Today's workplace is no longer a fixed space with four walls. Instead, it's wherever a worker happens to be during a given work week, like an airport, customer location or home office. The rise of telecommuting and the surge of mobile productivity tools such as smartphones and
Cloud services have made the idea of an "office space" almost obsolete. The office of the 21st century is mobile, flexible and often invisible. It costs less to lease, requires no upfront investment in bolted-down equipment and gives enterprises the freedom to transcend geographies and time zones. Most importantly, the new mobile office enables workers to be more productive and more collaborative from any location and any device. We no longer need to go in to the office to get work done; we simply need to log into the corporate network.
There are some risks, however, in embracing a mobile mindset. Enterprises must adapt their security and business policies to protect information and ensure compliance in a mobile environment -- including, if supported, bring your own device (BYOD) policies -- as well as ensure their corporate network can handle the demand of remote users, particularly in terms of bandwidth and application performance. But these risks are relatively easy to mitigate with proper planning. In many ways, the mobile workplace is more of a challenge when it comes to old assumptions about productivity and teamwork:
It is no longer a 9-to-5 world. The wheels of industry keep rolling between 5:00 pm and 9:00 am. Thanks to unified communications (UC), conversations can now move seamlessly across locations, modes (voice, video, instant messaging, email) and even different devices, providing 24/7 connectivity.
IT is no longer the tech overlord. The days of the IT-issued, standardized phone and laptop are fast disappearing. Employees are more tech savvy than ever before and have more of a say in the devices and applications they use at work. Most companies either support or soon plan to support BYOD initiatives that allow employees to use their personal devices for work. While this has a cost-saving benefit for businesses, the real advantage of BYOD is the added productivity that results when employees pick their own tools.
Collaboration no longer requires cohabitation. In the past, companies organized their offices by department because proximity and productivity went hand in hand. Businesses now realize the value of virtual teams and recognize that real-time collaboration can happen anywhere and at any time.
You don't attract talent, you find it. It used to be that businesses were bound to metropolitan areas in order to attract the best talent and the most clients. That's no longer the case. Many businesses have found that investing in people rather than real estate can pay higher dividends -- provided they have the right communications tools in place to enable robust collaboration and customer service.
The common theme in the workplace of the future is communication. If employees can't communicate quickly, seamlessly and collaboratively, then mobility becomes a liability in terms of lost productivity and lost revenue. Fortunately for businesses, technology is driving communications toward a mobile model through cloud-based solutions, "smarter" mobile devices, UC platforms and ubiquitous wireless access.
But mobilizing enterprise communications is more than just moving everything magically into the cloud. It has real ramifications for your network, security and business applications -- challenges that we'll cover over the next several articles in this series.