The Office isn’t Dead; Just Evolving

Is the office as we know it heading towards a slow extinction, or is it an opportunity for a new “frontier” of advancements in technology and social interaction?

The answer is likely a mixture of both outlooks.

Today’s technology is rapidly shifting people’s thinking on what constitutes a “workplace” as powerful tools built around voice, video and the ubiquity of broadband penetration enable innovations. This is driving collaboration from anywhere, reducing time and capital spent on travel, and enabling (for better or worse) people remaining “on” and accessible for increasing amounts of time.

Generations X and Y certainly have evolving expectations of what work, the office, and collaboration mean.

“This workforce doesn’t know a world without the internet, expects answers instantly, seeks constant engagement, and is comfortable with “connected” technologies like no other generation,” said Garry Veale in a recent piece for TechRadar. Veale is the president of Avaya in Europe, and had some interesting ideas about what is shaping business today and in the future.

The legacy view of networks and technology in the modern workplace will certainly change as these expectations are brought along with people as they assume positions of leadership.

“To accommodate this hyper-connected generation, networks need to be fully prepared. Typical working environments weren’t built to withstand the consumerization of IT, BYOD, and BYOA, and enterprise technology often isn’t capable of delivering the experience we’re used to getting at home.”

Related article: CYOD: Balancing Uniform and Freeform?

A 2013 study by Deloitte Analytics found that only 62% of employees report being satisfied with their work in the absence of flexible IT policies, as opposed to 83% with more options.

With the increase in the variety of intelligent communication and collaborative channels available to employees, the workplace still has the opportunity be a space viewed as a “destination.”

“We’re progressively moving towards much more functional and productive ways of working,” said Veale. “Concepts like the ‘Internet of Things’ or ‘machine-to-machine communications’, which are trending now, will soon become major influencing factors in the future of business.”

As these innovations change work habits and how we view technology, it becomes easier to extend those thought processes to physical office spaces.

“Technology and networks that are self-aware will rise up the agenda as the cost of the sensor technology which enables this reaches an all-time low,” said Veale. “Gartner predicts that we’ll soon reach the point where it’s cheaper to have a communications-enabled system than not. This will lead to a fundamental change in the way companies work – from new ways of developing technology, to better facilities management through an increase in pay-as-you-go billing models for office utilities.”

Getting back to the focus on the worker, imagine a “smart” workplace: The office building recognizes who is coming in, what devices they are carrying, and their level of need for information and physical access. This awareness can translate to personal preference for lighting, temperature and the type of room utilized. Meetings can be automatically set up based the current project and who is onsite with applicable knowledge.

This may sound like a brainstorm from Popular Mechanics magazine, but it’s on the way.

While the scattered nature of today’s workforce can lead to detachment and a lack of meaningful interaction between employees, intelligent systems can go beyond creature comforts in the office and lead to genuine collaboration.

Video is a cornerstone of that opportunity, and videoconferencing has moved beyond US$300,000 immersive rooms to platforms such as WebRTC and other solutions from various vendors enabling face-to-face communication from just about anywhere, and certainly at lower cost.

Veale believes video applications are becoming a key agenda item as businesses realize the cost and productivity benefits.

“Video is benefiting from more advanced hardware, employee hunger for collaboration, more sophisticated networks, and more interoperability,” he said. “Solutions are now accessible and affordable and the advantages of lower travel costs and higher productivity are grabbing the attention of more and more customers.”

The mixture of sharing a physical space, combined with meaningful access to people in various locations across the globe, add up greater collaboration and more productive environments.

That’s a “smart” way to run an office, and experience worth “coming in” for.

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Avaya Named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure

Avaya is honored to be recognized as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure worldwide. Avaya has been the only vendor having the distinction of being named a Leader for 16 consecutive years. Each year the research organization creates a market view of key players for business users, reflecting business goals, needs, and priorities.

Contact centers have gone beyond phone calls with customers now expecting to communicate on their terms via text, IM, email, chat or video. For the past 16 years Avaya has created seamless and highly personalized experiences, building brand loyalty for companies all around the world.

According to Deloitte, 85% of organizations view customer experience provided through contact centers as a competitive differentiator. Todays companies must remain relevant by creating a single interface to connect customers with the correct resource each time, supporting their preferences. Supervisors and managers need real-time performance information to adapt immediately to situations to ensure optimized customer experience.

Avaya has focused its efforts on creating next-generation contact center solutions, creating communication strategies enabling a continuous transition between channels during customer interactions.

Please visit Gartner’s page to read the full report and see how Avaya’s Contact Center infrastructure continues to deliver best-of-breed Contact Center applications. We look forward to continuing innovation and leading business communications for the digital age.


Seeing into the Office of the Future

Dubai is heavily focused on delivering on its Smart City goals, with the goal of being among the smartest—and happiest—cities in the world. The drive toward smart cities is part of a wider shift, with countries around the globe seeing a migration from rural areas to urban. With more than half the world’s population now living in cities, organizations in the Middle East are facing increasingly difficult decisions about how they allocate resources and manage their workforce.

For a city like Dubai, that can be challenging. Finding the right real-estate location for office space, managing energy usage and providing physical workspaces for employees working different shifts in a modern, 24X7 city creates its fair share of headaches. Enterprises also have to cope with an increasing Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) culture, with smartphone and device penetration especially high in the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries.

We have reached an inflection point where the number of devices connected and generating data is accelerating at an exponential level. Our work environments are beginning to blur, as workspaces are no longer physical but virtual. Organizations need to deliver a consistent work experience whether in an office or on the road, or at home. The key driver is to intuitively connect not only communications devices, but interact with the ambient technologies that surround us, like lighting, BMS and signage.

At Avaya, we believe that the Smart Enterprise is one of the key building blocks for smart cities—and one of the foundations of true Smart Enterprise development will be what we term the Office of the Future. This is about more than just technology; the Office of the Future involves automating work processes within the enterprise to deliver a more intuitive employee experience. As with any “smart” solution, the Office of the Future is only smart if it resolves the challenges it aims to address.

So what do we mean by Office of the Future? Imagine walking into a new office you’ve never visited before and your work station is ready before you sit down, configured to your preferences, right down to the air conditioning settings and digital signage displayed with your identity. When a client arrives to meet you at the office, they can be sent to a meeting room automatically, and you can talk to them on their mobile as you walk to greet them.

With Avaya solutions, the act of an employee booking a workspace would kick start a workflow that immediately sets up that space with all communication devices enabled and connected securely, while interacting with the building management system to ensure the environment was set to the employee’s requirements, everything from lighting to temperature to digital signage. The employee could be identified by their phone or a card ID. When they leave, the workspace can be reset for the next employee that reserves it.

Such Smart workspaces will help enterprises manage their resources more effectively, better leverage their real estate investments, and improve employee well-being and productivity. Here in Dubai, the Office of the Future starts now.

89% of Employees Apparently Don’t Care About Mobile Security

Mobile Security Avaya

IT security has a big job: keep corporate data safe in the face of motivated hackers and unaware employees. Today that job is harder than ever — employees are bringing their own devices and applications into the office every morning, and walking out the door with corporate data every night.

The intention behind Bring Your Own Device and Bring Your Own Apps is good: Employees want to be productive away from the office. No one wants to carry around two smartphones, or truck around two laptops while they’re on the road. Cloud-based work apps excel at document version control, are accessible everywhere, and help teams cut down on email as a collaboration tool.

The reality of BYOD and BYOA is more troublesome: If your company is one of the estimated 26 percent with no official BYOD policy in place, employees will load work email and work documents on their personal mobile devices anyway. If a company fails to give their employees the cloud-based apps they want, they’ll simply use the app’s consumer-grade version. Thousands of unsecured laptops and smartphones get lost or stolen every week. It’s estimated that 43 percent of U.S. companies have experienced a data breach in the last year alone.

Troubling numbers

Given that backdrop, ask yourself — how many mobile devices are out there with your company’s data on them? The answer might surprise you.

In a recent survey of more than 12,000 people, security software maker Kaspersky Lab found roughly half used personal smartphones, tablets or laptops for work, 36 percent kept work files on their personal devices, 34 percent accessed work-related email from personal devices, and somewhere between 11 to 18 percent carried around corporate passwords.

Asked about it, just 11 percent said they were seriously concerned about keeping work-related information secure on their personal mobile devices.

If your company doesn’t have formal policies in place around personal mobile devices, chances are, your corporate data is already heading home with employees each night. BYOD and BYOA are just the start— Bring Your Own Everything is on the horizon.

Embracing the present

The first step is to either build a BYOD and BYOA policy, or review your existing policies to keep them up-to-date.

Employees are already using their own devices and apps inside the workplace — in an April 2015 report, Netskope found the average organization is now using 730 cloud-based applications. If that number seems high, it may be time to audit the software your teams are using, and determine if sensitive corporate information is at risk of being lost in the cloud.

Next, give employees the secure tools they need to use the devices and apps they choose. Different teams may choose different engagement software based on their individual needs. Mandating the entire company standardize on a single, monolithic software platform or official device is unrealistic, and may encourage “shadow IT,” where teams ignore official channels and adopt the tools that work for them.

Information silos are dangerous. At best, silos hinder company engagement by preventing teams from getting the information they need to make informed decisions easily. At worst, silos force employees to kluge together a solution — for example, emailing data across the company in spreadsheets.

Breaking information silos apart is possible with software like the Avaya Engagement Development Platform, which allows companies to write custom code that either communication-enables their existing apps, or builds new apps to share data between silos.

Lastly, smart companies adopt multiple layers of security, knowing that data breaches are just as likely to come from within the company than without.  Firewalls are not enough — network access must be segmented and role-based.

In a widely-publicized data breach last year, a major U.S. retailer admitted it had lost millions of consumer credit card numbers after it gave its HVAC vendor access to wide swaths of the company’s corporate network. Hackers breached the vendor, and used their network credentials to raid the retailer’s credit card database, which was sitting in a section of the network that an HVAC company should not have been able to access.

Virtualized, software-defined networking makes role-based network access easy, reduces the size of the network’s footprint of endpoints and obscures portions of the network from hackers. Individual devices, applications and endpoints are provisioned dynamically, with network access extending and retracting as needed.

BYOD and BYOA represent the new reality for enterprises. Take proactive steps to review your company’s BYOD and BYOA policies, give employees the tools to allow this trend, share information securely between applications and gain more control over the corporate network.

Want more? Download the new Avaya white paper, “The New Rules of Engagement.”