As everyone knows, the business world is going through an accelerated evolution, where technology is being implemented to drive efficiencies across businesses, writes Warren Miller, Solutions Architect at Altron Managed Solutions. This is also true for communication and collaboration tools and platforms. While many tools most certainly are customer-facing, technology has come a long way in enabling better collaboration, inclusiveness and productivity among employees – which ultimately affects the bottom line.
There is definitely a noticeable trend across industries that unified communication and collaboration strategies are converging, where businesses are looking at paying for a single licence across everything, as opposed to paying for a host of licences across different platforms or technology stacks. This makes sense not only from a cost perspective but also in terms of managing and maintaining effective, smart collaboration.
Many software providers are active in this space and pushing their product stacks with investment in new technology, and so one thing is certain – there most certainly are options for businesses to enable better and more efficient work environments while also having an accurate and real-time view of productivity as well as tool and physical space usage.
Before a business jumps into looking at products and solutions, it would do well to understand what smart collaboration is. At its core, smart collaboration makes use of tools that connect people and spaces through technology. This is vital in the modern, often hybrid work environment where employees actively choose to work for businesses that offer more flexibility, and where businesses themselves are constrained by growing workforces and limited physical space. A hybrid work world changes how people interact and make decisions.
Workplace of the future
In a trend mirroring much of the world of technology, workplaces of the future will become increasingly decentralised with a workforce that is tending towards choosing wellbeing, purpose and flexibility over remuneration. In this new world of work, one tends to find flatter organisations with smaller, cross-functional and self-organising teams.
These teams need the tools to be able to collaborate as if they were in the same physical space. On the other hand, a hybrid workforce implies that there are also times and tasks that simply must take place in physical spaces, and these spaces need to be seamlessly integrated with virtual spaces and online team members.
The pandemic is still fresh in our memories, as is the rapid uptake and investment in video conferencing tools. These tools are made possible by the cloud, and so cloud uptake has underpinned the evolution of communication tools and the future of smart collaboration. Artificial intelligence and rich analytics add a host of functions and features, including the ability to track user behaviour and room occupancy levels. The pandemic fast-tracked us into the world of apps that are usable across devices.
It’s all good and well to know this, but how can a business measure whether its smart collaboration strategy is successful? There are a few key elements that need to be in place for the investment to be deemed a success.
First, it must be flexible. For example, virtual rooms need to be able to support any meeting type and device type and be interoperable with popular meeting providers from within the room. Ease of use is paramount. Intuitive, frictionless usage complete with features such as calendar integration means that employees spend more time in meaningful collaboration than trying to work the technology.
The meetings need to be inclusive – everyone needs to be seen and heard from anywhere with high-quality audio and visuals. There needs to be whiteboarding, intelligent content capture and inclusive video layouts, among much more. Virtual room systems need to be able to be deployed in any room type, from meeting and training rooms to auditoriums. Room scheduling needs to be intuitive and effective and the organisation needs the ability to monitor, manage and derive important insights from analysing user and system behaviour.
A successful smart collaboration strategy can change the way a business operates and unleash the power of a productive, engaged and included workforce, no matter where they may be sitting and which devices they are using.
Spaces, technology, partnerships
A business’s chances of achieving this success depend on how well the strategy is designed, implemented and managed. In addition to this, security and data privacy are becoming increasingly important and keep many CIOs awake at night. It makes sense to work with experienced partners who understand that success hinges on the careful interplay of three important elements.
The first is physical spaces – these include conference rooms, training rooms, pause areas, executive boardrooms, meeting rooms, open office spaces, auditoriums and command and control centres, among others.
The next is technology – this includes wireless presenting in physical spaces, touchscreen, mobile and web interfaces, room scheduling and wayfinding, control and programming tools, video distribution, network design and monitoring and management tools, among much more.
Then, there are the partnerships and partner ecosystems, across a range of OEMs, that the partner works with, to bring relevant solutions to its business clients. These include cloud platforms and products and hardware-focused brands.
The right partner will support a business all the way from solution architecture, through installation and integration, programming and commissioning, and include options for helpdesk and white glove support and managed services.