AI, video, RTC, bring your own application, transform future workplace

By Arun Shankar   11 January, 2018
AI, video, RTC, bring your own application, transform future workplace

Joe Manuele, Group Executive Customer Experience and Workplace Productivity, Dimension Data.


Senior executives from Dimension Data including Joe Manuele, Group Executive Customer Experience and Workplace Productivity; Alex Bennet, Group End-user Computing GTM Director, Workspace Productivity; and Dino Marasco, Senior Vice President GTM and Business Development, Collaboration and Customer Experience Business Unit; share their thoughts on what will be the top digital workplaces trends to watch in the year ahead.

#1 Artificial intelligence driving voice-enabled virtual assistants

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. They can make shopping lists and order fast-food deliveries to your door. You can ask them to tell you what the weather will be like today, or which team won the big football game the night before.

These artificial intelligence-driven virtual assistants are now starting to make their way into the workplace and are helping businesses reduce costs by automating basic tasks previously performed by people, or by completing everyday tasks much faster. 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.

Because these virtual assistants are voice-enabled, they allow us to get things done much faster. You do not have to log onto your computer and then onto some sort of system or application using a username and password in order to complete a task.

#2 Smart buildings are evolving into smart workplaces

At their most basic level, smart buildings provide services that make them more energy efficient and more comfortable for people to occupy. In 2018 we expect to see significant advancements in this area, with 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 identify which areas experience the most pilfering – and adjust their insurance premiums accordingly. 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! Better space utilisation is another benefit – because an organisation can understand where and when people are within their offices. Businesses can use analytics to determine how well their meeting rooms are being used.

#3 Adoption of Web real-time communication

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. Microsoft already supports Web RTC and Apple has announced its intention to do so later this year.

Web RTC allows you to enable a video meeting using only a web browser. So, you do not need a client on your desktop, and attendees do not 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: One attendee could be using an iPhone, another a Windows 10 PC, and a third person a Google Android device.

Web RTC will also provide new ways for organisations to communicate with and support their customers, driving greater levels of customer experience. Since browsers are ubiquitous across all user device types, supporting communication-based applications will become more efficient, allowing for more optimised deployment of new collaboration functionality that employees can leverage to be more productive.

We expect that this will take people’s ability to communicate quickly and seamlessly, especially with those outside of their organisations, to a whole new level.

#4 Video becomes defacto

These developments will accelerate the trend of ubiquitous video. Video is becoming mainstream to the point where organisations are re-defining their workplaces to make them more collaborative and supportive of video.

Traditional workplaces are typically made up of offices, cubicles, and meeting rooms. Increasingly what we are seeing is a shift to workplaces that comprise of more shared spaces, commonly known as activity-based working: for example, huddle rooms and other small office spaces where people can collaborate and have video conferences. And because video conferencing technology has become a lot more cost effective and easy to use, organisations are placing video-enabled devices with the ability to support content creation into areas where they would previously have put static whiteboards.

While this 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 that you communicate and collaborate, your supporting digital infrastructure needs to be able to cope. The amount of bandwidth required for one video call can be 100 times more than what is required for a simple audio call of the same length.

According to The Digital Workplace Report, only 9% of organisations identify ubiquitous network access as the most important element of their digital workplace strategies, and only 27% place it in their top three. This is potentially problematic.

#5 BYOD to BYOA, 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 a few months ago, he quickly expressed his frustration with internally provided tools and requested that you rather meet via FaceTime or WhatsApp. He 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. You are happy with this arrangement – after all, what really matters to you and the company is the outcome that your employees deliver.

This scenario is indicative of a trend that we believe we will 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 – do not just prefer to use their own devices, they also want to use their own applications.

If they feel that the applications provided by their employers are not meeting their needs they will simply go and download software off an application store – this is a trend that has been dubbed bring your own application or BYOA.

#6 What is the impact on the IT team?

This doesn’t mean that there’s no longer a place for IT in the enterprise. However, what they need to deliver to the business is going to change. IT teams should not deploy technology just for the sake of it. They should first focus on understanding what a functional team or employee needs in order 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 is no longer just about keeping track of uptime of the environment. You also need to have integrated business outcome KPIs regarding adoption, usage, pipeline increase, speed of sale – so you can demonstrate that the productivity platform deployed is increasing sales, as an example.

IT teams should also consider using artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyse the extent to which people are using applications, and which of the tools are being leveraged. They can then drive targeted micro-learning to individual employees to build their confidence in features that will help them perform tasks faster, and more efficiently.

Monday has been a productive but tiring day. It’s just gone 17:30, 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 Domino’s pizza and a Netflix movie is just what you need – all arranged by your virtual assistant of course!

Key trends including bring your own application, real-time video, smart workplaces, virtual assistants, are driving transformation of the digital workplace, explain global executives from Dimension Data.

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