this implies community rather than a team, so we will continue to see the rise of more communities as a way to work and extend trust.

#5. The cloud will continue to dominate collaboration

There are lots of advantages to the cloud: it's quicker, cheaper (at least at the onset), requires less FTE, quicker start, works for both small and big companies, multi-tenant is a more efficient model, etc. Most collaboration tools we track have moved over to the cloud, or if they are smart, have been built for the cloud. I believe the cloud influence on collaboration is just starting and it will help us generate a third order effect (first order was web pages, second order is “social,” third order is finding people through content); this implies that librarians will have a new career as either “cloud searchers,” data miners or community managers.

#6. Team and identity spam

There are already people claiming to be you on Facebook or LinkedIn and they can hijack not only your identity but your business. This type of identity spam will start to spread (remember spam is about 80% of today’s email messages) into communities, with more fake people, topics, discussions, tags, etc. This will bring people to ask “who am I really working with?” and could be a big trust issue in online communities. I don’t see this as much in the growing number of enterprise communities, since in those everyone is known.

#7. Collaborative search and filtering will increase

The amount of information we have to deal with each day is growing at an incredible rate and will only go faster in the New Year. How do we cope with overflowing in-boxes, too many social networks, constant tweeting, etc.? One way is through intelligent aggregation (bring all the input types into one screen) and there are any number of products that do that (Nomee, SocialPlane, threadsy, etc.), but then you have just as much data to deal with, just all in one place.

So how do you socialize search, or how do you get others to do the categorization work for you and just send you the important stuff? Communities can filter information and people through ranking and reputation engines, or you can subscribe to a tag or discussion that has high relevance for you. I have even worked with others to construct a search together in real time, using screen sharing tools. This is a type of partnered brainstorming, and often comes up with better searches than I can do alone.

#8. Moving from email

I once heard a Millennial say “email is for old guys” and since I have been doing email for 30 years, I guess that qualifies me. For the first time last year, we saw more messages on social networks than on email. I expect this trend to continue, even accelerate, as people want to communicate in the CONTEXT of their communities. Context is key here, no more blasting an email out to a list (mostly they are recognized as spam anyway). Email is fine for 1-to-1 conversations, but like the Millennial said, “email is too slow, why not just IM or text the guy?” This is also a trend we see continuing as more and more people have smart phones.

#9. Mobile and video are hot

Enterprises are struggling with both. Video gets a higher level of engagement, but how to support it and not overwhelm the network -- not so much the LAN, but the WAN. When is the best time to use what sort of video: streaming, telepresence, web cam, video meeting, etc.? Users don’t always know, and rather than look stupid, they either wait for someone to show them or don’t use it.

To deal with this we need smarter video which can detect the environment (is the user on a laptop or mobile phone or even a tablet). It can also advise the user on how to use this feature best (do you need geo-tagging, a time stamp, frame by frame indexing?). Combine this with the fact that there are more phones in the world than laptops (by far) and you see why mobile devices are so hot. There is less real estate on a smart phone (and in my case, with an iPhone I have to deal with the AT&T network (or lack of it)) and they may be limited to 3G bandwidth, so unless an application like videoconferencing is optimized and native on your smart phone platform, there will be issues.

A year ago I saw Persony (Eric Chen, CEO) demonstrate videoconferencing to me between two iPhones. Now with the iPhone 4, you have FaceTime (which only operates over WiFi), and vendors like Fuzebox that have taken mobile video to the next step. I expect to see more and better applications in this area in 2011 as it is where much of the action is today!

#10. Everyone wants it but no one is willing to pay for it!

I once said “that collaboration is like plumbing, everyone is aware of it when it breaks, but when it is working fine it is ignored.” Collaboration is hard to sell, it has indirect and intangible benefits and no one seems to have budgeted for it. I have seen few, if any VPs of collaboration at a company, so no one really takes responsibility for it. It usually gets dumped in IT’s lap. I have asked the question “why does social software end up in the purview of the least social people in the enterprise?” Does this sound like a good idea to you? A trend I see emerging in 2011 is that someone will take responsibility for collaboration. This is already happening to social networks in the enterprise. In 2009 in the “Social Networks in the Enterprise” study funded by Elearning! Magazine and FinNode, we found that about 25% of the time, social networks rose organically in an organization.

By 2010 it was half that, so what happened? We believe that more responsibility was taken by the enterprise for the use of social networks and that with executive sponsorship and a budget, these social networks are becoming more of the mainstream in the enterprise instead of some consumer technology that employees dragged into the company. The role of IT is changing quite dramatically and they need to help support this consumerization instead of trying to block and control it. One of the conclusions from the report was that implementing a social network had much greater benefit than risk (security) for most companies.

Did They Come True?

#1-3 are true, but #4 has not really happened. #5 is true, but I have not seen #6 come to pass. With #7, collaborative search has increased, but intelligent aggregation has evolved and has been incorporated into many different tools including Facebook, and online community tools like Telligent, Igloo, Lithium and others. #8 is true, and we are starting to see more of this. There was a recent article about the French company Atos, whose CEO has said they will be completely off of e-mail within 18 months. #9 is very true and will be even more so in 2012. #10 is even truer today -- no one seems to be willing to pay for collaboration in this recession environment. It seems to be that collaboration has to be part of a process to see value from it. Some of the collaboration vendors are getting smarter and not selling a horizontal collaboration solution, but rather are selling a solution to a specific problem. For example, both PBWorks and Central Desktop both have applications for marketing and advertizing companies (which were both part of their user populations). Not only is it easier to see the value of these, but the vendors can charge more for them (even though they are based on the same underlying technology).

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading: