It is no secret that the past 18 months or so have seen a huge increase in the use of collaboration systems. The purchase of collaboration platform subscriptions and videoconferencing equipment has skyrocketed as businesses respond to the newest workplace realities.
In this article, we review some of the trends that we see today, and we’ll also take a look at what is forthcoming to see the potential collaboration systems of the future.
What is a remote collaboration service?
Before we get into the trends, it’s a good idea to briefly review what we mean when we talk about a collaboration service or platform. Collaboration systems deliver a multichannel communications platform for remote employees and partners. The various channels of communication include video, voice, file sharing, instant messaging, screen sharing, presentation showing, and shared workspaces that allow multiple users to share and work on elements like a whiteboard, a spreadsheet, or a text document. These platforms can be used via a desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile device. In addition, they can be leveraged by advanced audiovisual equipment where multiple users within a conference or huddle room can participate, with large high-quality screens, cameras, microphones, speakers, and other specialized devices. Examples include Microsoft Teams and Zoom, and examples of specialized collaboration equipment include Konftel’s C20800 Hybrid video collaboration kit, and Boom’s series of collaboration devices.
Collaboration trends of today
Some of the most common trends we see today for both collaboration services as well as equipment include:
Asynchronous collaboration – Traditionally, business ideas would be presented to various teams and departments within a company, and the responsible people would usually gather in meetings to brainstorm and hammer out a strategy to move forward. Such collaboration is more difficult to do remotely since spending so many hours in a videoconference will test the limits of even the most dedicated employees. Attention spans wane, and employee efficiency is drastically reduced.
A more appropriate remote collaboration scenario is asynchronous collaboration. Employees share their thoughts in the form of posts, files, recorded video, or short messages, in much the same way that social media platforms allow users to share. Users are then notified when new content has been posted, to which anyone can respond, thus creating a rich brainstorming environment where ideas can be honed and developed. Once enough ideas have been posted responded to, a videoconference can take place, which is expected to be much shorter since ideas have already matured during the asynchronous collaboration period, making such meetings more productive.
Real and virtual huddle rooms – Huddle rooms are useful for allowing collaborating employees to converse, exchange ideas, and develop designs and plans. Such rooms are used by countless businesses globally, but it has been estimated that less than 3% were video-enabled before the pandemic. The post-pandemic design of huddle rooms has changed, and their usage has increased. Furthermore, video-enabled huddle room meetings are expected to grow exponentially over the next few years. Collaboration-enabled huddle rooms have been proven to simplify the organization of quick meetings, providing privacy and confidentiality from other on-premises workers, and delivering a more effective environment for focused brainstorming.
Enabling the distributed workforce – Collaboration systems deliver much more than a videoconferencing solution. Today’s platforms provide deep integration with many additional applications that allow even the most active and multifunctional employees to work remotely. Integration of phone and video calls with tasks, connection between CRM records and specific contact center tickets, and automated task creation from multiple sources are just some of the things that can be achieved. This is even further enabled by the use of APIs that deliver more customized solutions that can be tailor made for each enterprise’s needs.
Collaboration trends of tomorrow
So far, we’ve looked at trends that have been seen over the past couple of years that have been implemented and used by businesses of all types.
Just around the corner are some awe-inspiring innovations for collaboration that are true game changers. It’s not known how quickly these will catch on, or how practical they will be, but as they are refined, their potential will be considerable. These include:
- Smart meeting rooms – These can be either virtual, real, or some combination of both. They include virtual assistants that automate many of the more menial tasks that the coordinator of the meeting would do. These include things like automated note taking, automatic sending of meeting minutes, and even intelligent scheduling, which frees you from coordinating meeting times. This feature takes each user’s publicly accessible calendar into account, as well as the time zone of each participant. The use of 360° cameras allows people in a conference setting to sit anywhere they like and still be visible to the remote participants. It also delivers a more engaging experience for those connecting remotely, making them feel more a part of the action.
- Virtual and augmented reality – Virtual reality (VR) technology is on the verge of making a conference an immersive experience. Add to this the additional information that augmented reality (AR) can deliver to the field of view of a user, and you can imagine the potential these technologies have to complement the collaboration experience. VR and AR together will not only allow you to communicate better, but will also enable you to create virtual spaces where your team can visualize ideas more clearly. According to some surveys, the largest obstacle to the adoption of VR and AR for collaboration is the bulkiness of the hardware. With a little more time, as these are being refined, we can expect to see VR and AR become an integral part of collaboration systems, bringing remote people closer together than ever before.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) – In conjunction with the above-stated innovations, AI is expected to play a pivotal role in streamlining and enhancing remote collaboration. AI is able to take real-time information from a collaboration meeting and interpret various aspects of it. Things like facial recognition, speech to text, and interpreting images can be used to coordinate meetings, automatically inform participants of conclusions, send out individual task lists to specific participants, organize and schedule the next meeting, and even create an agenda and goals to be achieved, based on predetermined conditions. This frees up people from the often mundane and time-consuming administrative tasks and allows them to focus more on the job at hand.
We’re still some ways away from a truly intelligent and automated collaboration experience, but we’ll get there much quicker than we may think. The innovations that have already been achieved are a testament to where we can expect collaboration technology to go in the near and not-so-near future.
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