C&W: The end of the office as we know it
#1: Generation ‘Y’ communications
Traditionally businesses have led the way in communications innovation. They have had the requirement for leading edge communications and the cash to pay for it. Over the next ten years this will no longer be the case and we will increasingly see businesses follow where the consumer market leads.
The next generation of office workers already see many of the tools we use on a daily basis as obsolete. Email is already a thing of the past for them as they communicate through consumer-facing multiple social networking sites and instant messaging platforms and embrace concepts such as presence (indicating the availability of people on a network) almost instinctively. As this generation moves into the workplace they will demand this multi-channel approach to communication to be carried with them. For businesses that embrace this, we have little doubt that they will see an increase in productivity and collaboration.
The online identity of an employee will become increasingly important. Individuals can map their social networks to a greater level of granularity than ever before and integral to this is having a strong online identity which includes communication channels such as phone numbers, web addresses, Facebook pages and instant messaging profiles. They will gain full control over their online identities and bring these with them to the workplace.
As Generation Y employees tend to move jobs more frequently than their predecessors, they will require a fully portable communications profile that they can take with them when they move. Businesses will no longer provide email addresses and phone numbers to their employees but will instead co-opt their employees’ existing profiles and overlay the company’s branding for the time the individual is with them. These communication channels will be location independent and device independent, they will be wherever the employee is and they will be carried to whichever technology is in use at the time, be that a phone handset or a soft client on a laptop. Social media and instant messaging platforms will evolve into an online business environment where multiple users can seamlessly communicate and collaborate across a variety of media, increasing productivity and speeding up the completion of projects.
#2: The office of 2010
Over the next ten years the concept of an office will become increasingly irrelevant. The devices carried by an individual will all be dual purpose – meaning that they will serve for both consumer and corporate purposes as required. Devices such as the iPhone and the BlackBerry smartphones have already started this trend, but we will see this grow exponentially over the decade. Laptops, for instance, will become much lighter as hard-drives are replaced by chips which can route to the corporate or consumer Cloud as desired by the user.
Workers already have the ability to work from virtually any location. This ability will be extended over the decade and the performance of remote networking will increase as 4G mobile networks become commonplace, allowing employees to access high-speed broadband wirelessly and anywhere. Fixed Mobile Convergence will reach tipping point and we will see the end of the desk phone within the first five years of the decade, allowing them to be contacted via one number, regardless of location.
This is not to say that the office will disappear altogether. The face-to-face contact that an office provides encourages collaboration and is essential for building a cohesive company culture. What will happen is that greater flexibility and choice will enter the workplace and the lines between home and office will become further blurred, depending on individual preference and business requirements.
The way that businesses consume broadband within the office (defined as the network of employees, wherever they may be) will also change dramatically. In developed regions, broadband will become a commodity and will plummet in price. Businesses will be able to buy huge amounts of capacity and bandwidth, allowing them to support feature rich applications such as video, which will become a key application for the next ten years. Developing markets will see broadband offered on an on-demand basis. This will allow them to request additional broadband resource for peak times; ensuring business operations are at their most effective when they are most needed. This flex-up and flex-down approach will provide businesses with a uniquely tailored broadband environment.
#3: Trusted partners
The result of this change is that relationships between businesses and telecoms operators will become more important. With a wider variety of communications services layered across the network and offered over the Cloud, businesses will need to trust their communications providers in a way never seen before. It is up to the telecoms industry to ensure that they are even more reliable and secure than today operators that manage to do this successfully will prosper in the new telecoms landscape.