It's difficult to know precisely when something passes from being a trend to being the normal and established way of doing things.
While the moment is difficult to identify when it happens, it is relatively clear to see in retrospect. This PCWorld story looks at one such trend/established procedure. Essentially, telework, mobility and - as Robert Strohmeyer phrases it - the asynchronous workplace has firmly taken root. The trend is the norm.
Strohmeyer starts by evoking the bygone days: Everyone worked at about the same times in the same place. Meetings are really meetings - as in everyone sits next to each other. That arrangement has broken down:
Everyone's juggling multiple complex projects, making it difficult to sync up schedules enough for live, real-time meetings. And when we do manage to line up a meeting, many of us have no choice but to attend by phone, introducing additional communications challenges that can reduce the clarity of the message.
The meat of the article is a look at various tools to have in place (project management, contact management, synchronous chat, videoconferencing, shareable whiteboard and file versioning) to make such chaotic arrangements as efficient and productive as possible. It's a good list. To an extent, these are part-and-parcel of the platforms and applications that come with unified communications.
It is perfectly true to say that unified communications is as relevant a platform for wired and stationary employees as it is for those on the go. But, without a doubt, the explosion of mobility has driven UC to a higher plane and, together, they have changed the nature of work. Computerworld's Andy Dignan took a look at the link between UC and mobility:
Now that many workers have multiple devices, whether it is a laptop, smartphone or tablet, UC's mobile options are becoming a big benefit to organizations and workers alike. In fact, organizations report the most common UC solutions they deploy include smartphones (80% deployed) and mobile desktops (80% deployed), according to CDW's 2011 Unified Communications Tracking Poll.
The Unified Communications Tracking Poll also reports that one of UC's top benefits is support of mobility. The top UC features organizations find most useful are access to email and voicemail via smartphones and the ability to receive voicemail via email. Additionally, respondents polled for the report list increased productivity as the top benefit they experience with UC.
Another driver is cloud computing. Cloud, too, has been around for a long time. It's here to stay - due to the jobs it will create and a raft of other reasons. During the past five years it has caught on as an everyday tool in the service providers' and IT managers' arsenal. And, like unified communications, cloud is relevant for corporate office-bound staff as well as road and remote workers. But - again like UC - there is no doubt that the cloud and mobility are deeply enmeshed with each other. Earlier this month I spoke to Jan Hickisch, vice president of portfolio management for unified communications at Siemens Enterprise Communications. He pointed to the relationship:
Mobile and cloud go along with each other. It's kind of one carrying the other with it, and vice versa. Consuming a service from the cloud does not rely on set physical deployments. This is true for the mobile end points as well. Currently, only 16 percent report cloud deployment, but 45 percent report that they are planning to invest in 2012. That really is a tremendous number. Of those, 2.8 to 1 prefer the private cloud.
The fact that mobility and decentralization are growing and that the nature of work has changed is not news. At a certain point, however, it's a good idea to take a step back and recognize precisely how fundamental, basic and permanent those changes are.