The way enterprises work and collaborate is always evolving, and 2016 was certainly a year where technology helped push this evolution along. With companies simultaneously trying to gain competitive advantage, attract top talent, expand into new regions, and bring new products to market, organizations are continuing to realize they need agile technology to support open collaboration with employees, customers and partners. As such, many trends emerging over the past year were about technology helping to redefine the culture of collaboration within companies. Trend: Collaboration is Social Perhaps surprisingly, one of the most significant trends this past year is that the discussion of discrete social collaboration is becoming less of a focus for companies than in years past. Why? Because it’s now so embedded in everything we do that it’s become redundant: collaboration is inherently social. We’re seeing social features baked into tools and apps that are already ubiquitous within enterprise environments, meaning users can now @mention colleagues or create hashtags within Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Skype, or Yammer, for example, to make searching within conversations easier and more akin to what they’re doing outside of work hours. These kinds of shifts are incredibly important in environments where the adoption of collaboration tools isn’t happening — or perceived to be happening — fast enough. Many companies have discovered that users becoming frustrated with the lack of collaboration tools within company walls are resorting to bringing their own apps and technologies into the workplace. While these patchwork shadow IT solutions may work on an individual level, employees using unauthorized apps and tools are potentially putting their company’s data at risk. Trend: Self-serve Collaboration What this means for organizations of all sizes is to not only have collaboration tools available for use, but to make it easy for employees to use them, which leads into another trend we saw over 2016: the democratization of technology with a more self-serve nature of collaboration tools. Technologies like Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 specifically have matured beyond an IT-type of solution, and have put the power into users’ hands. This movement is critical for organizations dealing with staff used to accessing tools with immediacy. The longer an employee has to wait to have an app or a solution “turned on”, the more likely he or she is to find their own solution. By enabling users to make Microsoft Teams for collaboration, for example, without needing to fill out a requisition form or wait for IT support, organizations are decreasing their own risk and ensuring their tools are being used. Trend: A Collaboration Gap A recent stat shows that only 34 per cent of portals are used by at least half of their intended audience, which means that even when the right tools are in place, they’re not being accessed and used as they should. This lack of proper adoption often boils down to a lack of strategy and planning up front, not aligning the technology to specific use cases, not understanding the business outcome they’re trying to achieve, and not providing employees with the training and awareness of how and when to use these tools. So while collaboration tools are evolving and many companies are adopting them, the challenge is, and will continue to be in 2017, getting people to use the tools to their fullest extent. It’s a challenge we help our customers tackle at New Signature, because we know that investment on its own does not automatically translate to improved productivity. If your company is on a journey towards enabling your employees with collaboration tools, I encourage you to take advantage of our Office 365 Adoption Strategy. We know that if a tool is loved it will be used, so we work with companies to combine corporate culture with the software’s capabilities to create an adoption strategy that makes sense for employees — that solves their problems and makes their work easier and better.