jumping with red sneakers on
For any collaboration to thrive, it will need to adapt to our swiftly changing workplaces PHOTO: Redd Angelo

The collaboration space had a busy year last year, with new entrants, vertical solutions and plenty of hype surrounding the future of work. 

The combination of technology innovations and an increase in virtual workforces has increased the creativity and focus surrounding workplace communications. 

The pace of innovation will only continue in the year ahead, but expect to see enterprise collaboration solutions incorporate the following five qualities (if they haven't already) into their tools to increase business value. 

Extended Mobile Support

GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com reports a 103 percent spike in virtual workforces in the past decade. According to its research, 20 to 25 percent of the US workforce teleworks and 80 to 90 percent say they would like to work remotely at least part time.

Statistics show that mobile devices and applications represent the majority of digital media usage. According to Zenith’s Media Consumption Forecasts, mobile last year surpassed desktop computers as people’s preferred device to access the internet. Smartphones, tablets and interactive devices will continue to support remote employees, as well as workers on the road in the year ahead. 

Intelligent and Automated Processes

As the amount of information available to employees continues to grow, companies are turning to intelligent automation software to save time and help solve business problems. Many manual and increasingly complicated processes can be automated with increased accuracy and cost savings. 

Forbes contributor Adrian Bridgwater wrote, “Automation is massively important in the realm of software application development and software systems testing/management today.” 

The collaboration industry benefits in many ways from this shift. Robots can perform functional tests to validate business processes and underlying enterprise systems. Intelligent software with knowledge of an organization’s business processes can adjust its understanding of those processes and identify the steps impacted when changes are made to enterprise applications. 

Automating business processes holds the potential for companies to run smarter and faster, which is necessary in our always-on world.  

Conversational 

This year brought a surge of new smart home devices like the Google Home and Amazon Echo. These consumer applications offering voice-to-text and text-to-voice capabilities will continue to gain traction. 

Soon enough, employees will expect similar voice capabilities from every piece of software they use — including business applications.

Real-Time Connections 

With applications like Periscope, Facebook Live and Snapchat, people are connecting with each other and brands in a matter of seconds. The business world is following suit — today’s B2B world demands instant connections across employees, consumers, partners and more. 

Most consumer-facing platforms send out real-time notifications, such as push notifications, when your friend is “going live” on Facebook. Bundling this type of information in the right context with additional data for employees can help businesses drive efficiency, innovation and ultimately, value for the company.  

Connectivity Combats Collaboration Overload

We've reached a general consensus with collaboration: people don't need more tools. What they need are the tools they already use to better support how they work, with more integration and automation built in. 

Vendors often aim to improve connectivity with suites of products that bring together tools like chat, email, phone, social networks and blogs — but they stop there. By leaving out integrations with other tools and applications, they ignore how people really work and slow down people’s access to information.

Connectivity may be the key to solving the collaboration overload issue that some professionals are experiencing. With various platforms for communication, people are trying to figure out how to quickly organize all the data, emails and requests they receive every minute. Connected tools could be the missing link that helps people make sense of their information by filtering out the noise and providing direct responses. 

Adaptability for Longevity

In the future, business collaboration software will need to support a wide ecosystem of integrated solutions from many different vendors, spanning both consumer and enterprise professional products. This will be an ongoing challenge as the number of increasingly specialized tools people use to share content is likely to increase in the years ahead. 

By incorporating these qualities into their offerings, collaboration software and solution providers have a good chance at thriving. The market will continue to morph in the years ahead. Being able to evolve quickly will be key. Businesses must leverage collaboration platforms that can successfully and efficiently adapt to a rapidly changing market.