2016 Year in Review and a Look Ahead: The State of Enterprise Collaboration Edition

This year we’re breaking out the crystal ball once again, to portend what 2017 will hold for the state of enterprise collaboration!

What a difference a year makes. Last year in our annual Year in Review and a Look Ahead we showed how the 1989 film Back to the Future Part II had predicted everything from electronic pay and personal drones to hoverboards in 2015. Our experts weren’t quite as challenged as Doc Brown and Marty McFly were (after all, we were only looking ahead a single year instead of a quarter of a century), but we didn’t do half bad.

On the cloud front, our professionals correctly prophesied that AWS would continue to reign supreme (it does, controlling more of the public cloud market than Microsoft, Google and IBM combined) and that employee relationships would become a top KPI for businesses in 2016 (they did – according to Deloitte, “HR’s role is expanding beyond its traditional focus on talent management, process, and transactions”).

Hold on to your DeLorean, because this year we’re breaking out the crystal ball once again to portend what 2017 will hold for the state of enterprise collaboration. Great Scott, can we do it again? Only time will tell.

The State of Enterprise Collaboration in 2016

The biggest story of the year in enterprise collaboration, by far, was that a lot of new players got into the game; including some very well-known names. Facebook launched Workplace, Microsoft introduced Teams, and Slack, facing increased competition, had something of a panic attack. While the vendor ecosystem became more complicated by the day in 2016, we foresee a very different landscape in 2017. Without further ado, here are our predictions for the coming year in enterprise collaboration.

 

While the vendor ecosystem became more complicated by the day in 2016, we foresee a very different landscape in 2017

Top 5 Enterprise Collaboration Trends for 2017

A collaboration hub that unites disparate tools and systems will become the must-have technology for enterprise companies in the coming year

Consolidation

With high-profile players battling it out and dominating the conversation in 2016, it might seem to go against conventional wisdom to suggest that 2017 will be a year of consolidation in collaboration; but that’s exactly what we’re going to do. All of that bandwagon hopping and context switching is beginning to turn into tech fatigue for many. Ultimately, people just want to use the solutions that work best for the task at hand. For that reason, among many others, a collaboration hub that unites those disparate tools and systems will become the must-have technology for enterprise companies in the coming year.

Borderless Collaboration

Organizational boundaries are becoming permeable by default as extended networks of employees, freelancers, partners and customers come together to further business goals. To engage, influence, draw insights and leverage these communities at scale, enterprises are increasingly dependent on core business processes that span organizations. Customer engagement, flexible workforces, and partner ecosystems are just a few of the ways leaders are creating lean, responsive, adaptable and efficient organizations. Borderless collaboration will become mainstream in 2017 because it provides a superior experience for customers tired of maintaining multiple logins and profiles across multiple sites. Collaboration for collaboration’s sake will no longer cut it. Collaboration is the means to the end. The end is a better customer experience.

Borderless collaboration will become mainstream in 2017 because it provides a superior experience for customers tired of maintaining multiple logins and profiles across multiple sites

Collaboration and AI will quickly merge in 2017 to finally deliver the enhanced experiences that have long been promised

Bots

Bots made a splash in 2016; with varying degrees of success. While IBM’s Watson was busy adding natural language and translation support to the workplace, Microsoft had to muzzle its AI-powered Chabot, Tay, when it inadvertently turned into an Internet troll. Despite the early missteps, collaboration and AI will quickly merge in 2017 to finally deliver the enhanced experiences that have long been promised. As we noted in our AI in the Workplace Edition of this series, predictive analytics is going to get a lot better at serving up pertinent content and identifying the right individuals for the right teams, which will free executives to focus on other important things.

Work Graph

Remember when we called out tech fatigue as one of the reasons organizations will begin turning to collaboration hubs? Another is the work graph. Collaboration hubs enhance corporate memory, reduce brain drain and contextualize information in ways that fragmented systems simply cannot. The data that is created and embedded in the work graph will become the “fuel” for all those smart machines, enhancing and speeding the automation of routine work. This is the year that leaders will begin to recognize the value of the work graph and start adopting hub platforms en masse. Mark our words.

A hub collects information across the enterprise, making it visible, searchable and memorable—today and into the future

Voice technologies will help people with day-to-day tasks like document creation and keeping meetings on track

Voice-First

Quality and speed upgrades in speech recognition technology have spurred a voice-first renaissance in the home (think Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri). We predict that trend to spill over into workplace collaboration in 2017. Voice technologies will help people with day-to-day tasks like document creation and keeping meetings on track, as well as more challenging functions such as organizing inboxes and sorting message threads to offer up only the most contextual, relevant information. Eventually, your voice will become your universal ID, making other interfaces irrelevant. Remember, you heard it here first.

 

How will we do with our 2017 predictions? Only time will tell.

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