What’s next for collaboration?

Polycom’s Tony Simonsen offers some predictions for 2018

Collaboration and digital transformation have continued to shape business and the workplace as we know it. We are seeing a massive shift in how technology is implemented and used in the workplace.

Over the years, we have also seen major changes occur in the workplace. Research has found that two-thirds of the global population are quite literally working from anywhere and this has positively impacted productivity.

As 2018 rapidly approaches, I have been thinking about the next phase in collaboration technology. What’s making the industry tick? What really matters for our customers? How will it impact workplace and future developments? Here is what I broadly see as the top five collaboration trends for the year ahead:

1. Cloud Brings Need for Interoperability

The cloud space has transformed, not just our office and workspaces but the way we work. If we look at the next generation of technology – it’s modular, it’s adaptive, it’s solutions based and it’s cloud based. As cloud continues to move into the mainstream, the conversation is no longer about that sub 50 office space, the one-to-three user space is back on the table; and how you bring them into the network with mobile devices, with USB devices and more will be a priority for businesses of all sizes in 2018.

Previously, you would never have dreamed of trying to do a video conference on a USB small camera, or into a small space. The cost was prohibitive, the technology wasn’t up to scratch and the user experience was usually shocking. We will continue to see this change with significant improvements in digital sharing tools. As our technology learning curve advances we will see more creative ways of using them from animation to 3-D and even 4-D!

Finally, as a customer, wouldn’t it be wonderful if your journey towards collaboration could be made without the hassle of navigating the maze of vendors offering a myriad of options but not quite the right mix you’re looking for? Proprietary platforms that reduce choice and locks in customers with a single provider will face resistance, this is where vendors offering open standards and broadest interoperability will have the biggest advantage, particularly with the big shift towards cloud services.

2. User experience and ease of adoption reigns supreme

Where we work and collaborate is no longer confined to a traditional four-walled office environment. Today, people want to connect and collaborate with ‘the office’, regardless of their location or device.

This growth in flexible working and geographically distributed workforces mean that businesses will need to find new ways to empower employees with vastly different experiences and relationships with technology, ensuring they can collaborate effectively to drive the productivity.

For digital transformation to successfully take place and be readily adopted across the workforce, simplicity of design and ease of use will remain fundamental to new collaboration innovations being developed.

Users want simple click and join. They don’t want to go looking for a meeting room ID, or a truncated number, or the smart board switch to upload documents for team discussion. We will expect to see end users continuing to demand more intelligent, conferencing solutions that can ‘do it all’ – whether connecting from a meeting room, personal device or third-party platform.

Today, the average enterprise has over 600 applications with unique passcodes and entry points. Imagine if we only needed singular sign-on capabilities… I look forward to very soon being able to walk into a meeting room and start my conference call based on facial recognition alone.

3. Meetings are getting smarter and more mobile

Technology, like the latest intelligent face-detection and voice triangulation cameras, wireless content-sharing, a simple ‘click to join’ meeting interface, AI and advanced analytics are helping meetings get smarter and more productive.

In basic terms, it is the convergence of people plus, not versus, technology that are now working together.

What’s more, as organisations move to Skype for Business, Office 365, and Microsoft Teams we expect them to look at removing extraneous meeting technologies and integrate collaboration via these platforms as a means to reduce costs and ensure a consistent user experience.

4. The hyper-collaborative organisation

Imagine that the next step for individuals, teams and organisations would be to go from being “collaborative” amoungst themselves to “hyper-collaborative” – bringing together knowledge, capabilities and ideas from a number of ecosystems, geographies and industries.

Just envision what that could mean for grassroots organisations, or a medical research facility, or a government agency seeking expertise for a transformational project! 

I anticipate that for 2018 and beyond, more workplaces will be open to embracing ‘anywhere working’, that enables this evolution in partnerships and teamwork. Enabling people to work, the way they want, where they want and in a hyper-collaborative manner that will become business-normal.

5. Bridging the urban-rural divide

There is a marked correlation between economic development and access to technology – and not just in emerging or developing economies. Research from Australia’s RMIT University has revealed that around three million Australians are still ‘digitally excluded’ and missing out on education, health, social and financial benefits that come with having access to technology. The economic potential once these Australians get connected through initiatives such as the NBN; and have greater equity of access to critical services that has been previously denied to them is the next step in bridging the gap.

As infrastructure improves and Australia becomes more digitally inclusive, we can expect to see a jump in demand for collaboration solutions like high definition video and digital content sharing that were previously unavailable.  

How does that translate to the potential for improving everyday life? Imagine the impact of a renowned higher education institution being able to deliver education services to students living in rural and regional Australia. Or, when emergency preparedness and disaster management during bushfire season can be strategically coordinated across hundreds of thousands of kilometres. These examples highlight the very essence of what equity of access across urban and rural areas of a country means.

Tony Simonsen is managing director - ANZ, Japan and Korea for Polycom.

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