Employee needs and expectations are always evolving, especially regarding the way they connect with their colleagues. Communications technology which was ‘up and coming’ a decade ago now seems archaic in a modern workplace owing to the speed of its evolution. It is important that businesses not only embrace the ever-evolving technological trends to better support communication in the workplace, but somewhat preempt them. In order to stay ahead of the curve, companies need to have a finger placed firmly on the pulse of emerging developments in Unified Communications (UC) technology.
A number of industries are embracing new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) and using these to improve working practices. UC is also realizing the potential of these technologies for helping workplaces to become even more intelligent, by further bridging the gaps between virtual and physical communications. But what does the future really look like?
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The global AI market is expected to grow to $89.8 billion by 2025, with the technology set to become increasingly more ingrained in many day-to-day activities within the workplace. Looking specifically at the future of modern workforces, AI is paving the way for automated meeting call analytics, virtual assistants and real-time speech translation – assisting in people doing their jobs more efficiently and further mitigating human error with intuitive technology.
By analyzing data rapidly and with high precision, AI has the ability to save time, bring great ideas to life quicker and drive collaboration in the workplace through an increase in sophisticated communication methods. As we look to the future and the next generation of UC technology, it will continue to become deeply embedded in the modern workplace with AI assisting to enable real time communications and collaboration across the workplace.
However, with AI developing at a breakneck speed, it also comes with a number of challenges. In order for businesses to keep up with the change and employees to work smarter than ever, decision makers need to assess exactly where the true value of these groundbreaking technologies lies within their organization, and introduce the right tools and training infrastructure to ensure they are leveraging advanced technologies with maximum impact.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Over the years, VR has also developed significantly and slowly businesses have started to adopt the technology in conjunction with Unified Communications, using it in a number of business applications. Research reinforces this uptake, stating almost 80% of top technology companies having started to invest in VR – a number which looks only to be on the rise. In the workplace, VR can be used as a vehicle for better, more engaging communication between staff. It could also mean that we no longer have to be physically at the meeting location in order to attend – a powerful image which could even change the very nature of how we define ‘on-premise’ today.
Carrying out meetings virtually can unify a global workforce and enhance interactions which could lead to an increase in valuable ideas being generated – all whilst employees view information in a more visually stimulating and interesting way. What’s more, it also has the power to break down physical barriers, allowing people from all over the world to join the same meeting and collaborate despite the distance.
It is also predicted that VR will be used for training purposes. Although this will be an expensive initial cost, it has the ability to reduce costs in the long term by cutting out the need for physical, on-site training materials, ultimately revolutionizing the workplace training environment and leading to a well-trained and effective workforce.
When new communications technology arises, it is inevitable that those that don’t keep up will be left behind. We’re already moving to embrace more flexible ways of working and this is a trend that is only set to grow. As the idea of an intelligent workplace becomes synonymous with a flexible workplace, outdated hardware which doesn’t allow for portability such as PCs and desk phones are likely to see a decline.
Mobile working is now highly accessible thanks to the evolution of intelligent Unified Communications. It also has the ability to support a more productive, agile and efficient business. Research suggests that half of the workforce in the UK alone will be working remotely by 2020, which could lead to the complete transformation of traditional communication hardware. Innovative technologies which further enhance the remote working experience are very much the driving force behind this. They have even raised the question of whether holograms could end up filling the gaps left in the office as a result – an exciting prospect which, if executed correctly, could completely redefine mobile working and transform how businesses and executives interact with each other in the future.
As with any other revolutionary technology making its way into the world of the enterprise, companies will inevitably experience roadblocks when utilizing the likes of AI and VR across their workplace. For example, an organization’s existing communications infrastructure may require extensive transformations to put these tools into place, with employees having to get to grips with any new functionality in order to operate effectively.
That said, businesses now have a real opportunity to shape the future of the intelligent workplace with the continuous evolution of Unified Communications and other emerging complementary technologies. With a clear roadmap in place, modern businesses can unlock the next-generation of UC solutions and reap the full benefits of such pivotal technologies as the lines between the physical and digital communication becomes ever more fine.