What will the workplace look like in 2016? Experts agree: employees will still be more flexible and responsive, which means, in many cases, that the traditional working environment with a desktop PC and a telephone will make way for mobile devices. This is not surprising, perhaps, but not every company is ready to believe it. However, it’s only a matter of time until they do, in my opinion and that of Jeannine Peek, managing director of Dell Netherlands.
As business partners, StartReady and technology provider Dell deliver worldwide Universal Communications solutions to companies. Together, we have seen the workplace change in the last few years. Where do we think the development of the modern workplace is going?
Log in and get to work
According to Jeannine Peek, in the workplace of the future, regardless of location or the device you use, you should be able to get the right information to do your job. To accomplish this, several conditions must be fulfilled. Peek: “Firstly, this calls for a safe workplace. Security is very important in this shift towards greater flexibility and openness. In addition, ease of use is essential. Regardless of the device that employees use, it should work in the same way, even at home, for example, where people work with the TV as a display, or on the mobile phone or laptop. You should not notice the differences between devices. In the near future a simple log in should be enough to get started right away. "
Communication in the office of the future
The role of communication technology in achieving this ideal is indisputably great. Peek: “Communication is becoming increasingly important because it supports collaboration. People are increasingly working in other places than the office, and so there are resources that would allow us to share documents, to hold meetings or to speak face-to-face. This should be standard in the future, but only if organizations can facilitate it. And, acceptance of the required technology differs somewhat between companies. At Dell itself, for instance, a large international company, communication is crucial and we cannot imagine working without Microsoft Lync, but elsewhere that is not always self-evident.”
Change is a question of time
I see in practice how many companies benefit from better accessibility and integrated communication. The current workforce of organizations constitutes an ever greater proportion of knowledge workers. They are not bound to the concept of the old-fashioned office. In fact, they want to work and communicate anywhere and at any time of the day with colleagues or external parties. I think this fits into a larger, overall development, as we seek a better balance between work and personal activities. Sitting behind a PC from 9:00 until 17:00 has not proven to be the most effective or desirable way of working. It's UC technology that can meet the new needs of the employee and can provide the transformation to the office of the future.
Many companies are already engaged in this transformation, but solutions like Lync and Skype for Business have not been introduced everywhere. Peek: “There are many ‘traditional’ companies that still prefer to arrange physical meetings and have everyone come together at one location. While this can become much more efficient, the realization of the need for change at these companies seems to me a matter of time. Ultimately, every organization will understand the value of digital communication platforms.”
Learning from the consumer
As often happens with technology, the consumer is the vanguard for the business user. Peek: “The consumer is often at the forefront. Certainly young people are usually the first to use the latest communication. Companies can learn from this. Keep your eye on the trends, they are also useful for development in the enterprise market. With Skype for Business, the latest upgrade to Microsoft Lync, Microsoft is trying to anticipate this and bring work and home closer together. It does so under the name Universal Communications (instead of Unified Communications). I expect that it will have implications for the modern workplace, which actually can be anywhere since we can do our work anywhere, even at home. This is blurring the boundaries between work and home, resulting in a fusion of communication for all purposes. Skype is a tool that has always been very popular for private use and is now combined with business applications in Skype for Business. I find the decision to further integrate to be a wise move by Microsoft. People want such a service because it makes communication easier and more straightforward.”
Awareness and use
There remain obstacles on the way to the ideal office. The more transparency there is, the more doubts about the safety of information, a concern with which Dell is certainly involved. “Security remains very important in every case. If we open up all the communications then companies must be careful, especially with the establishment of the Dutch Duty to Report Data Leaks. Careless handling of data can be expensive as a company. Definitely a concern with the rise of flexible, open communication from any location and on any device. But I am convinced that the technology is going to solve this,” says Peek. “Also, I notice among customers that safety is a priority. Especially now that corporate UC will increasingly overlap with consumer software. Fortunately, there are many techniques to secure software. The employee himself is, ultimately, the weakest link.”
The barriers to the optimal workplace, therefore, sit more in the employees than in the technology. Awareness and use are the magic words. StartReady gives the use of technology in the workplace and the adoption of solutions extra attention. Adoption of UC remains a challenge for companies because applications like Skype for Business affect the entire work process. Supervision and training are necessary and to make this as efficient and enjoyable as possible, we are currently working on a serious game that can promote adoption of Skype for Business. Jeannine Peek also sees that the introduction of new software, technology tools, and modern ways of working do not happen by themselves: “It takes time to get new technology and practices into the minds of the management and employees. Though, the influx of young people into the organization can accelerate this process. Businesses have no choice but to go along with their wishes, needs and habits.”
Author - Lucas Wensing, CEO StartReady