Without a doubt, the pandemic has transformed the world of work. We’ve seen a massive move to work from home, remote collaboration tools, video conferencing (opens in new tab) and more. But it’s simplistic to think that these unchartered times have changed everything about the way we work. The truth is more complicated. Many organizations haven’t truly transformed. Instead, they’ve just changed how and where they gather. Pre-pandemic, they collaborated in a conference room; today they meet from home offices.
People are working from home, but for many, their workstreams haven’t changed. And because of this, they’re not gaining full advantage of the many opportunities of hybrid work and digital transformation.
For organizations that haven’t yet prioritized digital transformation, this moment is an opportunity to modernize and streamline work processes along with the adoption of new technologies. Yet some organizations remain reluctant to move away from their legacy technologies, even if the old systems and old ways of working don’t deliver the speed, agility and personalized service that today’s world demands.
So how can organizations embrace the future of work? It’s now about moving from complacency to “composability.” This means creating customer and employee experiences architected for swift, sustainable differentiation in a way that delivers maximum resiliency and agility. Making this happen requires a composable enterprise, supported by a robust, cloud-based (opens in new tab) communications platform that can help organizations become more agile, embrace new opportunities and deliver better business outcomes via customized and packaged applications and APIs. Simply put, composability helps break the cycle of hanging onto legacy technologies, opening the doors to improved workflows and enhanced customer experience.
Thinking beyond video conferencing
Digital transformation is not just about using video calls to do work the same old ways. Instead, new platforms that create more immersive experiences can enable organizations to change the way they work in a fully digital way.
For example, many educational institutions had to quickly adapt to online learning in 2020 due to the pandemic. Using workstream collaboration (opens in new tab) solutions, schools could deploy single, user-friendly tools and move their operations entirely online in a short amount of time. The composability of these solutions also allowed schools to create a platform personalized to its exact daily needs. Teachers could create customized lesson plans, set up virtual classrooms, share presentations via screen share and conduct real-time chat with their students; all allowing for a more immersive online environment for their students to communicate and participate in learning.
How can your organization think beyond communication tools? Erode the rock with water instead of hitting it with a hammer. Show them that it’s possible to move operations to a more fully digital environment, in a way that doesn’t require a “rip and replace” overhaul of every process.
Skeuomorphism: Making the real world virtual
Here’s a fun word from the world of graphical user interface design: skeuomorphism. This means taking the real world and making it virtual. It’s often easier for people to recognize and interact with digital interface objects that remind them of real-world concepts that they recognize. (For example, the recycle bin icon on desktop computers.)
Collaboration tools need to get better at skeuomorphism. It’s not good enough to just put people in front of a video camera. We need to create a new digital workspace with digital workflows that help re-create the best of the real-world workspace, but in a digital platform. It is my belief that the future of work is about bringing real world workflows into a virtual environment in a way that is seamless, unified and customizable, with communication-enabling applications able to be added, as needed.
Whatever helps make people productive in the real-world office environment should also be accessible for work from home and hybrid work—or work from anywhere. We need to redesign our digital workspaces to be more intuitive and recognizable to the way that people’s minds work, and help organizations deploy and access whatever applications they need to be productive. That’s composability.
The future of work: Persistent spaces, unified communications
Even when the pandemic finally subsides, not everybody will head back to the office. Remote-first or, for some organizations, hybrid work with a few days per week at the office, will likely become the new reality for many industries. Digital transformation has become essential for businesses to stay competitive. But we’re still at an early stage of understanding the new implications for how work gets done and how teams can be most productive in the remote work environment.
Typical video conferencing is fine for gathering, but not great for collaboration. It’s not easy to use a teleconferencing platform to share and save collaboration materials. After you’re off the bridge, it’s all gone. You have to go elsewhere to share files—email, Dropbox, download, email the share link. In other words, it’s messy!
In contrast, a single platform for digital workspaces enables users to share materials and jump from one topic, project or team to another, all within one place. You don’t have to figure out multiple platforms, systems, applications and logins. Everything involved is at your fingertips. Instead of waiting ten minutes to figure it out, you know instantly. By eliminating the digital sprawl and cutting through the clutter, a single platform checks all the boxes of being intuitive, immersive and collaborative.
Improving the customer experience
The next step is using digital transformation to change from “where we gather” to “how we work together.” The effects of this transformation will be especially important for customer service and the customer experience.
For example, consider a typical customer experience in banking, with a customer applying for a mortgage. A customer talks to a broker about getting a mortgage. Three different resources are in that workflow, with a lot of email traffic and document sharing. On the back end, all support could be using one collaboration platform to have that conversation with the customer. The customer gets a seamless, streamlined experience. Meanwhile, the bank can have all their systems, information, and customer communications unified, so everyone can see the same source of truth. And a single platform serves as the anchor point for both employees and customers.
The future of work is here. Organizations that are well into their digital transformation journeys are going to continue to look for more proactive ways to create immersive and engaging digital workspace experiences. They will find new business value as they move away from their legacy technologies and outmoded processes, and they can work toward new ways to recreate the real-world workspace in a virtual space. Solutions that help organizations deliver a composable enterprise – with customized APIs, unified communications and seamless workflows – ultimately provide a better experience for the employees and customers they serve.
Steve Forcum, Chief Evangelist and Director of Marketing, Avaya (opens in new tab)