Technology helps us all adapt our lives, and businesses are no exception. But the way people use technology continues to shift at a quickening pace and consumer behaviors and expectations are bleeding into business environments, creating new requirements and new ways of doing business. To adapt, you have to understand the factors at play, which is why we’re going to look at several important office trends that are redefining the way people collaborate online.
1. Using more outsourced resources
Freelancers and consultants fill a wide assortment of roles depending on a company’s size, priorities and policies. Whether enterprise or SMB, some companies use the expertise of outside resources to provide a necessary perspective, service, or advice to help business. Other companies use outsourced workers as a way to quickly scale up and down—improving their agility and flexibility.
In fact, according to the SMB Group in its 2016 communications survey, 28 percent of SMBs outsource IT management to third parties, contractors, or consultants. And a large portion of that outsourced help works outside of a company’s offices. That means businesses using freelancers, consultants or other types of help need robust online collaboration tools to connect these outsourced workers with each other and with the company’s own staff to work effectively and efficiently.
2. The rise of solopreneurs
The trend of companies using more outsourced workers and the rise of solopreneurs go hand-in-hand. Solopreneurs run their own single-person businesses, often relying on contracting or consulting work for employment. They’re often experts in certain areas. As more workers become solopreneurs, especially those with skilled niche expertise, companies will increasingly have to look outside of their walls to fill needs in those specialties.
Like any type of outsourced worker, solopreneurs need to collaborate with the businesses they’re working for, so the ability to scale and quickly provision new users is crucial for a company’s online collaboration tool.
Furthermore, online collaboration tools should be user-friendly so solopreneurs don’t need to be experts in obscure software to get on board—they can stick to where they add the most value.
3. Cloud enablement and the rise of mobility
With increased connectivity, the proliferation of smart phones and tablets, and a global economy, mobility changed the game for many companies. With today’s cloud-based technology, work is an activity, not a location. Files and other resources once chained to the office are now available from anywhere with a decent Internet connection.
Because of this, online collaboration tools are more important than ever to connect those in the office, those traveling, those working from home, or outsourced resources to keep work moving productively. Makers of online collaboration tools are adapting to think beyond the office to facilitate all of these new modes of working and cloud-based tools are a natural match for this new go-anywhere mentality.
4. Work hour flexibility
Given today’s global economy – and for many workers, a renewed focus on quality of life – work hour flexibility is a trend that’s influenced the need for changes in online collaboration tools.
Workers in different time zones, different cities, and different countries still need to connect with each other to get tasks done: this might mean taking calls at 6 in the morning or 10 at night to connect with someone on the other side of the world—something’s that much more comfortable and convenient to do from home.
With work hour flexibility, connected workers can also handle important or inconvenient personal errands—like, doctor’s appointments, caring for sick children, home maintenance appointments, and more—if they have the kind of online collaboration software that lets them work remotely. It also gives them the flexibility to finish up outside of normal office hours to avoid losing productivity.
5. Real estate consolidation and savings
Real estate can be pricey for businesses, with some urban areas commanding $100 or more per square foot of office space—making a 10×10 office a staggering $10,000 per year in some places.
The cost of office space can make a serious dent in a company’s bottom line. But enabling remote workers can help keep real estate costs under control by reducing your need for space, avoiding relocation, and more.
But remote workers need to be kept in the loop and to work with others to be effective. Without a good online collaboration tool designed with the remote worker in mind, it’s tough for workers to connect with each other and their in-office counterparts to get work done.
6. Hyper specialization
When you need an expert in a particular field, the field may be quite small and there’s a good chance they won’t live near the office you’d like them to. Some are willing to relocate. But many are not. If your much-needed expert feels like staying put, you may need to make concessions to bring them on board. Or you might have to offer them work-hour flexibility as a perk to seal the deal. Either way, it makes hyper specialization another factor putting pressure on companies to use solid online collaboration tools to stay competitive.
7. Wanderlust and the rise of ex pats
Have you seen House Hunters International? It’s not just showcasing ex pat retirees settling into another country to spend their golden years with an exotic sea breeze tickling their noses.
More people on the show are working professionals who want to travel or live abroad while continuing to work. This trend is growing and smart companies are leaning on online collaboration to help enable staff to work where they want in order to keep key talent on board.
8. First-contact resolution
Customer service expectations have dramatically impacted the need for online collaboration tools. Customers prefer multiple channels to interact with companies and it’s imperative businesses enable and effectively manage as many channels of communication as possible.
Think of the last time you contacted a business to schedule a service, report a problem, or have a question answered. Many of the call agents and chat representatives will place you on a brief hold to collaborate with coworkers to find the expert who can effectively answer your question. This kind of cross-departmental connected collaboration results in increased customer satisfaction, shorter times to get answers, improved first-contact resolution and better agent productivity.
Happy agents. Happy companies. Happy customers.
BYOD shouldn’t be a big surprise when it comes to identifying trends that are redefining online collaboration. Bottom line: companies who enable BYOD must find an online collaboration tool that works across a wide range of platforms, smartphones, tablets, and computers.
BYOD has also driven the need for collaboration tools to be mobile-first, or at the very least, mobile-enabled. This trend points to the need for a user-friendly interface that’s intuitive and easy to use. Because if it’s not easy to use, workers will be quick to abandon it, hurting productivity or spawning pockets of shadow IT.
The modern workplace is changing fast and it’s leading to a revolution in the way we collaborate online. Smart companies and savvy tech providers are adapting to stay competitive and make sure work gets done. Whether you’re affected by one of these trends or all of them, it pays to know the forces reshaping the landscape. Because the more you know, the better you can respond.