Assuming you weren’t one of the Meerkat minions running around live-streaming your every experience at SXSW Interactive, you probably noticed that collaboration technology continued to be a top trend among exhibitors this year.

And for good reason. Much the way computers transformed business productivity in the late 80s and early 90s and the Internet apps fuel-injected the 2000s, collaboration technologies promise a similar leap in productivity for the 2010s.

Brian Solis, principal analyst with the Altimeter Group, defines collaboration technologies as one of the trends changing the way we work. "Collaboration platforms give us the ability to connect our people and information together anywhere, anytime, and on any device," he noted.

Forging New Connections

If the success of Yammer, Slack and Jive taught us anything, it’s this: the same forces reshaping how we connect and share ideas in the mobile-social era are taking dead aim at the outmoded Enterprise communication and collaboration model.

What follows are thumbnail sketches of collaboration technology that stood out from the crowd and could make some buzz over the next year:

Shindig is a video meeting and presentation solution for chatting one-to-one and one-to-many where the presenters can see participants, who themselves can also form private side-chats to discuss an issue before rejoining the main video chat. Of note is that Sheryl Sandberg's uses it to conduct weekly online meetings.

Flock is a chat / work collaboration product that is now available in the U.S. Flock allows companies to work real-time together through private/group messaging to speed the review process of documents that can be uploaded to the app.

Creative agencies like Flock’s ability to connect stakeholders on a particular projects. It helps them to gain consensus quickly and easily without the messiness of email.

Convo, while not new to the market, still has a startup feel to it in that its marketing collateral was understated to a fault. The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution raised a respectable $5 million in late 2013. 

It provides communication infrastructure for the desktop and both the iPhone and Android. Companies can set up groups in Convo based on teams, projects or even shared interests.

Messaging transpires real time based on topics and workflow receives a shot in the arm with the app’s annotation feature, which allows groups to mark-up documents and even PDFs for rapid consensus and turnaround.

Learning Opportunities

Companies can invite customers and vendors for collaborative meetings. Employees can have private chats on topics that don’t concern the entire group. And documents are managed in one convenient location without worrying about version control.

Swoodle is a new collaboration app. It launches next week on the Apple store and on Android six weeks later.  

It lets individuals and teams, much like Convo, work together in real time. You can upload and share docs, annotate them with visual markups, edit files while everybody is on the same page, all the while saving time and getting buy-in across an organization.

You can also sketch out ideas on your mobile device to brainstorm ideas and speed design concepting.

One key differentiator is that Swoodle includes one-to-one video and voice calls for improved communication, which added a nice “wow” factor that may (or may not) make it the obvious choice over the competition.

A desktop version is due out in the next few months. This might slow the apps adoption by traditional enterprises interested in a fully integrated collaboration platform.