The business impact of changes to company communication technology systems can be hard to quantify in the short term. Improvements in connectivity, or central access to files, might make an immediate difference to employees’ lives, but they may not initially change bottom lines.
But incremental changes and improvements to systems can have seismic effects over a period of time. What at first may be an easier way of accessing email from home can lead to flexible working practices, better work-life balances, increased staff retention and cost savings. Cloud storage that enables workers to access files from anywhere could be the beginning of a new period of collaboration and innovation.
Workplaces have already moved away from desk-top computers to a more mobile way of working. Always-on connectivity and constant access to information are transforming businesses – bringing cost savings and improving margins. But the transition to a more connected, mobile workplace is far from over for even the most advanced companies.
In the coming years, people will become so intrinsically linked through networks, wearable devices and wireless internet that the boundaries between on and offline will blur. When Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in January 2015 that ‘the internet will disappear’ he was describing a future in which layers of data and algorithms will augment everyday life until every aspect of human existence will be plugged into an infinite network.
But what does this mean for the world of work?
The nine-to-five, central office will become far less prominent. Employers will be required to cater for a globally disparate, flexible and agile workforce, able to work on any project so long as the tools, contacts and documents they require are available at all times. The influence and popularisation of virtual reality worlds (accessed through headsets such as Oculus Rift or Sony Morpheus) bring about the possibility of the “workplace” as a virtual, rather than physical, space.
Crucial to this vision of tomorrow’s workplace are flexible, scalable and reliable unified communication systems. The advances made possible by such technologies perhaps represent a daunting cultural shift for businesses. But they represent an unmissable opportunity to increase efficiency and productivity while saving costs and increasing margins.