The Future of Collaboration

Mobile devices. Laptop, smartphone and tablet pc.The perfect storm of the consumerisation of IT, ubiquitous connectivity, BYOD and Cloud Computing have changed, forever, the way we work. The evolution of working practices has led to a corresponding change in the work environment. As we become increasingly mobile and social, work has become something you do, not somewhere you go.

Future generations will grow up in a connected world; one where the internet of things has become a reality. Work will take place across multiple devices as users seamlessly move from one platform to another to communicate and collaborate. Fixed and mobile technologies will be fully converged, with intelligent switching to ensure users are “always on”.

Smartphones and tablets have overtaken desktops and laptops as the device of choice. In 2015, the amount of time spent on mobile apps exceeded that spent on desktop web access and more than half of all emails (53%) were opened on mobiles.

The average user has over 40 applications on their Smartphone and they have come to expect the same rich user experience from business applications as they do from their chosen social or consumer apps. The convenience of ownership and the ease with which users can switch devices and operating systems has helped to fuel the inexorable rise of BYOD.

Users will typically follow the path of least resistance. In the case of collaboration and communication this could mean the adoption of potentially risky behaviour as employees install non-compliant file share, conferencing and social applications.

IT departments are challenged in a BYOD system to manage multiple hardware vendors and platforms, hence the evolution of mobile device and application management solutions. Organisations that have embraced BYOD and mobility are offering their own app stores, delivering business critical content to authorised users on any device, anywhere.

At the same time, strict access and authentication processes help ensure data security. Sandboxing personal and commercial data, remote content management and the use of Cloud-based applications to eliminate the need to store potentially sensitive data on mobile devices all contribute to a safer environment.

Flexible working can sometimes be pigeon-holed as something that only works for a geographically dispersed workforce. In reality, the stereotype of individuals “owning” a desk within the contemporary office environment is becoming outdated. Flexibility and mobility can still take place within the corporate headquarters as employees make use of hot-desking, break-out rooms and wireless connectivity to work anywhere.

Physical office space is changing to include “collaboration zones” where users can take advantage of campus-wide connectivity to form and re-form workgroups as and when they need them. The result is a more collaborative, dynamic environment with improved decision making and productivity.

Campus Wi-Fi needs to feature high-speed, high-capacity networks to cope with the rise in media-rich, big data applications. Maintaining control over these networks will also include traffic prioritization, access control and monitoring to ensure long-term data security.

The drawback with centralised control and compliance is that it can sometimes impact on productivity, responsiveness and the overall user experience. In recent years, corporate technology has become increasingly user-centric; tilting the balance of power away from governance to enablement.

Enterprise IT will need to re-establish a degree of leadership and innovation if it is to maintain equilibrium. Technology is the ultimate enabler and the nature of the technologies available to users will define the work practices and processes of the future.