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collaboration is
IT's next horizon

Author: Megan Williams

Some workers might never return to the office.

Business leaders have been talking about this since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, when large swaths of the workforce moved from the office to working remotely from home in early 2020. For example, in Detroit's Henry Ford Health System, by August 2020, 96% of revenue cycle staff were working remotely, an increase of more than 70% pre-pandemic.

For many organizations, productivity and business collaboration were major concerns during the first few months of the pandemic. But more than a year later, as the reality of the remote workforce endures, many organizations have realized something amazing: With the right approach to collaboration, it's possible to discover—and even create—novel ways of doing business.

But the stakes are high, and they require more than an innovative business strategy. Challenges continue to loom including a rapidly changing remote work landscape, demand for digital relationships that ease worker burdens and a need to diversify capabilities and revenue streams. Optimizing conversation, collaboration and productivity fluidly across devices, platforms and applications is more important than ever.

When supported by a strong IT strategy, effective business collaboration ensures agility, enables true digital transformation and helps organizations navigate the constant change that characterizes today's business environment.

Trends shaping the future of business collaboration

In a future shaped by post-pandemic ripples, remote work and a population shift away from major cities will incentivize companies across a range of industries to embrace emerging trends in business collaboration. Leveraging sophisticated business collaboration tools will help them solve high-stakes problems.

Extended reality

The future is fertile ground for extended reality and its immersive forms—chiefly, augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality. For instance, IKEA’s augmented shopping experience lets customers project virtual furniture into their homes through a smartphone app. Extended reality will be a key driver for the retail industry, redefining the point of service and shifting where purchases happen and where profit comes from.

In the new world of remote and distributed work, employees might encounter extended reality before they encounter a customer. Extended reality is emerging as a popular tool for employee training and learning and development initiatives.

As the very idea of how and where work gets done is transformed, businesses will need fresh ways of collaborating to support the complex relationship between customers and the support services that keep business moving.

Artificial intelligence and big data

Though often discussed separately, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data are converging, and businesses must understand how the two connect to address challenges in business workflows and the customer experience. No matter the industry, this requires cooperation between specialists across IT disciplines.

The pandemic has pushed the banking industry, for example, toward self-service kiosks that lean on conversational artificial intelligence to drive the customer experience. To extract the most value out of these technologies, data scientists will need to work with other IT professionals responsible for managing the massive data sets.

All this contributes to the need for unified communications and business collaboration tools that are mindful of user needs, organizational goals and the unique challenges that individual industries present.

Enabling successful business collaboration

For the future of business collaboration to succeed, initiatives will need to position collaboration as a foundational tool in an organization’s business strategy. Collaboration was once a value add; but in the complex and rapidly evolving business environments of today and tomorrow, it has to be blended into an organization's strategic framework.

On a practical level, this means looking for ways to align mobile strategy, business collaboration tools, software platforms and your network to support a holistic collaborative approach. As the way we work morphs into its location-independent future, strategic decision-makers will need to prioritize mobility and an interconnected network to facilitate meeting the complex yet interdependent needs of customers and administrative and IT teams.

This will undoubtedly challenge many organizations, especially from a talent and resource perspective. IT and business leaders will benefit by focusing on efficiency to fill gaps (e.g., offloading time-consuming tasks) and choosing optimal solutions.

The future of business collaboration is bright, but the road there is long and winding. It will require careful benchmarking and assessment to monitor and address metrics and qualitative results in multiple areas, including:

  • Participation rate and active users
  • Employee satisfaction and retention, especially in roles where the pandemic has spiked burnout rates
  • Cost and margin impact
  • Cross-functional interaction

Selecting the right collaboration partner will be essential for success. Look for a managed services provider that understands industry-specific challenges and can provide solutions developed and tested in fields that have moved more quickly in collaboration and unified communications.

Learn how unified communications and collaboration solutions can drive better business outcomes by enhancing business collaboration.