Multiple, real-time technologies must work together seamlessly for the next gen workplace experience to become a reality.

Last month, I started a blog series focused on the Next Gen Workplace, which I defined as an environment that enables an agile user experience by fostering productivity, efficiency and optimal growth potential. In a follow up blog, I explored one of the key components of this environment, flexibility, and proposed why work flexibility is important and how savvy companies can achieve it.

As the new year gets rolling, I’d like to focus on another important aspect of the next generation workplace ­– the technology ecosystem. In today’s blog, I’ll hone in on two important technology components businesses should pay close attention to when creating their next generation workplaces.

  1. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)/The Consumerization of IT

While BYOD is by no means a new trend, its importance in the workplace has grown exponentially in recent years. Research from Citrix found that corporate attitudes toward the use of personal devices in the workplace have changed dramatically. Currently, 66% of organizations do not have an enforced ban on employees’ use of their own devices for work, compared to 84% that had such a ban in the past. In fact, 55% of those surveyed by Citrix said they now actively accommodate and encourage the use of personal devices for work purposes.

However, more devices in the workplace bring new challenges, including:

  1. Platform Incompatibility (e.g. Android, iOS, Windows) – For example, if a business uses VPN to enable secure, remote connectivity for its workers, it may work for those on a Windows device, but might have problems for Android and iOS users.
  1. Corporate vs. Personal Data – One of the biggest challenges companies face when they allow employees’ personal devices on their networks is keeping employees’ personal data separate from the company’s corporate data and intellectual property. Without proper policies that spell out acceptable use of personal devices, in addition to mobile device management (MDM) solutions that can manage and remotely wipe corporate data from personal devices without touching personal data, BYOD can become a litigation pitfall. Also, can companies mandate and implement their standard of security measures on a personal device?
  1. Unified Communication and Collaboration (UC&C)

One of the foundational technologies that enable workers separated by time zones and geographies to collaborate is UC&C, which as its name implies brings together instant messaging/chat, presence, voice (i.e. IP telephony), mobility, desktop sharing, and web/video conferencing into a unified user-interface across multiple devices and media types. Similar to the points made earlier about BYOD, achieving a seamless UC&C experience while allowing for a myriad of endpoints can be challenging for small to midsize businesses, and daunting for enterprises.

Within the UC&C trend are two ‘sub-trends’ we’re seeing that are playing important roles in addressing these challenges:

  1. Software-Based Video Conferencing Solutions. Video conferencing has traditionally been a hardware-centric technology solution. Over the past few years, however, there has been a very noteworthy shift in interest and demand for software and services-based solutions. This new model is giving customers more options, more flexibility, and cost savings with regard to how they implement and consume video communications. The downside to this trend is that the multitude of available services creates confusion in the market, making the investigation and procurement process longer and more difficult for decision makers.

One of the technology enablers behind software-based video conferencing is virtualization technology, which allows software-based components to be deployed more cost effectively. For example, you can put your video management layer, Session Border Controller, and gateway/gatekeeping services on the same physical server rather than using a dedicated device for each component.

Another enabler of the software-based video conferencing trend is the wider adoption of standards-based protocols such as SIP, H.264, and WebRTC. This is what allows end users to mix-and-match across different video conferencing vendors and brands, and across different endpoint types and networks. By deploying software-based solutions, customers can more easily ensure that new mobile solutions can integrate seamlessly with existing room-based and executive video conferencing systems.

  1. AVaaS (Video-as-a-Service). One of the main benefits of virtualization has been a migration to hosted and cloud-based video communications. Rather than owning a solution, businesses are becoming more comfortable paying a cloud or video managed services provider a subscription fee and consuming video as a service. VaaS protects organizations against technology obsolescence as well as the ongoing costs of upgrades, maintenance, and repairs. Frost & Sullivan projects the hosted and cloud-based video conferencing model will continue to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 25% between 2014 and the end of this year.

In my next blog, I’ll take a look at another critical component of the next generation workplace, the work environment. Specifically, I’ll discuss the role of activity-driven workspaces and physical spaces, how they are evolving, and show how they contribute to collaboration, productivity, and workplace flexibility.