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The state of collaboration has forever been changed—no longer is the technology provider determining what capabilities people need. People are determining this for themselves, dictating what capabilities they need for collaborative interactions. Increasingly, people are requiring that collaboration capabilities are available at the point of which they need them—in other words, where collaboration capabilities can be brought to bear upon a business process that people are involved in and where exceptions are commonplace. For collaboration tools to work, they have to be people-centric. The workplace has witnessed a long history of collaboration tools that never entered the flow of how people work.

Collaborative interactions inside the collaboration framework
Collaborative interactions should be viewed as a continuum, rather than a static event, and should be based on and in conjunction with business workflows. Collaborative interactions are centered around people whose personas are surfaced in their profiles, which is an aggregate across all systems and domains. This is where the person’s profile, or personas, in different applications needs to be unified. I need to be the same person in email, as I am in my customer relationship management (CRM) business application, as I am in my collaboration application or interface.

There is this seamless, structured collaborative framework that takes into account ad-hoc and unstructured collaborative interactions and surfaces it so it is captured. Once captured, these interactions become a valuable source of knowledge and expertise that traditionally gets lost, because it is never captured. This will revolutionize knowledge exchange and expertise search across organizations.

Mobile first and the need for context
Emerging trends are impacting how people work and how they get their jobs done. As the workforce becomes more mobile, the ways in which people work and the technologies they require for collaborative interactions are evolving. This dictates flexibility in the collaboration tools people use to get their jobs done and interact with each other. There is a new thrust around mobile collaboration as providers look to rethink their product strategies from a mobile-first design perspective—and more importantly, from a user experience design perspective.

There is a need to provide a persistent collaboration space so that people have context, including direct integration with their content. These spaces will be a window to social activities, tasks and asynchronous and real-time interactions with presence and identity. Emerging mobile collaboration apps are making it easier for people to interact with internal and external colleagues and partners on any device, without barriers.

The necessary move to PaaS
Providers trying to be the convergence point for synchronous and asynchronous communications and collaboration characterize this shift to mobile collaboration. They’re including tie-ins to enterprise apps and workflows and bringing in social capabilities. This is a move to collaboration platforms as a service (PaaS). So while collaboration is person to person, the need for collaboration tools to support integration into peoples’ business processes is critical.

The bottom line
In developing collaboration strategies, it should go without saying that people and how they work has to be the focus. The technology itself serves to enhance peoples’ work experience. Strategies have to factor in the ever-changing and dynamic workforce, which is now very mobile.

Dave Smith is the research director and lead analyst for collaboration at Aragon Research. Previously, Mr. Smith was a research analyst at Gartner, where he covered collaboration and web conferencing. Follow him on Twitter @DaveMario.
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