Social Business, Collaboration in 2014: 10 Predictions
Networked organizations, personalization and customization, development of collaborative reputations: these trends and more that I predicted for 2013 will still hold true for 2014.But as the cloud and mobile mature, new trends are emerging for 2014. Kelly Services and oDesk just did a deal together -- I think this is the first time an old style temp agency has done a deal with a crowdsourcing / expertise company.Kind of like the lamb lying down with the lion, something you don’t expect to see.But we should expect more of this as markets consolidate, the IoT goes more mainstream and we see collaboration become an important part of big data.

Collaboration is still a critical issue with many CEO’s -- see what mistakes you should avoid in the Dan Rasmus article, The 10 Worst IT Collaboration Offenses.

1. The Internet of Things Goes Collaborative

Some recent articles I wrote for CMSWire (Collaboration and the IoT and Emerging Platforms and Applications for the IoT) explored this topic. It is clear that with more and smaller sensors becoming available, more and more devices are being connected to the Internet. Cisco, who recently formed a division to look at IoT (as part of their Internet of Everything project) noted that the IoE would drive $14.4T in revenues by 2020 (when IDC, Cisco, and Ericsson all estimate there will be 50 billion connected devices -- roughly five devices / things for each person alive on the planet). These "context-aware" environments are giving businesses better insight into their customers by providing useful historical information -- such as documents and past interactions -- that can be relevant to teams working together.

2. Consumer and Enterprise Merge

Cloud 1.0 brought us SaaS-based tools and services. Although they are easier to use, and often (much) less expensive than legacy systems, they too are being disintermediated by companies like Amazon. is the poster child for Cloud 1.0, however, they are subscription-based and they like to lock customers into a yearly contract, much the way legacy system vendors did.

This shift to the cloud has made legacy vendors in the collaboration space, like SharePoint and IBM Connections miss recent revenue targets and it is testing the limits of subscription pricing that Salesforce and others use.

The consumer trend of “pay-to-play” or paying for what you use, is again shifting the business model for enterprise software to be more like consumer software. Consumers bring these pricing expectations with them to the enterprise along with the devices. Many vendors are catching on and doing “mobile first” development practices, and in many cases a few dollars for an app is a buying structure that is easy, and should last into a future where pay-for-use pricing becomes dominant.

3. Trust is No Longer the Basis for Collaboration

After Edward Snowden leaked the common spying practices of the NSA, we all began to realize that no one was safe from being spied upon, that privacy was an illusion we are holding dear while we are in denial. Throw in “identity” and “security” and with more sophisticated malware attacks (like man-in-the-middle) it is hard to know who you are talking to and who is listening.

In an environment like this, trust is a rare gift. Add on the complexities of context (e.g., personal context, company context, team or project context, country context) and trust is not the foundation for collaboration it used to be -- that foundation is eroding away.So what is replacing it? Things like constant connection, community and Flash Teams are some of the ways I see collaborative or social work changing.The Millenials are used to posting a question to a community and then weighing the answers they get. These would be hard to fake, as the answers come from many different sources within the community.

4. Augmented Collaboration

I once said that when the virtual environment that gives the user more information than possible in a face-to-face meeting becomes reality, we would start to see wider adoption of these technologies. At that time I looked at meeting rooms that had sensors to detect heat fluctuations, signaling mood changes in a person. Real time transcription would become the norm, showing a running document of the meeting. 

These were just research projects a few years ago. Cisco’s idea is to “bring together floor-to-ceiling high-definition video collaboration, shared whiteboards, shared documents and resources and voice control, creating Augmented Collaboration.” Other tools I have seen to help meetings improve include: (helps before and after the meeting), Fingertip (decision support for meetings) and Meeting Maker.These recent startups are capitalizing on the rise of context value. Another cool tool I saw recently is Oblong’s Mezzanine --  a multiscreen video conferencing tool with the ability to move any object from any screen to another screen.

5. WebRTC Will Play a Greater Role in Browser-Based Collaboration 

Although not yet ratified as a standard, WebRTC has the advantage of running in a browser and not requiring any download for audio or video conferencing. Unfortunately there is not yet a mechanism for screen sharing, but as Google put the original code into Open Source, WebRTC is evolving quickly.

There are a number of new tools already using it:, (just acquired by Cisco), and many of the major vendors like Cisco, Google (who started it all) and Citrix (Podio) are looking at incorporating this emerging standard into their tools, but mainly as a back-up offering to Flash or VoIP (although there are SIP to WebRTC solutions like Plivo and‎).

6. Boomer Organizations Evolve

Seventy-eight million Americans fall into the “Boomer” generation. We are healthier and expect to live on average 20 years longer than our parents (I might make 100!). Many are staying longer at work and retiring later. Many start a whole new career after retiring. Over the next decade Workers over 55 will grow at a rate of 4 percent per year -- four times faster than the entire workforce. This creates some real challenges for the organizations they work in -- creating less chances for younger workers to move up, and older workers need to stay because they have experience and tacit knowledge.

According to Dion Hinchcliffe, the Dachis Group Chief Strategy officer, by 2020 75 percent of the workforce will be digital natives (Millennials), as opposed to only 35 percent today. Tomorrow’s Millennials will need new skills: the ability to make sense of vast amounts of data, to prioritize information from the tidal wave they get every day, to reconcile differing points of view coming from different backgrounds, social intelligence (the ability to be competent with social media as well as dealing with different organizational and country cultures), to work from anywhere at any time and share that work through strong relationships.

7. From Crowdsourcing, to Freelancers, to Flash Teams

With everything from Task Rabbit to Uber you can get your dog walked, get a ride, have someone cook you a meal, or pick up take out. These and many other consumer services make our lives easier and more efficient. But what about on the business side? Companies like Crowdflower, MobileWorks and Mechanical Turk have been providing crowds to perform mostly simple, repetitive tasks for many years. For more complex tasks, you could look to oDesk or eLance for people with specific expertise that can get your task or job done, but they most often work alone, as many freelancers do.

Learning Opportunities

What do you do when you have a complex task that requires more than one person to handle?A third choice, and a pretty new idea, is a “Flash Team.”

As explained to me by a team of Stanford Researchers (Human Computer Interaction), a flash team has some of the characteristics of a smart mob, but is not as large, or as random. It is a team because the members are picked for their particular skills and abilities by one or more people, and the tasks and workflows are coordinated. These people are brought together suddenly for a specific complex task. Flash teams are modular, and so also offer flexibility.

8. The Browser Becomes the OS

As Google adds more and more to its Chrome browser, it is starting to look like an operating system. You have all of these plug-ins (like applications), you can customize and configure your device or the look and feel of the browser. In the case of Chromebooks, Chrome is the OS, a web oriented OS (thin client) with just the browser, media player and file manager as the only native applications. The question is will IE or Firefox follow suit, or are they pursuing different directions?

9. Evolution of the Social Enterprise

With more and better tools available for the social enterprise I see more people moving off of SharePoint or other large collaborative infrastructure systems, and moving to the more agile and less expensive SaaS offerings (of which there are plenty) like: Box, PBWorks, SocialBridge, Wrike, Moxie, Huddle, HyperOffice, Zoho Work, Teambox, Google Apps, BaseCamp, etc.

A McKinsey report says that while 70 percent of organizations are now using social, only 3 percent are getting a big benefit from the technology. I believe this will start to change rapidly in 2014 as more Millennials get manager or management positions, or current management gets the training they need to make a good decision around these tools.

10. Hired Before You Apply

Not many years ago people associated HR as the place to help with onboarding and getting forms filled out. With tools like Workday things are quite different today. HR strategic role is increasing, and at least 50 percent of companies are giving them bigger budgets for technology. The war for talent is driving a lot of innovation. Start-ups (Entelo and TalentBin) have figured out ways (through big data) of determining which employees you can poach before they even know that wanted a new job.

Other new HR tools help with everything from video applicant screening, automating benefits, to worker task optimization: PeopleMatter,, (video screening for Recruiters), HireVue,Zenefits, ClearFit, WorkableHR, CollabWorks and TalentSoft, are changing HR forever by dealing with the ineffective processes and making them more effective, allowing HR professionals to spend more time on strategy.

As you can now see from these 10 trends, 2014 should be an interesting year for collaboration. I think social in the enterprise will start to get much better as will the metrics that are playing a big part in driving collaboration.

Title image by Naypong (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: See how David did with his predictions last year in Collaboration in 2013: What Predictions Came True?