Real Time Communications Featured Article

The New Way of Office Work

August 06, 2014

With over a decade of unified communication (UC) and fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) under our belts, the traditional business world model of a centralized office where everyone checks in from 9 to 5 on Monday through Friday is broken.  A few more years and WebRTC will further shake the model in ways managers need to come to grips with.

In the traditional way of work, everyone worked under one roof, either at a central headquarters or at a branch office. Everyone had a desk, a phone, and a computer.  Nobody took work home.  Vacations were vacations and traveling out of the office meant being out of touch for hours or days at a time.  Collaboration was limited to the people you could talk to in your immediate area, on your floor, or in your office building.

Mobility, networking, software, and applications have blown that model apart.  With a UC client on a mobile device, be it a laptop, tablet, and/or a smartphone -- because the true mobile worker can access collaboration on all devices -- everyone can stay in touch around the clock, from home, on the road, and even in an airplane for a $20 Gogo inflight Wi-Fi tab.

Where work takes place is less important than being able to secure time during business travel and vacation to work on documents, answer email, participate in conference calls, and conduct multi-party video conferencing and screen sharing for in-depth discussions.  Mobile workers can be more productive and stay "in the loop" as they travel and office workers can have the option to telecommute from home.

Perhaps the best increase in productivity from UC and collaboration tools has come from bringing together distributed teams across a business, regardless of size or equipment.   Employees can now more readily participate in many projects virtually without having to pick up and move to a centralized location, checking in with other team members via email, instant messaging, voice, and video on a one-to-one basis while conducting group meetings using multi-person chat, audio conferencing, video conferencing, and/or a multimedia approach including screen sharing.

Further, networks don't matter, other than access to reliable broadband.  An employee can get access to the same software and services on the corporate LAN, on the road via public Wi-Fi hotspot or 3G/4G cellular connection, and at home on a cable, fiber, or DSL connection.  Service access can be provided either through a VPN connection back to a corporate hosted server or tap into a cloud service operated by a third party.

Through use of the cloud, company size doesn't matter either.  An enterprise can choose to deliver UC access through a third party and pay the same or less (depending on the number of seats purchased) as a small business with a handful of employees.  Some large businesses will choose to operate their own services rather than use a third party, but the choice is a philosophical one rather than bound by budget or technology.

The proliferation of WebRTC will be the next big impact on the New Way of Office Work.  It is too early to say how the new technology will impact office workflow, but customized workflow applications incorporating data, voice, and video and able to be run on any device via compatible browser are one area I'm willing to bet on.

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