Like any leader overseeing a large geographic region, I have often found myself meeting with partners in Sydney, attending a customer event in Auckland and joining an analyst briefing in Singapore – all in the same week. Unlike in the past, I have been able to meet these commitments without even having to board a plane.
As we head towards 2017, the changing nature of collaboration, driven by advances in communication tech, continues to impact business at all levels, from C-Suite to intern. Consequently, the workplace of the future is more flexible than the traditional workspace, both in terms of how a business’s physical space may be used and in terms of the expectations around where employees may be located on any given day. All of this reflects an increasing dependence on global teams in business – 69% in Australia and 71% in New Zealand – according to our own Workplace of the Future research.
In 2016, we’ve seen many collaboration predictions come to fruition – particularly when it comes to technologies that are easy to use and enable more natural collaboration across environments and locations. Workspaces and workplace behavior have also evolved. Witness the rise in popularity of the ‘huddle room’ (or small group meeting space), which not only encourages impromptu catch-ups but also delivers better use of company office space. Wainhouse Research estimates there are now 30-50 million of these worldwide compared with 10 million traditional style conference and board rooms.
So what impact are all these changes having, and what direction will workplace collaboration take in 2017? I’ve identified five key areas that I believe will be important in the year ahead.
1. Access anywhere collaboration
As more people get access to collaborative technologies at work, there is an increased end user expectation that collaboration tools should be as easy and intuitive to use as smartphones or tablets. People expect to be able work in the same way across any device – in different rooms – as they move from a desk to a meeting room – seamlessly and effortlessly. To continue to drive user adoption, collaboration tools will need to be designed for this way of working.
2. Creating intelligent and personal customer experiences
Organisations understand that to create loyal customers, experience is everything. In an age where information is instantly available online, customers are more empowered than ever before. Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2018, the world’s largest companies will make use of intelligent apps, big data and analytics to improve customer’s interaction with their organisation. In 2017, interactive collaboration technologies like video are expected to be increasingly adopted as a way of personalising the customer experience. Face to face communication in real time enables customers to be more closely connected, develop rapport and have open dialogue; which can lead to even greater innovation, as well as loyalty.
3. Digital transformation moves up APAC government agendas
Companies will continue their digital transformation journeys in 2017; and, according to research firm, IDC, worldwide spending on technologies is expected to exceed US $2.1 trillion by 2019. However, we are now also seeing the need for a digital transformation shift beyond the private sector to Government. Digitising economies and public services is now high on the agenda for many governments across Asia Pacific. Highly ambitious initiatives like the Digital Transformation Office in Australia, are a great example. With more digital natives joining the workforce – harnessing the right technology to ensure connectivity to society will be crucial to the success of public sector digital transformation initiatives.
4. Evolving workspaces and workstyles
Using a mix of cloud, mobile and desktop collaboration apps is fairly commonplace in today’s modern workplace and most organisations want their employees to be able to work easily regardless of location or device. Tomorrow’s technology has to be flexible enough to meet the demands of different workstyles and collaboration requirements ranging from group brainstorming to talent acquisition and training. Likewise, the ability to collaborate seamlessly is expected to be an integral factor in the design of future workspaces. Expect more open meeting spaces, huddle rooms and personal workspaces; as well as home offices.
5. Start-ups and entrepreneurs, more collaboration needed
Business start-ups and increased entrepreneurial spirit among millennials has contributed to workplace transformation and innovation throughout Asia Pacific. Co-working spaces, crowdfunding, and the hiring of freelancers has become increasingly commonplace among this new breed of business owners. However, there is risk attached to startups which has led to high failure rates. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggested that startups and established companies would both improve their success rates if they collaborated instead of competing, combining strengths. It’s expected that collaboration technology and platforms will continue to drive the spirit of innovation, keeping ideas and business concepts alive through the right connections and transfer of knowledge.
True collaboration delivering real value in 2017
Businesses of all sizes, and industries of all types have a common goal – and that is to bring people together to get things done, have meaningful and productive exchanges and work towards success.
Collaborative technologies have the power to level the playing field and give all a voice in the workplace of the future. This represents a tremendous opportunity for both the public and private sector to unleash their collaboration potential and embrace new ways of working.
I really believe that 2017 is the year more businesses and government organisations discover the real impact that rich, meaningful collaboration can deliver to employees, customers, and ultimately their bottom line.
About the Author
Tony Simonsen is Managing Director for Polycom (ANZ). Based in Sydney, Tony has more than twenty years of leadership and management experience in multiple roles across ANZ and Asia Pacific. He has a strong track record of success in delivering sustained bookings, revenue and profit growth.