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The IT landscape of today already looks very different than it did just five years ago. Back then, technology like cloud computing was only just getting started and was something only for the most forward-thinking businesses, rather than the everyday tool it is today. Since then, the demand to keep up with pleas for increased bandwidth and more affordable storage has made big data analytics a reality for many more companies.
With the big data being gathered from a whole host of sources including networks, devices, sensors, web and social media, this data is being generated in real time and in large volumes. Whilst this data is incredibly useful to business in terms of being able to inform decisions quicker which overall will improve business performance and operations, the increase of bandwidth required is substantial.
Let us not forget that, communication and collaboration have come a long way too. Greatly improved networking speeds and reliability, for example, have meant that high-definition video-conferencing is more practical than ever. The emergence of enterprise-focused social media tools and simpler file-sharing has also transformed how employees work together on projects, with physical distance no longer a barrier.
But nothing stands still in the tech world long enough for you to catch up, and collaboration is no different. So what can businesses expect the key trends of the coming years to be and how will this impact collaboration?
A different attitude
Many of the expected changes will come about as a result of shifting attitudes among employees, particularly as younger generations continue to enter the workforce and bring with them their own notions of how communication and collaboration should work.
We've already seen the impact that millennial workers have had in areas such as pushing for more flexible working and embracing new technologies. We predict that in the next few years, there's likely to be another shift as Generation Z enters the workplace. Our Workforces 2025 research (full report available here) with YouGov & industry-leading futurist, Graeme Codrington, identifies a few key trends:
- 56 per cent of decision makers said the ability to work anywhere would improve working practices. This shoots up to 67 per cent of London-based employers
- Medical and financial services are frontrunners in support of technologies to mobilise their workforces, with 72 per cent and 70 per cent of decision makers respectively considering this a priority
- More than 1/3 believe their job will not only exist in three years but it will be positively supported by AI
These digital-native individuals, who've never known a world without Facebook, the iPhone, or even dial up internet for that matter, expect to be able to keep in touch whenever and wherever they are, via whatever medium they want, so future collaboration strategies will have to take these habits into account.
A more converged environment
A key feature of the future working environment will be one where there's no one preferred method of communication. Instead, digitally-savvy employees may well opt to frequently jump between channels, using whatever is most convenient at any given moment. We‘re already seeing this trend emerge and it won’t be that long until more employees and businesses as a whole adopt the same approach. Therefore, a converged environment that is able to support platforms including video, voice, instant messaging and social channels in an integrated solution will be in high demand.
Research from Markets and Markets, for instance, projects that global spending on such collaboration tools is set to grow from $26.68 billion (£20.31 billion) in 2016 to $49.51 billion by 2021. The study also forecasts greater use of cloud collaboration solutions and business social network tools.
What about tools like voice?
Just because there are indicators that point towards this shift in how communications will become converged, this does not mean that more traditional methods of keeping in touch with colleagues and customers, such as voice communications, will fall out of favour. In fact, voice also stands to benefit from more converged, high-quality connectivity.
A key facet of this will be greater use of VoIP and SIP technology as the basis of business communications. As companies upgrade their data networks to become more mobile and flexible, this technology will offer productivity and cost benefits, enabling firms to streamline their systems and easily scale up and down when required.
A recent study by Eastern Management Group, for example, forecasts that by 2020, 70 per cent of business network traffic is expected to use SIP, up from just 44 percent in 2016.
However, the key is for businesses to recognise that no channel - be it voice, video or IM - can be treated in isolation any more. Collaboration will be the key to the future success of any organisation, and a fully integrated communications strategy will be essential.
TalkTalk Business can help future-proof your business with a secure, scalable network to support cloud based technologies and applications including IP Voice solutions such as SIP Trunks or Hosted Voice to improve collaboration. To find the best solution for your business, please get in touch.