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Several tents with a mountain as backdrop

Top IT trends in 2018: digital workplaces

Joe Manuele, Group Executive, Customer Experience and Workplace Productivity; Alex Bennett, Customer Experience and Workplace Productivity Practice-lead: Productivity; and Dino Marasco: Customer Experience and Workplace Productivity: Go-to-Market Lead; share their thoughts on the top digital workplace trends in the year ahead.

Trend 1: Artificial intelligence driving voice-enabled virtual assistants in the enterprise

Artificial intelligence-driven virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana have been around for some time in the consumer world. These voice-activated helpers assist us to find information, and carry out a range of everyday tasks on our behalf.

These virtual assistants are now starting to make their way into the workplace. According to our recently published Digital Workplace Report, 62% of organisations expect virtual assistants to have a place in their companies in the next two years.

Voice is cool again

Because these virtual assistants are voice-enabled, they allow us to get things done much faster ─ you don’t have to log onto your computer and then onto some sort of system or application using a username and password to complete a task.

Imagine you wake up on a Monday morning, ready to tackle your working week. Your first meeting is only at 10:00 am, so you decide to spend an hour or so in your home office. One of the items on your list is to approve an employee’s expense claim. You simply say: ‘Cortana, please approve Mike’s expenses’ – and it’s done.

Just before setting off to the office, you ask Cortana to scan the traffic newsfeeds to check for any disruptions along your normal route, and if so, recommend the best alternative. If necessary, using automated messaging integrated into Microsoft Exchange, Cortana could also inform the colleagues who you’re meeting at 10:00 am that you may be late, or need to reschedule.

Trend 2: Smart buildings are evolving into smart workplaces

In 2018, we expect to see smart buildings evolving into what we call ‘smart workplaces’.

For example, by leveraging the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and wireless virtual beacon technology, property owners can track which parts of a building have the greatest footfall and attach a higher rental price tag to those areas. They can even use data collected by sensors to negotiate new contracts with their office cleaning providers, based on the amount of dirt that accumulates in different areas.

Let’s return to your Monday morning arrival at the office to explore some of the other smart workplace innovations that we can look forward to in the year ahead…

As you enter your office parking garage, a smart parking system allocates you to a bay as close as possible to where your meeting is located. On entering the building, a biometric identity verification system, using a combination of voice and facial recognition, grants you access to the reception area.

Next, what’s known as ‘ambient artificial intelligence’ kicks in. The digital signage in the passageways identifies who you are and where you need to go and directs you to your meeting room.

By integrating with identity solutions such as Microsoft Active Directory and using voice and facial recognition, the room senses your arrival, and immediately brings the other attendees into the meeting via video. A smart board automatically shows the notes you’ve made during a meeting held the previous week. The lights dim, the blinds close, and your meeting begins.

Trend 3: Support of major vendors is driving adoption of Web real-time communication (RTC)

While Web RTC has been around for some time, we expect to see an increase in its adoption in 2018 because Apple and Microsoft ─ whose browsers are the most popular ─ are embracing the technology.

Web RTC allows you to enable a video meeting using only a web browser. You don’t need a client on your desktop, and attendees don’t need to worry about finding meeting call-in numbers and passwords. Everyone simply clicks on a link and joins the meeting via their respective browsers.

Web RTC will also provide new ways for organisations to communicate with and support their customers, driving greater levels of customer experience.

Trend 4: Video becomes the defacto

Video is becoming mainstream to the point where organisations are re-defining their workplaces to make it more collaborative and supportive of video.

Traditional workplaces typically include offices, cubicles, and meeting rooms. Increasingly we’re seeing a shift to workplaces that comprise of more shared spaces, commonly known as activity-based working. This could include huddle rooms and other small office spaces where people can collaborate and have video conferences.

Network considerations

While video is good for productivity, you need to consider the impact on the network. If you start video-enabling all your users and Web RTC becomes the primary way to communicate and collaborate, your supporting digital infrastructure needs to be able to cope.

Trend 5: From BYOD to BYOA ─ the next wave of individual empowerment

Next on your Monday afternoon agenda is a catch up with Sanjay, a 20-something data analyst on your team, who’s based in India. This meeting takes the form of a video-enabled WhatsApp call from a hot desk.

When Sanjay joined the organisation, he quickly expressed his frustration with internally provided tools and requested that you rather meet via FaceTime or WhatsApp. He’s also sourced his own powerful data visualisation software to enable him to quickly ‘slice and dice’ data and conduct in-depth analysis, rather than rely on spreadsheets.

This scenario is indicative of a trend that we believe we’ll start to see accelerating in 2018. Individuals are increasingly asserting their desire to communicate and collaborate however they want, using their choice of tools. Employees ─ particularly millennials don’t just prefer to use their own devices, they also want to use their own applications.

This is a trend that’s been dubbed ‘bring your own app’ or BYOA.

What’s the impact on the IT team?

BYOA means that what IT needs to deliver to the business is going to change.

IT teams shouldn’t deploy technology just for the sake of it. They should firstly focus on understanding what a functional team or employee needs to perform their particular tasks and ensure that they feel empowered to use it, while following regulatory and compliance requirements.

IT’s metrics will also need to change. It’s no longer just about keeping track of uptime of the environment. Integrated business outcome KPIs are required regarding adoption, usage, pipeline increase, and speed of sale so that, for example, you can demonstrate that the productivity platform deployed is increasing sales.

Monday’s been a productive but tiring day so you decide to head home. As you approach your apartment, you turn your thoughts to the evening ahead. You decide that a quiet night in with a pizza and a Netflix movie is just what you need – all arranged by your virtual assistant of course!

Read more about Dimension Data's 2018 predictions below:

Comments/What do you think?


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