As I was leaving a business meeting the other day, I noticed a semi-familiar face amongst a crowded elevator. As we exited the lift, I walked away thinking "do I know that person?" but I couldn't place them. Later that day, it occurred to me that I was connected to this person on LinkedIn, and I had in fact had a conversation with this person over a video conference some time ago. I just had not actually met this person face-to-face before.
It's a powerful moment when we reach a point of 'living' technology rather than 'using' it. That inflection point is here. Both in the workforce and the consumer sphere, technology is changing our lives every day - and it's the broad scale of adoption and the pervasive reach of these technologies that is creating a gravity greater than I have seen before. Both within and outside of work, we are becoming Digital Natives.
The core focus of my existence at Optus is the area of Collaboration, one that's heavily impacted by trends in the consumer space and currently evolving at a rapid pace. Having been involved in Optus' Future of Work Report last year, I was very eager to take a look at this year's Future of Business Report to compare the data. However before reading the latest release, I went back to the Future of Work Report 2011 for a read. It's both powerful and reaffirming that the content from 2011 is taking shape; our projected trends are unfolding even now. That data is now just over 12 months old and many of the projections have been very accurate.
In the 2012 release I dived straight in to check on the Collaboration drivers. Key trends driving Collaboration are the impact of Social; the consumerisation of IT and BYOD; growth in rich media communications such as video conferencing and video sharing; and of course the migration of these solutions to cloud based consumption. Mobility is another key area in Collaboration, but much more than a trend. Mobility is completely transforming the way we work and the way our customers reach out to their customers. Let's see how our predictions from 2011 shape up against what I found in Optus' 2012 Future of Business Report:
Tablets and Smartphones enabling the mobile workforce: our 5-year projection re-confirms predictions from last year, re-validating Optus' focus on enabling collaboration across tablet devices.
Social Software having a huge impact on Enterprise Collaboration: Many major business software vendors are transforming their software products to look and feel more like the social platforms that we use outside of work. This trend is growing rapidly: just go back a couple of weeks (25 June 2012) to when Microsoft announced its acquisition of Yammer. In fact, 38% of businesses are planning a strategy to harness the power of Social Software to improve the internal collaboration abilities:
From my perspective, the Social strategy trend is one of the key trends to watch in the next 12 months. The number of customers asking Optus for advice on how to develop and implement a social strategy is growing every week. My tip for next year is strong growth in this 38% group. In addition we see in the report that restrictions towards external Social Media sites are relaxing, showing that companies are accepting social as a new medium rather than restricting its use.
Web-based Video Conferencing apps for mobile devices: the key point here is around the 3-5 year projection shifting greatly from last year (38%) to this year (48%). From the Deloitte analysis on this very point,
If medium term forecasts can change in 12 months, business has to develop a deep understanding of trends, not just know the current innovations.
Within Optus we were always expecting growth in video conferencing, but the frequency and maturity of the conversations that we're having with customers today is reflecting much faster growth than expected.
Above are just three samples of the report that I have called out due to their impact on Collaboration. There are many more examples of key trends in the Future of Business Report and it's a great platform to start from when setting any new technology strategy. I also highly recommend a review on the 2011 Future of Work Report which is now just over 12 months old, to see some great insights coming to reality.
Despite working in this industry for a long time now, I have never seen technical evolution happen at this pace. It's such an exciting time - primarily due to the almost unlimited range of opportunities that this evolution presents to organisations today. If your organisation is still collaborating primarily via email, telephony and face to face meetings, we can help you build a new collaboration roadmap that addresses the key trends mentioned in this post and more.
By Mike Reddie, Optus Business Practice Manager (Enterprise Collaboration). More from Mike on Twitter: @mikereddie
All views expressed are the author's own.