An overview of the highlights from UC Expo 2016 – the changing nature of collaboration, the rise of work/life integration and the future of video communication.
Collaboration underpinning Digital Transformation
This year’s UC Expo, the largest Unified Communications and Collaborations event in Europe, ran from April 19th-20th at London’s Olympia. The messages coming out of the buzzing exhibition floor and the jam-packed keynotes were that the very nature of collaboration has changed and that unified communications are driving transformation towards the digital workplace.
Here are our takeouts from this year’s UC Expo:
We need to change how we talk about collaboration
There can no longer be any doubt about it. Millennials are changing, and have changed the way we work, by 2020 this generation will make up the majority of the workforce. Like every generation before them millennials have different expectations, priorities and norms in their lives than the previous generation.
One of the biggest differences between millennials and the previous generation is that collaboration is natural to them, They expect to share and expect others to share with them.
Employers are beginning to realise that they need to meet the needs of millennials in order for their business to survive. But one of the key messages to come out of the seminar, ‘How Millennials are Transforming the Nature of Collaboration’ by Vishy Gopalakrishnan, (AVP, Product Marketing Management, Voice & Collaboration , AT&T), was that we need to change how we are think about collaboration.
It is not good enough to go out and acquire Slack or Yammer or any other communication technology purely for the point of being able to say that you have. Technology needs to be understood and required by the end user. The millennials that you are trying to impress with the collaboration technology you’ve rushed out and bought might not find it intuitive to use and older members of your workforce might be resentful if suddenly forced to change their working habits.
Ask yourself, how would different types of collaboration suit your people?
Then you have to think about collaboration and its impact on your company culture.
The millennials will want more from you than simply your permission to use Yammer to chat to their colleagues. After all, millennials expect freedom, so what is the point of having this collaboration technology if you insist all your workforce are in the office at their desks from 9-5, Monday to Friday – rather than being allowed to work hours that suit them from a location of their choice – maybe even a country of their choice!
By the same token, other members of your workforce might feel a little put out if you abolish their desk, hand them the photos of their family that they used to keep there and tell them they now have to start working from home. Or think about the office – it might appear forward thinking to let everyone sit wherever they wish but is that true collaboration? Would it be closer to true collaboration if you took the door off the VP’s office, or abolished his office all together and made him sit with all the other workers.
One thing is clear though – collaboration is not just a nice to have, but is now a must have. But, this collaboration strategy must be thought out and underpinned by an end goal. Ask yourself, what types of collaboration suit your people?
We need to stop talking about work/life balance and start talking about work/life integration.
Work/life balance. The big topic. You might have heard people saying that the workforce today, particularly millennials, want a better work/life balance. But this is essentially inaccurate. Work/life balance suggests compromise, it suggests – balance. A weighing off of one thing against another in order to reach an equilibrium.
One of the messages coming out of UC Expo 2016 was that we need to stop thinking about work/life balance and start thinking about work/life integration. Work is no longer somewhere we go but rather something we do.
Is checking in with the team over video call from a cafe work/life balance or work/life integration?
The days of driving for an hour or pushing into crowded trains or tubes are behind us, or at least they really should be. The idea of a work/life divide is not something can be separated by the hour. Work doesn’t begin at 9am and end at 5pm it ebbs and flows with the rest of our lives. In this environment, where we can work from our local cafes, take a client call while walking in the park or instantaneously message colleagues on the other side of the world, should we really be talking about balance or should we be talking about fluid, flowing, integration?
Our work/life integration is enabled by technology – and your technology needs to be chosen carefully.
What does the future hold for video conferencing?
There have been more than a few ‘false starts’ throughout marketing in proclaiming a certain year, ‘the year of the video’. However, one of the messages coming out of this year’s UC Expo is that now is one of the most exciting times in video conferencing.
During the seminar ‘The Future of Video Collaboration’ chaired by Rob Bamforth (Quocirca), and featuring Anthony Blake (CISCO), Axel Albrecht ( BlueJeans Network), Mark Richer (Starleaf), Mike O’Boyle (PGI), Tim Stone (Polycom) showed us a glimpse of what is to come and where we are in the world of video conferencing.
All the panelists agreed that one of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to increasing the distribution and population of video collaboration is interoperability and usability. Previous video conferencing systems have not been focused enough on the user experience, the sort of delightful experience that users get from consumer grade video collaboration software.
While it might be tempting, the panel warned, to lay all responsibility for the lack of uptake of video collaboration in the workplace at the feet of interoperability, there is another, more human side of things to consider.
How natural is being on video for your workforce? It is highly likely that to the majority of them it is an unusual experience. When joining a call that offers both audio only and video/audio options it is most likely that people will choose the ‘audio’ only option, unless of course the first person on the call or the administrator has their video on.
If you have the right technology and make video conferencing the standard it will soon become second nature to your workforce.
One of the primary reasons behind this is that, according to the panelists, the vast majority of people are doing something else while on an audio call, according to Axel Albrecht Blue Jeans had recently conducted a survey and found that 9% of those on an audio call are simultaneously exercising and an, unmentioned, percentage even went to the bathroom during the call.
Yet, this needs to be considered against research that shows video conferencing is a key way for remote teams to build a relationship with one another and 70% of people would rather have a video conference than travel to a meeting.
However, despite the questions surrounding ease of operation and cultural factors, one of the biggest take-outs was simply that, nothing needs to be done to convert people to video. Quite simply, if the experience is something that people want then they will use it. For a good example of this we, perhaps, need look no further than the popularity of tools such as FaceTime.
- We need to re-think how we approach collaboration.
- It is not about work/life balance but work/life integration.
- 2016 is likely to be the year that video takes off in business.
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