Technology and the Mobile Workforce: Setting The Agenda
Technology has long been a driver of cultural changes, but today’s workforce has seen an explosion of technological innovation which has enhanced how we communicate, interact and collaborate. Employee’s demands for flexible working practices, coupled with an insatiable appetite for the ‘latest’ devices and applications, are influencing the adoption of technology in business.
Alongside this, technology trends such as virtualization, cloud computing and unified communications are fast becoming a viable way to drive efficiencies and benefits into the workplace. These three elements present a powerful proposition for a new workplace, where virtualized, unified communication that operates entirely in the cloud can drive a consistent communication experience across any device and location for every user.
Virtualization and the cloud
Running multiple virtual machines from a single, physical platform that shares its resources across multiple environments can deliver an abundance of benefits, including cost savings through lower power consumption, reduced support and management resource, and enhanced green credentials due to fewer physical servers being powered. Making use of applications and software in the cloud delivers similar benefits and many businesses are already getting a taste of what smarter business could look like by tapping into the increasing number of hosted services and providers that are available.
Popularity and demand for cloud-based and virtualized services that underpin fundamental IT infrastructures is increasing fast, even more so as businesses turn to the data center, hosted voice communications and front-end, cloud-based applications and services such as Google Docs and IBM’s SmartCloud for Social Business. This trend is evidenced by the Compound Annual Growth Rate of virtual value added resellers compared to non-virtual. It’s a way of working that is quickly being adopted by consumers too, with solutions such as Dropbox and Apple’s iCloud leading the wider public into the cloud.
Unified communications and collaboration
Unified communications (UC) is becoming an influential driver in changing working practices, encouraging efficient real-time audio and visual communication for workers across an increasingly diverse range of channels. Crucially, UC has the potential to enable employees to achieve an ‘in-office’ experience from anywhere, on any device. This means any worker can collaborate virtually with team members as effectively as they would if they were sharing a meeting room; conferencing and collaboration tools can be accessed via soft, desk or smartphones, providing the ability for workers to share a corporate directory, work on documents or presentations, set up audio and video calls, send instant messages and see another’s presence status.
The need to enable truly effective mobile working makes UC-based technology developments fundamental in revolutionizing the workplace as we know it. New ways of working can increase productivity and streamline effective communications, changing how individuals, groups and organizations work while reducing communications costs and IT management time.
The rise of the end user
Technology is influencing almost every aspect of our daily lives and an almost insatiable appetite for gadgets and cutting-edge technologies is influencing the workplace like never before. While businesses used to be the main drivers of telephony, computing and communication adoption, it is clear they are no longer setting the agenda. Instead, the dominant force in technological advancements has become the end user.
Research from Mitel shows the BYOD trend is no longer in its infancy, as around two-thirds of employees are using their own smartphones, tablets and other devices for work. Traditional working patterns are also under pressure, as Mitel data shows that the majority (81%) of workers now want to break free from their organization’s nine to five culture in favor of flexible hours and working locations. This figure is even higher (87%) for younger generations who appear to be the biggest drivers of the revolution.
With workers pushing to bring their own devices into the workplace and calling for flexibility in working where, when and how they want, should businesses be taking advantage of this enthusiasm for technology-driven change? Providing a flexible and robust infrastructure that can accommodate personal devices and choice could offer employees the freedom to work exactly how they want to, whilst at the same time lessening the hardware investment burden of trying to keep up with the latest devices.
In order to capitalize on all of these technology developments and meet the demands of the individuals within their workforces, businesses need the freedom to support a vast and dynamic network of hardware and applications – the best tools for the job, at an individual level, all working together seamlessly and intelligently. Traditionally, relying on a single vendor as a one-stop-shop for a ‘complete’ solution gave IT and network managers complete control over their network, while integration, security and management was relatively straightforward. But it’s an approach that is fast becoming obsolete.
It is inherently inflexible and many organizations are now finding their infrastructure cannot be tailored to their specific needs. With the rise of cloud computing, virtualization, applications and web services, the single vendor, ‘one size fits all’ strategy is entirely inappropriate.No single vendor is capable of offering a complete solution and problems occur when vendors stray into each other’s domains.
It is only by embracing an eco system of partners that organizations can ensure a reasonable counterbalance to any technology-driven argument, and be confident they have taken a truly best in breed approach. It is inevitable that vendors themselves will have to adapt the way they think and open themselves up to work alongside each other. In doing so, businesses will become populated with interoperable best-in-class technologies and this will drive a change in vendor models, to become contributors to an ultimate solution, rather than competing based on all-or-nothing.