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The evolution of the workspace

Marco Landi_Polycom President EMEAMarco Landi, Polycom President, EMEA, discusses how today’s workspace is evolving in terms of the adoption of unified communications and consumer solutions.

Consumerisation of IT – to be continued

Every IT manager in the Middle East has been aware of BYOD for years now. But, in the same way that new iPhones are released with alarming regularity, the definition of the consumerisation of IT updates on an annual basis. It’s no longer just about employees bringing their device to use at the office, enterprise users have to feel comfortable with the solutions they use in the office, both at home and on the go.

Modern enterprise solutions follow in the footsteps of consumer products like iPhones. The most successful vendors know that instead of reinventing the wheel, it’s far more helpful to develop solutions that are easy to use. The best products build on the familiar UI of consumer products which deliver an enterprise-grade solution. This keeps everyone happy, especially the IT department as you get high levels of adoption from the get-go to drive ROI and you get the added benefits of enterprise level security and efficient use of bandwidth making the solution easy to support. 78 percent of millennials indicated access to the technology they preferred to use makes them more productive at work.

This is a trend we are seeing take hold across enterprise technology, and the tech giants are taking note. Microsoft capitalised on the good-feeling towards its Skype consumer software to rebrand Lync as Skype for Business. Polycom noted the importance of the integration of social media into contacts technology, allowing users to send meeting invites via Facebook and Google Hangouts with web-based solutions.

The simplicity of using and linking your Apple devices has inspired a range of plug ‘n’ play solutions for the enterprise environment, allowing the simple swiping gestures that have become second nature to us to transfer collaborations from our iPads to room-based video conferencing systems.

Ultimately, from an end-user point of view there is no difference between consumer and professional environments now. We’ve all become prosumers, and the enterprise is adapting to that.

The changing shape of the workplace; be a round peg in a square hole
You might not have noticed, but for a long time people have been forced into unnatural formations in order to work in an office. It’s not human nature to be divided into individual cubicles, or to sit along elongated rectangular boardroom tables. None of these mimic the way people naturally come together, which since we discovered fire (and pizza) has been circular. We like to look everyone in the eye whenever possible. It improves communication and makes us feel more comfortable; both being essential to a productive work environment.

Companies are realising the benefit of adapting the workplace to the nature of the worker, rather than trying to force it to be the other way round.

Looking up at a small video collaboration screen on the wall can cause eye-strain and fatigue, and even more so if the video and audio quality are poor. We know that video collaboration is more effective than voice alone, but what we do need are centre-of-the-room solutions that allow us to look at each other instead of craning our necks.

It’s not just about big rooms; huddle space solutions are really taking off as they encourage people to come together in smaller groups more suited to collaborative working. Not every meeting is board-level, sometimes a concise invite-list leads to the most productivity.

The workplace of the future is people-shaped because with modern technology, any space can be a workspace. We just need to think outside the box (or boardroom).

Work from anywhere, no really
Since 2012, there’s a lot of talk around “anywhere working”, but if it’s going to be an everyday reality you really need to think practically about what you need in order to make any space a productive workspace. How many enterprise employees could actually complete their job without internet access?

The basic essentials of modern life and enterprise working include; high speed internet connection, mobile signal, and power. That’s before you think about where you access your mission-critical applications; in the cloud, via VPN or remote desktop?

There are some things that perhaps we could do without. In the video collaboration age, we would probably be more productive without access to email as we wouldn’t spend half the day trying to clear our inboxes. How often do you send an email to someone who sits in the same office as you? The rise of video collaboration is having a two-fold positive impact in this instance; it’s ringing the toll for the endless email chains as we begin to rely on video recordings or archives we can easily search, allowing us to get the information as it was imparted in real-time. It’s also encouraging us to talk to each other again. More video means more conversations to the extent that emailing our co-workers begins to feel slow and unproductive, we’d rather just speak to each other!

We can work from anywhere as long as it enables us to speak to our teammates.

Changing end user expectations, when they know what they want and they want it now
One of the biggest challenges for IT departments and businesses generally is to keep pace with constantly changing end-user expectations. Employees walk into the office with Unified Communications in the palm of their hands. Your smartphone can allow you to have one log in to access everything, whether that’s a Google, Facebook or Apple ID, you get your voice, video and content sharing as well as access to collaboration tools in one simple interface.

This ease of use from their own devices means that end users expect an even better solution at work. Unfortunately for IT, the age of upgrading systems once a decade is well and truly over. The pace of evolution in consumer technology means that end users expect the same level of development in their work solutions.

End users are unaware of complications such as networking demands, security and maintenance requirements or storage shortages. As such, IT managers need solutions that allow them to present a modern face without consuming resource at the back-end. Hybrid, cloud and on-premise solutions are appearing to fill this gap. Communications technology can experience massive spikes, for which it’s just not feasible to have on-premise resource available all year round.

Beyond exceptional circumstances, we have the everyday. Thanks to the ubiquity of all kinds of technology in their own lives, end users don’t expect to need to call IT for everyday occurrences such as scheduling and launching a group collaboration call. They want solutions that do it all in the background and integrate all of the technologies to allow them to get on with the business of collaborating on projects, ideas and plans.

Clever yet simple collaboration solutions like these, that don’t require IT input for everyday tasks, are helping to drive the workplace of the future without breaking the back of IT.

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