The Age of the Mobile Worker

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The Age of the Mobile Worker

Minhaj Zia, Director, Collaboration Business, Cisco India and SAARC

The workplace is no longer confined to one's workstation. Business operations have assumed a global flavor and require that offices across geographies are connected in a way that allows for quicker, smarter and more efficient information exchange. Increase in mobility has created a need for users to be connected all the time and access information from anywhere, increasingly through their device of choice. Likewise, the increased numbers of Gen Y employees across various organizations expect to use social tools like Facebook, Orkut, Twitter and instant messaging at work, just like they do in their personal lives.

A fundamental need to allow their employees engage with each other efficiently is prompting organizations across the board to seek the right tools that facilitate virtual meetings and help employees stay more connected with their peers while bringing key people to facilitate discussions, ideas, and decision-making. Business leaders and IT decision-makers recognize that collaboration helps to boost productivity and gain competitive advantage within tight budget constraints.

Both large scale enterprises as well as small businesses have begun to evaluate how unified communications can accelerate a company's time to market and create a more productive and engaged workforce. These organizations are looking to overcome their business and technology complexities by integrating voice, video conferencing and social media and seek customized processes, tools and techniques to help eliminate the barriers to communications and connectivity.

A Cisco IBSG study indicates that 95% of organizations surveyed have begun to allow employee-owned devices in some way, shape or form in the office, and 36% of surveyed enterprises provide full support for employee-owned devices. These stats underpin a major shift in the way people access information in the office, at home and on-the-go, a shift that will continue to gain momentum.

Collaboration for business efficiency

Technologies like Web and video conferencing provide employees the flexibility to work outside their physical workspaces and help reduce time and cost for travel thereby resulting in augmented efficiency levels besides higher job satisfaction. Video can have a profound impact on the way business is done in today's digitally connected world. With the emergence of the Internet and the evolution of network-centric business practices, many companies have turned to video conferencing, because it allows groups to share documents and collaborate on projects in real time.

Video is becoming pervasive and users now demand the ability to conference on any device, anywhere. Although audio conferencing currently remains one of the most popular forms of unified communications (UC), many companies, including SMBs, are combining video conferencing capabilities to create virtual meetings and work faster and more effectively. Social is here to stay and organizations seek integrated solutions that bring in IP telephony, enterprise video, instant messaging presence, chat, et al in one solution. As social networks grow in size and complexity, organizations are making security the top priority in the design, deployment, and maintenance of their network, platform, applications and deploying solutions that help enforce security policies while at the same time ensuring a seamless user experience.

Cloud services is opening up opportunities for collaboration and is now making it possible for many organizations to access applications and services that they would otherwise find unaffordable. This in turn, has opened up a whole new model of hosted services. With pay-as-you-go services, customers are able to get started with "plug-and-play" simplicity. Small businesses find that cloud strategies not only enable them meet their business objectives but also help simplify the existing technology environment, save costs, and convert their capital expenditure to operational expenditure.

Market opportunity

Whether it is audio conferencing, video conferencing or web conferencing integrated unified communications solutions lead to increased productivity, help save travel cost and promise the ease of use. A Frost & Sullivan report indicates that the market for video conferencing is $70-90 million with 12-18 per cent year-on-year growth. As per a Forrester report re-leased in 2010, enterprise social networking is estimated to become a $6 billion industry by 2016. The market as per IDC is projected to grow at a 43% CAGR over the next four years.

Likewise web conferencing delivered over the cloud is the fastest growing segment. According to Frost & Sullivan, audio, Web and video conferencing tools delivered via software-as-a-service (SaaS) is expected to reach $544 million this year in APAC, from $256 million in 2005. This momentum is expected to continue till 2017 and reach $1.3 billion.

Clearly collaboration is a way forward for most organizations and technology is an enabler for that. The focus for most organizations is shifting from delivering individual best-in-class applications towards providing an integrated collaboration experience that delivers consistent functionality across multiple platforms in a cost-effective manner. In the long run, providing a combination of scale, security, and accessibility through a variety of devices and operating systems helps to address an organization's greatest challenge – to innovate and stay relevant.

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