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The seven trends IT managers need to be aware of in 2016

2016 is a year of adjustment, in recent years IT departments have been rocked by explosive new technologies like mobile and cloud that left them rushing to catch up.

This year, IT departments have the chance to consolidate their projects and investments, and plan for incremental updates and user-driven developments to deliver the best possible deployments for their organisations.

1. Millennials; no longer modern

Millennials are so 2015, so much so that now they are everywhere. The question of which generation will have the largest impact on the Workplace of the Future has been answered. In 2015, Millennials became the largest generation in the U.S. labour force and will make up 75 per cent of the UK workforce by 2025. They are the most active and engaged through social networks, using technology more frequently than any other generation to stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues.

They are natural collaborators and gravitate to video for both communication and learning. In a recent study commissioned by Polycom, 78 per cent of millennials indicated access to the technology they preferred to use makes them more productive at work. What they experience in their personal lives, they expect in the workplace. That means, through sheer numbers these ageing ‘fresh-faces’ will drive the demand for better technology at work. I believe companies who do not offer the solutions they want will be in danger of losing top talent. The workplace of the future is one that can successfully mesh together the millennial generation with the existing workforce.

2. One UI to use them all, one log in to bind them

The modern worker wants to be able to perform work tasks from any location, at any time, from any device, with the same level of productivity as can be achieved in the office. A recent Polycom-commissioned study showed 72 per cent of businesses in the UK are offering or expanding remote working options and this is dramatically changing how we work. Collaboration in the age of mobility reaches beyond the specific applications a device provides, and is more about seamless integration across different devices and locations. In 2016 there will be an increased focus on how devices interact with each other to deliver an integrated collaboration experience.

We want to connect consistently and easily across mobile devices, personal systems and more. In the next year we also expect to see more workers using their mobile devices as personal “remotes” and to connect, control and interact with technology, such as presentation screens and video conferencing systems in the boardroom.

3. R you ready for WebRTC?

Leveraging the web browser to access collaboration has been an objective for the industry and WebRTC is emerging as a viable technical option. Ira Weinstein, senior analyst of Wainhouse Research, predicts that over the next three to five years, as more browsers become WebRTC friendly, enterprises will embrace the technology, so that means laying the foundations now. Initially this approach will simplify interactions with customers, making the offer of customer service via video much easier. Over time this will extend to business collaboration as well. WebRTC enables browser-to-browser video connections without the need to install plug-ins or additional technology.

However, despite considerable interest we expect it will be some time before WebRTC sees widespread adoption. This is due to lack of standardisation, inconsistent browser support, and minimal interoperability between WebRTC applications and established enterprise collaboration solutions. Devising ways to combat these challenges and investing in interoperable solutions in 2016 is a smart move. WebRTC will play an important role in familiarising more end users with video communications, the audio, content-sharing and video quality found in enterprise-grade visual collaboration systems.

4. Boardroom boredom

Where you work is now wherever you are and this is driving an important shift in enterprise facilities planning and IT. Meetings are no longer confined to the boardroom, but are extending throughout the enterprise and into virtual spaces outside the office. Audio, content sharing and video communications are no longer just conference room technologies, but now permeate every workspace inside and out of the office.

In 2016, we believe the industry will place a renewed focus on enabling a wide range of workspaces, expanding huddle/smaller rooms and demonstrate an increasing desire for centre-of-the-room collaboration solutions that allow people to look at each other, not up at a screen. Wainhouse Research estimates there to be 30-50 million huddle rooms around the world, the vast majority of which are lacking technology support for meetings. While traditional conference rooms are still valuable for presentations, 2016 could be the year that we break out of the boardroom.

5. Head in the clouds no more

The cloud holds unique promise in delivering services. It is fundamentally changing how enterprises procure and consume these services and is driving new usage models. In the past many small businesses viewed technologies such as collaboration solutions as an unattainable luxury beyond their limited IT teams and budget. Cloud opens up opportunities for small businesses to operate on an equal footing to their larger competitors by scaling through easier access to services. What will really open doors in 2016 are emerging over-the-top solutions that are expected to enhance productivity and interactivity for all businesses. Services such as analytics, diagnostics, translation and natural language processing will play a huge role in helping to advance user experience and arm customers with critical usage data and tools for more effective operations.

6. The end of the email trail

In 2015, Polycom predicted greater enterprise globalisation would ultimately create a higher demand for more tools that enable better ways of communicating than email alone. No matter how effective the communications network, it can’t mitigate the time zone challenges inherent in a global workforce. As the rapid expansion of globalisation continues, we believe 2016 will be the year of video content capture. This will be searchable by key words, like email, but spoken words, meaning additional information such as tone and context will be available in the ‘video trail’.

A greater number of companies will adopt a “follow the sun” strategy which will place greater emphasis on collective memory - the ability to capture, persist and share relevant key information across the enterprise. That will in turn drive adoption of solutions that allow users to seamlessly and simply capture video, audio and content collaboration, and support playback and analysis from any location at any time. Companies that focus on leveraging collective memory will be better able to preserve key intellectual property and maximise productivity, creativity and learning.

7. No more ‘death by PowerPoint’

We all know how frustrating working on a shared document can be, especially on a conference call. Static screen sharing just doesn’t cut it in 2016. Collaboration across locations and devices has rapidly improved thanks in large part to high-quality audio, content sharing and video solutions available in the market today.

What will drive productivity in 2016 are solutions that allow users to share and joint-edit high quality content automatically, simply and intuitively. Working on shared presentations, documents and work products in real time is fundamental to collaboration and in the past it has been a challenge to do this consistently and reliably. New technologies will allow users to be confident that the content they see is being displayed accurately and clearly to their coworkers.

Since collaboration often centres on more than one document, sharing multiple streams of multimedia and interactive content will become easier than plugging in a VGA cable today. Annotation, updating, recording and sharing of content will all be standard

Marco Landi, President, EMEA Polycom

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Makistock