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Top IT trends 2017: workspaces for tomorrow

Tony Walt, Group Executive ─ End-user Computing and Joe Manuele, Group Executive ─ Customer Experience and Collaboration, share their thoughts and insights on the top workspaces for tomorrow trends for 2017.

Trend 1: Machines are being embedded in the workspace for tomorrow

A new generation is starting to show up at work, and they’re not millennials, or even Gen Z – they’re machines!

Wearables are already at work in contact centres. They monitor the agents’ vital signs and can tell if they become stressed after a difficult call with an irate customer. This information is fed into the call centre routing software, which uses it to determine what kinds of calls get routed to these agents, in order to maximise customer experience.

Then there’s the robots ... 80% of car manufacturing already involves robots. They’ve been used in surgery for over 15 years, and the market for surgical robots is expected to top USD 24 billion by 2024. Over a quarter of a million industrial robots were installed in 2015, 33% more than the previous year.

3D printing is reshaping jobs in industry. GE Aviation is developing 3D printed (or additively manufactured) fuel nozzles for its LEAP engine for commercial planes. The issue with robots is not so much that they displace people’s jobs, but that companies will need to reassess their skills base in order to program, operate, and maintain them.

In the smart furniture space, Dimension Data has formed a partnership with a major workspace furniture manufacturer, as well as Intel, and a data analytics company, to embed Intel’s Internet of Things (IoT) devices into a new generation of smart workspace furniture at the manufacturing stage. These developments promise huge benefits in terms of optimised space utilisation, improved collaboration, and environmental benefits such as energy saving.

These ‘co-workers’ may sound futuristic, but they’re here today. It may take a few years for them to become widespread, but they’re already on a very steep, logarithmic growth curve.

And it won’t be much longer before holographics, augmented reality, and virtual reality begin to move from B2C into B2B as well. Over the next 2─3 years these technologies will drive a fundamental transformation of the workspace.

Network and security considerations

But, as they proliferate they also bring increased security risks, since all the new ‘things’ in your environment have their own unique digital identity. IoT devices are starting to be used as launch pads for nefarious activity such as distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), phishing, cyber extortion, Trojan horses, and many other forms of cyberattack that cost billions of dollars and disrupt entire industries. The increase in traffic will also put an added load on the network, on wifi, the LAN, and wide area networks.

It’s not just bandwidth though, there are architectural considerations. The massive proliferation of IoT devices is driving adoption of edge and fog computing, resulting in computing resources sitting closer to the device as opposed to in the cloud.

Trend 2: B2C applications are moving into B2B

Applications that started off in the B2C world are aggressively being used for enterprise applications. Some of these so-called ‘unicorn’ companies, which started as ‘freemium applications’ are moving aggressively into B2B.

Enterprises are being contacted by such companies saying, for example, ‘Five thousand of your people are using Slack, would you like to purchase the enterprise version of it now?’ And of course, the enterprise edition is often more secure and has better features that allow for compliance and data sovereignty.

Facebook recently announced that they’re entering the workspace, and there’s a lot of debate about whether that’s going to work. Facebook said in their last earnings report that, between Facebook and their recently acquired WhatsApp, which now has over a billion users, they process three times more messages on mobile devices than all of the world’s text messages combined.


So there’s definitely an evolution from traditional instant messaging to using social-based messaging applications in the enterprise. We’re watching this carefully because these applications are extremely disruptive. We’ve already seen them explode in the B2C environment.

It will be increasingly difficult to monitor and manage the integrity and security of the data as consumer messaging platforms become commonplace in the enterprise. Adoption is also likely to happen at a disruptive pace, as billions of people are familiar with this kind of tool already. And the line between personal use and work related use will become more blurred.

We also see the enterprise collaboration vendors responding. The corporate collaboration platforms recognise that they need to evolve if they are to remain a competitive option. Cisco’s response to Slack is Spark. Microsoft have just announced what they call their ‘Slack-killer’, Teams. We’re going to see a lot of competition in this space in 2017 coming from all quarters: from the born-in-the-cloud apps like Slack, from the social media kingpins like Facebook, and the corporate collaboration giants like Cisco and Microsoft.

Hybrid IT

The trend is also driving hybrid IT, with some applications residing on corporate premises or in the enterprise data centre, and other applications sitting in private or public clouds. CIOs will be the ones expected to deliver acceptable application performance regardless of where they sit.

So a unified approach to designing, managing, and supporting the hybrid environment will be key. And as the adoption of these B2C collaboration applications becomes more prolific within the workspace, due consideration needs to be given to how the data is secured over a multitude of public cloud platforms. CIOs and CISOs may be forced to embrace these technologies faster than they would want to.

Trend 3: Corporate-owned mobile devices are being enabled with enterprise applications

Up to now we’ve seen a lot of bring your own device (BYOD) in the workplace: people using their own personal devices for a few basic corporate tasks, typically email. This wasn’t necessarily ordained or blessed by the IT department.

What we’re seeing now is CIOs and CISOs of large- and medium-sized enterprises starting to give people mobile devices enabled with enterprise applications that they can also use as personal devices. This trend is being dubbed COPE: corporate-owned, personally-enabled.

Think about the evolution of your first day at work. We believe that what’s likely to happen pretty soon is when you show up you’re going to be given your laptop as well as a mobile phone. And on your new enterprise owned mobile phone, you’ll have pre-loaded corporate applications like access to your ERP systems, and your expense management tools.

So the ability for us to enable these mobile devices to access enterprise applications is a big trend. We’ve already seen Apple iOS and Google Android form partnerships with traditional enterprise software providers like SAP, IBM, and Cisco.

Enablement and control

We prefer to call this trend enabling enterprise mobility because enterprises need to do more than just ‘cope’ with the trend. They need to be in control of it by making sure that these enterprise applications are secure, and they have quality of service attached to them. As hardware and software become decoupled, the software on these devices will become more programmable and automated which will make them easier to maintain and support remotely.

Enterprises need to be mindful of the additional security challenges the evolution of enterprise mobility will bring, whoever owns the phone

COPE won’t take over completely from BYOD – they’ll co-exist. But enterprises need to be mindful of the additional security challenges the evolution of enterprise mobility will bring, whoever owns the phone. If an employee loses a corporate mobile device loaded with enterprise applications, it could give a thief an opening to access sensitive or valuable data.

Trend 4: Digital workspaces are beginning to produce data for behavioural analytics

As digital workspaces become more connected, they’re starting to produce information about how people are behaving and interacting in the workspace.

Previously when people worked on isolated devices there was no way to understand how they interacted with other people and systems. You only had management information reports that gave you a view of the past.

Now, with collaboration applications in the cloud and B2C applications entering the enterprise, there are many more sources of information about what’s going on. We can collect transactional information on the human beings in the organisation and use it to predict outcomes.

With better connected devices and systems, we can begin to analyse individuals’ behaviour, see how they relate to each other, and tell whether those working relationships are optimal for productive collaboration.

Visibility beyond borders

The more you move your communication and collaboration technology into the cloud, the more you open up a whole new view of how people interact and engage with one another.

The space it sheds light on is a borderless one: it’s anywhere your employees work, and it extends not just to employees but to suppliers, partners, and ultimately customers.

Where interaction and collaboration are optimal, it helps innovation

It’s very useful for organisations to understand where their people’s interaction is optimal – and where it isn’t. Where interaction and collaboration are optimal, it helps innovation, and that in turn helps organisations to be more competitive.

So smart digital workspaces are an important emerging trend and companies should seek guidance from an established digital business consultancy to analyse the emerging data and define their future workspace strategy.

Trend 5: Video conferencing is reaching its tipping point

Video conferencing used to mean a dedicated telepresence room. You had to go to a specific location in order to participate in a video conference. Then, as the price points came down, smaller conference rooms started becoming equipped with telepresence. More recently we’ve started to see the adoption of personal video end-point devices.

Over the last year price points have dropped further still, but video end points have also become easier to use. This is partly because the applications have moved to the cloud. You don’t have to have dedicated media convergence units or video bridges in your own data centre, and it’s very easy to add users.

A video conference can also involve a combination of people dialed in from a hotel room on wifi, on a laptop, connecting with a telepresence suite at the head office, and a person on a personal end-point in their home office.

Cultural change

Making video the norm changes the culture of an organisation. Google made a decision to video-enable all 50,000 of their conference rooms. So now there’s no other choice than communicating over video. And the folks at Google say it’s changed their culture. It changed the way they collaborate, and it’s improved the productivity of meetings as well.

As a rule of thumb, video requires 50 times more bandwidth than voice. So as it becomes more pervasive it’s going to put more pressure on your network, from the wifi access point, through the access switches, and right across the LAN and the WAN. Enterprises need to assess realistically the upgrades they need to make, particularly at the edges of the network, to cope with the increase in traffic. For many businesses, a dedicated managed video service solves the problem of ensuring that all the supporting infrastructure is geared to support a quality user experience.

We believe technology is the key that unlocks potential for businesses, and for the world, in ways we’re only beginning to comprehend. By applying our capabilities in workspaces for tomorrow, hybrid cloud, digital infrastructure, and cybersecurity, we look forward to continuing to help our clients accelerate their journeys to become digital businesses in 2017.

Find out more about other top trends in 2017

Digital business

Digital infrastructure

Hybrid cloud


Comments/What do you think?


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