What’s next in Collaboration?
We’re faced with a world where it’s becoming increasingly harder to keep up with advances in technology and where our brains hardly have the capacity to grasp what the world might look like even 10 or 20 years down the line. At Cisco’s Collaboration Group we naturally spend a lot of our time on what lies ahead – tackling both the giant technology leaps we need to make in the future as well as the incremental improvements we can make to dramatically impact people’s everyday work lives and productivity. In this post I will give a brief look into what we think are some of the challenges that lie ahead in the collaboration industry, along with a peek at some technologies that may help shape the future of teams and their work together.
Enterprise Collaboration is developing rapidly. Venture funding for collaboration startups is booming with over $1 billion in funding in 2014, a 65% increase from 2013. As technology advancements move ahead with record speed, organisations are beginning to change, too. Increasingly we’re collaborating not only with people in our immediate local team but with other organizations, partners and people in a big network of information exchange. Teams and people are also changing; the leaders of tomorrow are not like those of today. The so-called Millennials, a.k.a. Gen Y, will account for 46% of the U.S. work force in 2020 and bring with them an entirely different set of expectations to the tools they’re using at work. As the way we work inside and outside of organizations changes, open ecosystems with partners, startups and individuals become more important to drive and maintain. In particular those ecosystems that scale through APIs and SDKs will play a large part in shaping innovation in collaboration to keep up with the rapid pace of development.
As we fully embrace and enter the Information Age, the possibilities of enhancing, optimizing and revolutionizing existing workflows seem to be closer than ever before. For example, access to increasingly powerful browsers means that previously impossible experiences are now just a click away. In long distance collaboration particularly, browser technology advancements are extremely important. One example is WebRTC, making life easier for people by enabling voice-and video calls, screen sharing and even file sharing directly through browsers (peer to peer) instead of via plugins. Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality could hold the key to transforming how we experience people and things that are far away, giving the term ‘immersive meeting rooms’ its real meaning back. The new breed of chat-centric collaboration tools (including products like our own Project Squared) help bring teams closer together and address most macro trends facing organizations and teams.
Computers are getting smarter. A wealth of companies are trying to teach computers to become even smarter. For enterprise collaboration this means we will be able to spend more time focusing on actual work and solving tasks together as a team. How? By utilizing a combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning technology and natural language processing to create AI Personal Assistants that schedule meetings, manage our calendars, take notes and perform general administrative work. Furthermore, around the office proximity technologies like Bluetooth LE and Beacons will make connecting to the right meeting at the right time and with zero clicks a reality. Since the the average enterprise uses 831 cloud apps to get their work done, filtering data in smart ways and processing it will likely be more important than ever before so we don’t drown in information. New technologies such as eye tracking and voice controls will be help us access relevant data instantly while giving us a new generation of user experiences.
However, when you’re trying to improve someone’s productivity or make people able to more easily work together over distance, not only groundbreaking new technologies are important. Incremental improvements to existing experiences can be huge time and money savers. Enterprise software no longer exists in an “internal bubble” of a team or company. As we move toward extended networks of collaborators that aren’t just located in our own team or company, we become less tolerant of tools that are outdated. Learning curves for our future tools need to be close to zero.
These are just a few of the trends and technologies that are likely to play an important part of innovation in collaboration in the coming years. The pace of change is only getting faster. Cisco’s investment in the Cloud Collaboration Group ensures that our customers will not be stuck with yesterday’s technology in tomorrow’s workplace.