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Four Imaginative Vendors That Are Shaping Collaboration Tools of the Future

May 29, 2017

Communication and collaboration tools have been evolving at a rapid pace over the past several years and continue to grow and change as time marches forward. In today’s workplace, we tend to take for granted a growing collection of connected devices and collaboration tools that were not available one or two decades ago—smartphones, tablets, ”smart” whiteboards, online meetings, video conferencing,  online document sharing, TelePresence, enterprise social networking—all impacting the ways we communicate, collaborate and share. New technologies pop up every couple of years that provide the possibilities of even more impactful change. In a recent report, a research firm predicts that by 2020 there will be a significant disruption in traditional approaches to IT brought about by advances in collaboration platforms. Some examples of upcoming vendor tools designed to shape collaboration of the future in the workplace are shown below:

  • Google Glass is in the infancy of wearable technology that will allow for tighter integration of technology with work and life. Google Glass is a type of wearable technology with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD). Glass displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format. Users communicate with the internet using natural language voice commands. Google started selling a prototype of Google Glass to qualified "Glass Explorers" in the USA on April 15, 2013, for a limited period for $1,500. On January 15, 2015, Google announced that it would stop producing the Google Glass prototype but would remain committed to the development of the product via Google Labs, the experimental phase of the project. Imagine the business applications that may eventually arise for this type of technology!

  • The recently introduced iRobot Ava 500 video collaboration robot combines TelePresence and robotics technology to enhance the reach of overloaded employees. This new class of robots will connect to intelligence in the cloud and will become even better equipped to work alongside people in an office framework. Robots are evolving from the factory floor to the office environment—answering questions and providing expert information as virtual knowledge workers, HR representatives and help-desk staffers. While this technology is in its infancy today, these robots may help create major enhancements to business processes in the future.

  • Social goes mobile. By the end of 2016, more than 75 percent of enterprises will require mobile collaboration solutions for their ever-growing numbers of mobile workers. To meet this need, 60 percent of collaboration providers will offer mobile solutions with enterprise social networking options. and mobile-first UI designs. Mobile messaging and collaboration are growing trends, and the mindshare and consumer use are driving enterprises to invest in mobile collaboration technologies. Much of this investment will come from business leaders using newer mobile collaboration solutions for specific purposes such as coordination and sales communication. Mobile collaboration will also be important to customer engagement programs. To compete effectively in this new market, traditional unified communication and collaboration (UCC) providers will offer their own mobile collaboration solutions. We have seen this recently with Unify’s launch of Circuit and the release of Project Squared by Cisco. Each of these offerings has a similar look and feel, following the mobile UI look of new offerings such as Cotap, Glip and Slack. The focus will be on an easy-to-use and seamless user experience that employees have come to expect from consumer applications. The goal of these tools is to make the latest generation of workers feel as comfortable with in-office technology as they are with the technology they use constantly outside the office.

  • Enterprises can offer employees a “creative space” by allowing flexibility in where and when people work and by providing the collaboration and mobility tools to allow them to work anywhere, any time. Companies can make the office environment more conducive to inspiration by providing a flexible, open, collaborative workspace. Cisco’s “connected workplace,” features bright colors, moveable work stations, broad views to the outside, an open, free-flowing environment—and the connected technology to enable the exchange of ideas with colleagues around the world. While vendors are working towards these technologies, enterprises should expect these capabilities in the near future.

Understanding future trends in collaboration will help companies make better technology decisions. They should evaluate the technical options based on how well they support the enterprise’s strategic need for structured collaboration and business enablement; then they can evaluate prospective vendor roadmaps based on their own collaboration preferences. This virtualized workspace of the future is just one of the ways vendor tools are transforming the ways we work, live, play and learn.  VARs can help educate customers about future technologies, help develop a roadmap, and then be on hand to implement the chosen methods of collaboration that completes the customer’s vision.

Are there topics of the future of UCC that should be discussed in this blog? Please comment below.