By Ron Temske, Vice President, Collaboration and Networked Solutions, Logicalis US

Are you a dinosaur or a futurist? One important way to tell is to ask yourself to define “work.” If you’re still thinking about work as a place you go instead of a thing you do, you’re missing the emergence of an important trend.

 

As I talk with clients about the proliferation of collaboration tools in the workplace and the ability to do work anywhere, anytime, on any device, I am seeing two very distinct kinds of customers emerge: those looking for ways to embrace next-generation communication and collaboration technologies and empower their employees to use it, and those who are still trying to lock down their IT departments to prevent that type of access.

The problem with the latter is that it can’t be done; people are going to bring devices into the office and use them for work whether they are authorized to do so or not. So, instead of trying to tie their hands, we need to free them to use what’s available to create competitive advantage for their employers.  Knowing what’s on the horizon will help prepare the way for the next wave of communication and collaboration technologies – a wave that has already begun.

 As enterprise employees demand a more consumer-like user experience from their workplace technologies, the industry’s key vendors are poised to deliver just that. The key to becoming a futurist instead of a dinosaur lies in your response to the changes that are already on the horizon; if you want to run with the futurists, you’ve got to prepare today for what lies ahead.

Merging Two Worlds

The once very different worlds of consumer and enterprise technologies are beginning to merge. Cisco and other vendors are already working together to deliver enterprise capabilities on what have traditionally been consumer mobile devices.  With this trend, you can expect to see subtle, yet critically important changes like devices that offer more intelligent selection of access points to maximize voice and decrease latency issues.  Local caching technologies will enable faster updates for communication toolsets. Smart networks will soon prioritize business applications like CRM or ERP, for example, over more consumer-oriented applications on mobile devices whereas today, all the network sees is mobile traffic with no distinction or importance placed on what kind of traffic it might be. Additionally, more team-based collaboration tools will run in the cloud delivered via subscription as a service.

 Moving to the Cloud

Shifting collaboration tools to the cloud will also allow a wider range of devices to be used to access those tools, truly transforming the way work is done.  These kinds of subscription-based cloud tools will support everything from enterprise-scale video conferencing systems to physical desktop phones to mobile phones.  Even via a mobile phone, users can participate in enterprise collaborative experiences that mirror the ease and flexibility of consumer applications with significantly enhanced feature sets.

 Extending Enterprise Boundaries

Using communications tools already deployed inside the corporate environment to create an outward-facing collaborative experience between the business and its customers or partners is another trend quickly gaining traction. As businesses strive for greater integration of collaboration tools with customer-facing applications, actions like embedding video chat directly from a web page to amplify customer service efforts or federating presence to include partners and customers are becoming commonplace. As a result, organizations are moving toward a separation of collaboration from physical devices to make its use pervasive throughout the enterprise and beyond.

What Can You Do to Prepare?

One of the most important ways to prepare today is to ready your corporate wireless infrastructure for the onslaught of devices that will run bandwidth-hungry applications with an enhanced expectation for speed and fluidity. If, for example, you don’t yet have 802.11ac wi-fi in place, consider an upgrade; look at technologies to maximize the use of bandwidth (i.e., using tools like iWAN and the Internet in place of dedicated MPLS circuits to save cost and provide higher capacity), and ensure that your organization provides a culture that embraces collaboration at all levels across a wide variety of devices.

Because so many of these changes are tied to the cloud, it’s also important to consider your evolving IT strategies and what role cloud-based technologies and as-a-service subscription offerings will play in tomorrow’s digital enterprise.

Want to learn more about communication and collaborationRead about Logicalis’ recent acquisition of The Via Group, a solution provider specializing in unified communications and voice. Then watch a brief video about communication and collaboration opportunities and obstacles, take our Communication and Collaboration quiz to see if your company is ready for the changes on the horizon, and map your Communication and Collaboration Journey.