Collaboration: What's next?

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Collaboration: What's next?

Dinesh Malkani, Managing Director, Collaboration Sales, Asia Pacific & Japan

Globally, the 'workplace' is evolving. Productivity at work today has less to do with the individual's physical proximity to his/her workplace and more to do with access to the network and to collaborative tools. According to a recent report commissioned by Cisco, 60% of the employees surveyed felt that it was unnecessary to be in the office to be productive. Major technological and demographic transitions are fundamentally changing the way we communicate, work and collaborate. Taken individually, each one of these trends by itself is very powerful. Taken together, what we see is a tremendous transformational force.
We are witnessing the end of the dominance of the PC and a shift to a post PC world. The workplace has assumed an astoundingly mobile nature - one that has given employees the flexibility of working from home or any remote location. This next generation workspace empowers employees across the world to collaborate, communicate and create. Sitting at the heart of this new workspace are four critical elements- mobile, social, visual and virtual. These four together marks a sea change in the way in which businesses operate.
Mobile: As communication becomes more "people centric", the explosion of mobile devices (SmartPhones, PDA's and Tablets) has made it possible to communicate from any device irrespective of technology or operating system. The impact of this growth in mobile devices cannot be understated. New SmartPhones and Tablets based on Android, Windows Phone and iOS are growing at phenomenal rates. As people bring their own devices to work and expect to connect to the corporate network, the 'bring your own device' trend will mushroom.
Social: The consumerisation of enterprise IT has driven not only the uptake of different devices but also fuelled social media growth. Recent times have witnessed a proliferation of social media applications in organizations of every size, across every part of the world. The rise of social media within the enterprise is also helping to create interactive business communities.
Visual: Video is having a profound impact on the way business is done in today's digitally connected world. It is becoming pervasive and is no longer just used in conferencing and training, but in areas such as remote healthcare and banking, live problem resolution in manufacturing, global interviewing in HR and many others. According to the 2011 Interactive Media Studies Enterprise Web Communications Survey, one-third of all corporations say they use video to collaborate at work at least once a week. No longer confined to the desktop or laptop, video is increasingly becoming part of mobile devices and home communication systems.
Virtual: Given that workplaces are becoming geography agnostic, organizations are taking applications to the cloud and making it available to users wherever they are. Virtualization is expected to become the top networking investment over the next five years as organizations continue to focus on reducing IT costs. Organizations are also increasingly adopting virtualization as an energy and space saving measure. A holistic and comprehensive virtualization strategy provides a significant competitive advantage to organizations by increasing operational efficiency and simplifying management.
As more businesses look to host their employees' desktops on a remote central server, instead of on the local storage of a remote client, the demand for hosted virtual desktops is set to explode. According to Gartner, the worldwide hosted virtual desktop (HVD) market will accelerate through 2013 to reach 49 million units, up from more than 500,000 units in 2009.
As organizations embrace collaboration technologies across business and geographic boundaries, network security is becoming a critical component of IT strategy.
Combine these changes together and we step into a new world. One, where any device becomes a business device and the PC loses its role within the enterprise. Today's enterprises exist without boundaries as personal and professional lives merge.
The post PC era
The next few years will continue to see the demise of the PC within organizations. Desks will be getting less cluttered, employees will use a variety of new devices to connect and the rise of the virtualized desktop will continue. Global IT departments will support the myriad devices, operating systems, and architectures that employees chose to work with. Along with employees, customers, partners and suppliers will all be changing the way that they work.
As the desktop PC becomes far less relevant, its place will be taken by the hosted virtual workstation, which will be a game changer for the entire industry as businesses make a significant shift from traditional desktops towards virtual workspaces. In fact, Gartner expects the hosted virtual desktop environment to rise to 70 million units by 2014. Currently, hosted virtual environments cater mainly to data applications, not rich interactive media, mobile devices, and real time and video applications. This is set to change as the use of video becomes ever more prevalent.
According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index , internet video is expected to increase from 40 per cent to 62 per cent of all internet traffic by the end of 2015. This is a significant upsurge, and as more businesses move to hosted virtual environments, they will expect their workstation to be able to support the everyday applications and services that they use. The new age workplace will provide employees a sense of freedom that breeds a newfound inclination to work.
As more and more companies develop robust collaboration frameworks, tools such as TelePresence, Instant Messaging and Social Enterprise Software will determine how the next generation workplace will function. Web conferencing solutions will play a key role as enterprises prepare to address the complexities of a highly mobile, collaborative global business environment. Real-time video solutions will be one of the top green initiatives affecting networks and network engineers. This means a collaborative, interactive work environment will become the norm.

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