In recent years, we have seen significant changes in both the workplace and the workforce being driven by a mixture of technological advancements and cultural shifts. These have led to a rise in mobility in the workspace and the advent of the "connected employee" who is constantly mobile, requires instant access to information and expects to be able to fully harness the potential of collaboration in the workplace.
With IDC predicting that over 37% of the global workforce would be mobile by 2015 (a rise of 300 million people since 2010), we can expect the impact of these changes to affect not only individuals, but companies and their operations.
Whilst current market size, growth, and what should and shouldn't be included in the UC&C sector (Unified Communication and Collaboration) varies, there is no doubt that there will be high growth over the next few years.
The industry is heading for a boom as the benefits organisations can achieve by fully embracing new ways of working are growing. As predicted by MarketsandMarkets, the UC&C market is expected to grow from $5.15 billion (around £3.4 billion, AU$6.7 billion) in 2014 to $17.38 billion (around £11.65 billion, AU$22.5 billion) by 2019, at a CAGR of 27.5%.
Another sign of the collaboration boom is seen in how major vendors are starting to shape up for the land grab. Microsoft is directing its brands more towards the consumer, as Microsoft Lync becomes Skype for Business. Cisco has launched its funky collaboration play Project Squared and Unify (formerly Siemens) has completely rationalised its business into a lean software only play.
There are a number of drivers behind the changes as there are many benefits organisations can gain from having a major collaboration component at their core. The benefits could be enterprise mobility, providing flexible working (which of course in the UK workers have the right to ask for), or attracting the best and the brightest digital natives, who interact with technology differently from previous generations.
There are also many cost saving benefits and efficiencies, such as cutting back on travel for meetings, reacting more quickly and intelligently to market opportunities or customer requirements, and having your employees interact and share information in a more efficient and holistic way.
For example, David Wilde, CIO at Essex County Council, has enabled mobile and flexible working for all 12,000 staff. This has led to a totally different way of working for all employees and has reduced ICT costs by 30%, whilst improving KPIs by 25% across the board.
The technology is now mature and works well, and the consumer growth of IT has helped employees with productivity apps find that they can collaborate more effectively outside of the work environment. This has caused enterprise solution vendors to sharpen their game.
Is the office as we know it dead?
The entire office environment is at a crossroads, and we must ask: do we need offices at all anymore? What we certainly do not need is a desk workstation for every employee. Working remotely is an attractive option for organisations and can drive huge cost savings. It could be argued for a number of industries that a world of working from home, with all technology in the cloud and barely any office facilities at all, is not very far away.
It certainly seems like the world of work is on the cusp of huge change. The only thing holding us back is the attitude of management. The technology is available and works well, the "work anywhere" Millennials are hitting the job market, and the availability of broadband and Wi-Fi coverage means that everything is in place for a truly connected and collaborative economy.
Now we need to get past the "working from home" = "not really working" mentality that many still cling to. Attitudes towards collaboration are changing and it is exciting to witness a sharp increase in the productivity of employees when the organisation (public and private) embraces this technology.
It is crucial that businesses adapt to the demands of the next generation.
- Bradley Maule-ffinch is director at UC Expo. UC EXPO 2015, which is being held on 21 – 22 April, at London's Olympia, will delve deeper into what you need know, and how to successfully implement UC&C technology for the workplace of the future.