6 technologies creating the future workplace

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Digital technologies continue to make their way into the office from the consumer market, impacting the workplace and revolutionizing traditional ways of working. As the line between personal and professional life goes on blurring, it is just the beginning; therefore, it is critical to set up the building blocks that will enable us to select, implement and use digital tools and methodologies to make our workplaces more efficient, productive and enjoyable places.

Olivier Vicaire, Senior Digital Business Consultant at Orange Business Services, expects the following digital technology tools and solutions to make an impact in 2018 and beyond:

1. Collaboration. Unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools continue to help workers be more productive and flexible. New solutions like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Cisco Spark bring collaboration to a whole new level, with a true integration of persistent chat, voice, video and document sharing and delivering a smooth user experience. Sharp growth is ongoing, with IDC estimating the worldwide UC&C technologies business worth $34 billion in 2017. Enterprises will continue their UC&C transformation to enable easier collaboration and to help foster a cultural shift to a digital-driven workplace.

2. Video. Use of video is growing in the digital workplace, especially with the new generations of workers like millennials and generation Z, and it is being used for information sharing, training, meetings and more. Being able to see colleagues face to face, even over video, greatly improves communication as it allows us to capture body language and to feel more empathy. According to Juniper Research, the enterprise video market will be worth over $40 billion by 2022 as companies better integrate it into collaboration suites. Moreover, training and communication are far more efficient with video, because it's more visual and is set in time: you know that you will get the message in three minutes of video.

Value of the enterprise video market

3. Virtual Reality (VR). Immersive technologies are already making an impact in the consumer world, mainly for video games, but they could have a big effect on the workplace, too. VR adds value to employee training by offering infinite use cases and being able to simulate real life situations completely risk-free. For instance, you can train workers to evacuate a facility without having to physically go there. Virtual worlds are also useful for communication, showcasing new buildings or products in 3D that we can almost touch. Since 2012, the number of active VR companies has increased by 250 percent, with one stark example of the technology’s potential being Facebook paying a lot of money to acquire VR pioneer Oculus.

4. Augmented Reality (AR). The ability to put digital content as an overlay of the real world greatly enhances the capabilities of field workforces. A building worker can see the map of electrical, water, gas and telecom cables underground and know precisely where to dig a hole. A surgeon can be remotely assisted by an expert on the other side of the world to perform a complicated operation. Or a technician can repair a machine he has no knowledge of, by using AR video tutorials and remote expertise from a center of excellence to reduce downtime.

5. Analytics. Workers now generate vast swathes of contextual data in the workplace, and analytics can improve their workspace itself, their tasks, their mobility and more. According to Aberdeen Group, 53 percent of service provider startups are now embedding analytics to drive competitive advantage by simplifying data management, visualization and report generation. Analytics help quickly generate valuable insights to support the decision-making process, improve efficiency or better predict customer needs.

6. Virtual personal assistants (VPAs). Many people already use VPAs in personal life, such as Cortana, Siri and Amazon Echo in the home, but they could have roles to play in the workplace. Werner Goertz, research director at Gartner, envisions VPAs being used for client-facing interactions, where their natural language interfaces can help customers interact with enterprise portals, combined with machine learning and AI, for example. He also foresees VPA-enabled wireless speakers like Orange Djingo and VPA services disrupting enterprise communications, with the likes of Amazon's Echo Show potentially challenging enterprise unified communications solutions.

All these digital technologies can greatly improve your company’s efficiency as part of an overall corporate digital transformation strategy. Start by understanding your employees’ ways of working and needs before rolling out any solution. Moreover, changing employee needs, demands and habits mean that companies must address these shifts at the organization’s cultural level. The digital workspace is about combining devices, services, people and places, and to thrive you must mix and match all these elements successfully.

To read more about the digital transformation of the workplace, and how Orange can help organizations successfully manage change, read our exclusive Gartner report on workplace transformation.