A couple of years ago, as part of a history of conferencing and collaboration, I defined our state at the time as being in the “Era of Access.” While collaboration technologies had been around for many years, factors like their cost and complexity up until then had limited their (successful) use to only a select few individuals within organizations.
As the technology improved and the cost of entry came down, the barriers to its access began to disappear. Instead of only being a tool for the corporate C-suite, collaboration technology was available to day-to-day workers and individual consumers. The quality of less expensive experiences may not have been on par with the more expensive ones, but just about everyone could make use of collaboration tools in some form to increase productivity and improve communications.
As we look to the beginning of 2015, it is difficult to identify an individual in our modern society who cannot participate in a video conference or share a computer screen. Whether they’re a parent at home chatting with a child at school, an employment candidate being interviewed over video, an individual contributor sharing PC content with his or her team or an executive using an immersive experience – access to the tools is now almost taken for granted. The Era of Access is successfully coming to an end and a new era is beginning. I believe this will be the “Era of Any.”
“Any” represents the expectation from the now seasoned users of collaboration that everything should just work – in any combination and anywhere they happen to be. We’re all now too experienced to just accept the questionable excuses of the past.
The Era of Any will represent a revolution for end-users and a significant challenge for enterprise technology managers and CIO. “Because we said so” will no longer be accepted as an excuse for preventing productivity, specifically because end users and business unit leaders will just go around the technology gatekeepers and directly purchase the services they need. This can regrettably lead to many issues – including compliance problems, lack of standardization, scattering of vendor relationships with reduced buying power, etc.
Right now - as the Era of Any kicks-off – it’s the ideal time for organizations to perform a top to bottom assessment of their collaboration technologies and supporting infrastructure. The key questions to ask include:
The Era of Any will see the emergence of exciting technologies that can increase productivity and improve the bottom line – but only if organizations are prepared to make the progressive changes necessary to adopt them and champion their use. Going forward, it will most assuredly be the difference between organizations that will succeed and those that won’t.
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