As the end of the year approaches, the future of collaboration is being hotly debated and a few reoccurring topics have given us a glimpse into which aspects are quickly becoming the most in-demand among end users.
1. Less is more
When it comes to collaboration, end users are looking as much for simplicity as they are for power. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated a solution is if, in the end, employees can’t figure out how to use it. Not surprisingly, user adoption is largely determined by usability. Whether it’s a device or an interface, employees tend to naturally gravitate toward the familiar. Collaboration solutions like Unified Communications can be confusing and go against engrained user habits – replacing email and phone number entries with a contact list, reaching for a VoIP headset instead of a telephone handset, and instinctively turning to chat over email for short communications.
Microsoft, Google, Apple and other leading software powerhouses are heading up the trend of the simplified user experience, further streamlining interfaces and ensuring that user tools and features can be accessed cross-device.
With the convergence of communication channels into a single solution, there is a risk that users become overwhelmed with the bells and whistles. The challenge going forward is to ensure that employees understand the intricacies and utility of collaboration solutions like UC but are able to easily grasp when and how to use what.
2. Embrace the Cloud
Today, the Cloud is an established part of business. The question is not “should I be using the Cloud?” but rather “how should I optimize my use of the Cloud?” From productivity applications to entire enterprise communications solutions, Cloud-based software has redefined the business marketplace altogether. As much as Software-as-a-Service and Cloud storage have simplified our lives and reduced CapEx costs, questions still linger as to whether all-the-way-Cloud is really the way to go:
> Data conservation and security
From BYOD concerns to hackers, businesses continue to go back and forth over the reliability and security of the private cloud. Managing network access is crucial and selecting a service provider with top quality, secure hosting capabilities is key.
> Employee flexibility and mobility
To accommodate the new generation of employees, managers and the evolving business market , Cloud collaboration is a must. Resources become instantly accessible from any device, freeing us from a fixed location, enhancing teamwork, productivity and efficiency. This means that employees – who are increasingly mobile anyway – can do their work and collaborate with colleagues, partners, customers and prospects from whenever and wherever they happen to be.
> Lower infrastructure costs
From the CEO to the IT department all the way to the end user, Cloud computing is, today, a well-recognized and engrained concept. The major attraction of the Cloud is savings generated on infrastructure costs, maintenance, scalability, upgrading, security, etc…
The Utility Model
Cloud services are sometimes likened to utilities like gas, water, electricity as a result of the popular pay-as-you-go model, enabling businesses to optimize expenditures on actual consumption.
Whether a fully hosted solution or a hybrid solution (part Cloud-based, part on-site services), Cloud services have significantly altered the way organizations look at their need for in-house applications, platforms, servers and other IT expenditures.
3. Encourage mobility
While the workforce grows more mobile, remote working tools are improving. Applications, communication solutions and productivity tools accessible from the Cloud deliver a seamless user experience across any connected device. Employees are able to put their hands on essential resources at any time, from any place, fueling virtual and mobile offices. The up-and-coming Millennial generation of “always connected” employees and managers is poised to take over and alter business in the coming decades. Flexwork is becoming more of the norm with employees logging on when and where they feel the most productive. This doesn’t have to mean a dip in efficiency; businesses should be looking for more ways to assist this demand for increased flexibility while putting into place solutions, structures and schedules to maximize employee