Let's face it: Getting people's attention, getting time on their calendar, getting them on the phone, getting people to collaborate on anything is like herding cats.Competing demands personally and professionally, increasing amount of information in an increasing variety of forms from an increasing number of channels -- that’s why the future of collaboration will focus on engagement and the underlying analytics that drive human behavior, productivity, efficiencies, satisfaction, revenue opportunities or other metrics impacting your organization.

Start with Engagement

In a world hyper-competitive for people’s attention, the future of collaboration starts with engagement. Engagement is the input, the attraction, the level of effort, the focus, the time and the energy spent by people towards whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.It is about people and reducing the friction of both real time and anytime collaboration.

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Without engagement, you won’t have very productive outcomes.You will likely wind up with a bunch of loosely connected people with little meaningful interaction.Likewise, failing to engage your respective audiences will result in very little returns of investment in time, money, resources and the enabling technology.No, engagement is not just about adoption of technology or reported activity.

In my work around collaboration over the years, I’ve found there to be five distinct forces of collaborative engagement:Experience, Devices, Content, Integration and Gamification.

Don’t Just Collaborate, Create Experiences

Organizations like Starbucks realize they’re not just selling a product or a service like coffee, they’re selling an experience.And the same is true when it comes to enterprise collaboration.When you’re competing for attention or trying to influence (or change) people’s behaviors, the experience matters.

When it comes to technology, it’s all about the user experience.Case in point, the consumerization of IT.If it’s not easy, convenient and engaging, most people will lose interest quickly or will find an easier alternative outside of what's sanctioned by IT.Human behavior is like electricity -- we follow the path of least resistance.And experience centrally affects all the other related forces impacting engagement.

Devices Matter

In today’s busy world, collaboration requires access across multiple devices.In particular, mobile drives engagement because of the convenient anywhere, anytime, and real-time benefits.For example, over the last decade or so, we saw email become the dominant form of collaboration.This is mainly due to speed and ease of messaging that accelerated at scale when Blackberry put mobile messaging in our hands.Yet most of us now have a smart phone today that replaced our Blackberries, but do you have a smart way to collaborate other than linking to file in a content system using an old email client on your laptop?Devices impact the experience and the experience on those devices impact collaboration.

Video Killed the PowerPoint Star

Content is king and very central to any collaborative endeavor.We’re co-creating and consuming; commenting and sharing; liking and rating; selling and supporting; transacting and searching.Documents, images, ideas, events, blogs, microblogs, discussions, voice, messages, video, oh my.The process around content co-creation needs to be easier and more focus needs to be on video when it comes to engagement.

You want to have more engagement, think about using video both in real-time and anytime collaboration. Videos not only draw our attention initially, but maintain our attention.You increase the chances of employees absorbing, interacting, sharing, and engaging with each other.When it comes to engaging with customers and partners, videos certainly grab your attention.

Integrate for Experience, Not Plumbing

Integration of experiences also drives engagement.However, the unfortunate reality in many organizations is that experiences tend to be siloed because the very systems people work on are siloed.All too often, integration requires a ton of additional services to simply extend “plumbing” as opposed to impacting the experience.Do your customers have too much friction when engaging with you because they have to access eight separate experiences?What about your employees?

One approach is extending collaboration into the experiences where people spend their time today.However, that extension of plumbing only marginally changes human behavior.You also need to integrate silos and other streams of information and activity into a more centralized experience.This centralized experience will not only make it easier for people to engage with each other but capture data that impacts the desired collaborative results you're looking for.

Game On

Finally, there is the concept of gamification.This is a discipline by itself and includes strategies, incentives and technology that all drive engagement and desired behavior. It’s about rewarding and recognizing, status, loyalty, achievement, competition and self-expression. There’s much more to successful gamification.And there are a few companies out there with real expertise and solutions that are paving the way in this emerging area.The future of collaboration will absolutely require gaming mechanics.

Learning Opportunities

Junk In = Junk Out

We all know the phrase and this has never been more relevant than in the world of enterprise collaboration today.Engagement gets the junk in while analytics gets the junk out.And the future of collaboration involves big data analytics that track, measure and report on the impact of communications, collaborative efforts and overall productivity.

You’ll be able to see correlations between engagement and human behaviors. You’ll be able to see inflection points between the activity in systems of engagement plotted against transactions, events and activities in other systems. You’ll be able to understand the behavior patterns of your top performers and look at ways to emulate them and hire, train and share that knowledge.You’ll be able to understand the sentiment about how people feel when interacting.Simply put, you’ll be able to measure things you could never measure before.

When you create real time and anytime experiences across multiple devices, focus on the right mix of content like video, integrate silos into a more centralized experience, add gaming mechanics to influence behaviors, you drive engagement that generates a ton of underlying data.Data gets bigger the more people engage to create an even better experience thus driving more people and more collaboration and more big data to analyze and leverage.

From those collaborative analytics, you can unlock HUGE opportunities for productivity, efficiencies, cost savings and revenue that previously could never be realized. It's a collaborative cycle.Engagement drives analytics and analytics drive engagement! Some of this is happening today yet we are still in the early stages when it comes to engagement and analytics in enterprise collaboration.


Tools that Enable the Future

Now the question is what tool, or set of tools, or platform is required to enable the future?Will a single vendor ecosystem or a mix of best of breed cloud solutions get you where you need to be?There's a lot of noise out there and next month I’ll explore this more from the technology side.Stay tuned …

Title image by camilla$$ (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more by Rich in Top 3 Considerations for Deploying Social Technology in the Enterprise