Age of the mobile worker

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New technologies lend employees the flexibility to work outside physical workspaces, resulting in higher efficiency

Age of the mobile worker
The workplace is no longer confined to one’s workstation. Business operations have assumed a global flavour and require offices across geographies to be connected in a way that allows quicker, smarter and more efficient information exchange. Increase in mobility has created a need for users to be connected all the time and access information from anywhere, increasingly through their device of choice. Likewise, the increased numbers of next generation employees across various organisations expect to use social tools like Facebook, Orkut, Twitter and instant messaging at work, just like they do in their personal lives.

A fundamental need to allow their employees engage with each other efficiently is prompting organisations across the board to seek the right tools that facilitate virtual meetings and help employees stay more connected with their peers while bringing key people to facilitate discussions, ideas, and decision-making. Business leaders and IT decision-makers recognise that collaboration helps boost productivity and gain competitive advantage within tight budget constraints.

Both large-scale enterprises as well as small businesses have begun evaluating how unified communications can accelerate a company’s time to market and create a more productive and engaged workforce. These organisations are looking to overcome their business and technology complexities by integrating voice, video conferencing and social media and seek customised processes, tools and techniques to help eliminate the barriers to communications and connectivity.

A Cisco IBSG study indicates that 95 per cent of organisations surveyed have begun allowing employee-owned devices in some way, and 36 per cent of surveyed enterprises provide full support for employee-owned devices. These statistics underpin a major shift in the way people access information in the office, at home and on-the-go, a shift that will continue to gain momentum.

Technologies like web and video conferencing provide employees the flexibility to work outside their physical workspaces and help reduce time and cost for travel, thereby resulting in augmented efficiency levels besides higher job satisfaction. Video can have a profound impact on the way business is done in today’s digitally connected world. With the emergence of the internet and the evolution of network-centric business practices, many companies have turned to video conferencing, because it allows groups to share documents and collaborate on projects in real time.

Video is becoming pervasive and users now demand the ability to conference on any device, anywhere. Although, at present, audio conferencing remains one of the most popular forms of unified communications (UC), many companies, incl­uding SMBs, are combining video conferencing capabilities to create virtual meetings and work faster and more effectively.

Social is here to stay and organisations seek integrated solutions that bring in IP telephony, enterprise video, instant messaging presence, chat, et al in one solution. As social networks grow in size and complexity, organisations are making security the top priority in the design, deployment, and maintenance of their network, platform, applications and deploying solutions that help enforce security policies while at the same time ensuring a seamless user experience.

Cloud services are opening up opportunities for collaboration and are now making it possible for many organisations to access applications and services that they would otherwise find unaffordable. This, in turn, has opened up a whole new model of hosted services. With pay-as-you-go services, customers are able to get started with “plug-and-play” simplicity. Small businesses find that cloud strategies not only enable them meet their business objectives but also help simplify the existing technology environment, save costs, and convert their capital expenditure to operational expenditure.

Whether it is audio conferencing, video conferencing or web conferencing integrated unified communications solutions lead to increased productivity, help save travel cost and promise the ease of use. A Frost & Sullivan report indicates that the market for video conferencing is $70-90 million with 12-18 per cent year-on-year growth. As per a Forrester report released in 2010, enterprise social networking is estimated to become a $6 billion industry by 2016. The market as per IDC is projected to grow at a 43 per cent CAGR over the next four years.

Likewise web conferencing delivered over the cloud is the fastest growing segment. According to Frost & Sullivan, audio, web and video conferencing tools delivered via software-as-a-service (SaaS) is expected to reach $544 million this year in Apac, from $256 million in 2005. This momentum is expected to continue till 2017 and reach $1.3 billion.

Clearly collaboration is a way forward for most organisations, and technology is an enabler for that. The focus for most organisations is shifting from delivering individual best-in-class applications towards providing an integrated collaboration experience that delivers consistent functionality across multiple platforms in a cost-effective manner. In the long run, providing a combination of scale, security, and accessibility through a variety of devices and operating systems helps to address an organisation’s greatest challenge — to innovate and stay relevant. zz

(The author is director, collaboration business at Cisco India and Saarc)

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