As we prepare to close the books on 2012, I've been thinking about what the past 12 months have meant for our industry. It’s been an exciting year -- one in which the practice of enterprise collaboration has begun to grow into maturity. If it were up to me, 2012 would be known as the year of enterprise collaboration. And so would 2013.

We’re a long way from realizing the potential of enterprise collaboration, but I think the coming year will bring some impressive advancements. Here are a few of my hopes for what we’ll see in 2013:

Focusing on Productivity

As many of us have been writing and saying for some time, social for the sake of social is not going to help the enterprise. However, genuine collaboration and related social communication within the enterprise can make jobs easier.

This benefit alone is extremely enticing to management (improved productivity for teams and ultimately the entire workforce), as well as to rank-and-file employees -- who really should be considered the customers in the scheme of building social collaboration solutions.

Responding to Employee Needs

Funny as it may seem, many in-demand employees are assigning higher importance to things like organizational accessibility, or workplaces that have collaborative and supportive environments. Employees prefer working with people they like or with whom they've established a collaborative affinity.

This is a positive trend for our industry, as it will continue to spur demand for deeper and better enterprise collaboration programming and product development.

The novelty of social collaboration solutions is quickly being replaced by a more urgent and telling demand to get something effective in-place, and to do so as quickly as possible. As early adopter organizations deploy collaboration solutions, word does spread and this leads to a sort of domino effect where competing or parallel organizations rush to develop similar offerings for their organizations.

Capturing ROI

With more companies clamoring to get on-board with social collaboration solutions, we all need to remember that there will be a call to accountability at some point. That is, enterprises are actively trying to set measurable metrics and standards to determine if and how social collaboration solutions are making a bottom-line impact. As we approach 2013, one exciting -- though potentially cluttered -- area to watch closely is analytics.

I think there is a tremendous opportunity to set sound parameters and best practices around evaluating the effectiveness of enterprise collaboration solutions. It will be challenging, as many of the positive effects of enterprise collaboration are subjective (e.g. is the quality of our documents better because of this product/technology?) while other areas are very measurable (e.g. how much time did we save by deploying this product/technology compared to the “old way”?).

In any event, look for a number of new players to hit the market in 2013, as analytics will be an important area of focus and growth for our industry.

Balancing Security and Accessibility

There is a lot of training that needs to happen within the enterprise to get people comfortable with the idea that security and accessibility can not only exist simultaneously, but have to. For certain verticals like finance, banking, legal and numerous others, there is zero room for slipping on standards of security, something that has been a drag on the overall adoption of enterprise collaboration solutions.

Going forward, companies need to have confidence that they can share sensitive documents in ways that are accessible to more employees, especially those whose contributions are key to the documents’ completion.

Making UX a Mainstay

User experience can seem like a quaint ideal in light of all the technological and infrastructural improvements taking place, but I think it’s more important now than ever before.

As we look a new year in the face, all of us need to remember that if employees have a great and productive experience with a social collaboration solution, they’re very likely to come back to it -- and odds are good they’ll tell other employees about it, too. On the flip side, a bad experience can take a long time to reconcile and can be an adoption-killer. The opportunity and challenge for our industry is to consistently provide user experiences that drive adoption.

As 2013 approaches, I am more excited than ever about what’s in store for the world of enterprise collaboration. We have a powerful confluence of enterprise demand and investment taking hold, so the onus falls on all of us in the industry to justify both.

I look forward to sharing more candid takes with you in the coming year. In the meantime, best wishes for a happy holiday season and for a prosperous new year!

Image courtesy of VLADGRIN (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Curious to read more of Kevin's thoughts on User Experience? Go no further: Why User Experience Matters Now More Than Ever