A group of people collaborate on a project in an office.

Business productivity tools can foster collaboration among colleagues.

What do millennial employees, high-utility technology, and a shifting business productivity landscape have in common? For many organizations, these three factors have turned early 2017 into the “Year of Collaboration.” From policy to practice to the technology driving it, organizations across the board are clearly bullish on the young workforce’s collective desire to better work together.

Here’s a look at the year (so far) in collaboration and the way these trends could shape the months and years to come:

1. BYOD’s Continued Importance

No, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is nothing new on its face. Organizations have grown more and more friendly toward personal devices as of late, and the call only gets easier to make as technology improves and penetration rates skyrocket. Instead, according to MeriTalk, the story is just how important these devices are to a millennial workforce. In an era where your tech choices serve as an extension and reflection of yourself, the ability to integrate your work habits with the hardware platforms of your choice is considered more of a right than a privilege.

Thus, the collaboration-minded company doesn’t just approve of BYOD — it capitalizes on it. Integrated mobility tools allow employees to connect with co-workers, engage with clients, and project the organization’s presence for their personal hardware. For instance, an employee could use the same phone- or laptop-based business app to check a co-worker’s availability, leave revisions on a shared document, and send a business text with some final thoughts. He or she could then use the same device and app to place a call to a valued client, complete with the company’s name and phone number showing up on caller ID.

And those are just two examples. Ultimately, there are countless ways BYOD can help businesses and their employees stay productive and collaborative. It’s worth giving the practice its due space in your business productivity plans, because it’s not going away anytime soon.

2. Don’t Forget BYOS

Of course, hardware and associated operating systems are just one side of the “BYO” coin. Employees can also have personal — and sometimes deeply personal — preferences when it comes to the software they use, a trait companies can leverage to effect collaboration among their workers.

The increased availability and functionality of cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) suites is one helpful advancement for companies looking to accommodate personal workflows. Instead of buying individual full licenses, the company can purchase affordable subscriptions for precisely the number of people wanting to use this tool or that service. This means your office’s diehard Dropbox™ fan can easily link her personal cloud storage account to a business-run one, with administrative oversight tools allowing a measure of privacy and policy adherence. Compared to the employee going “shadow IT” — that is to say, carting private work files around in his personal account without permission — this represents an inexpensive way to stay compliant and bolster productivity and collaboration.

Better, storage is far from the only tool to receive a SaaS makeover. Tools running the gamut of business needs — word processing, project management, graphic design, video editing, and more — can be purchased on a monthly, a-la-carte basis, making BYOS a viable policy in all sorts of workplaces. Throw in a focus on interoperability between many competing products, and voila — business collaboration, productivity, and personal choice no longer need to be mutually exclusive goals.

3. The Internet of Things: More Than a Customer Tool

When you hear about the Internet of Things (IoT) in your industry, there’s a good chance the chatter comes with a customer-focused spin. This makes sense, at least to a point. It’s how the discussion is framed in the larger tech media, and many consumer-focused IoT tools are downright nifty, too.

However, customer-facing tools are just one facet of the IoT’s era. Great things are being done on the business collaboration front today. According to The Next Web, organizations can boost productivity and collaboration with internet-connected location- and status-reporting tools, unified communication-enabled desk phones, “print anywhere” printers, and metric-reporting sensors. For example, the last item on that list can provide valuable performance insights to HR and management teams.

And that’s just the beginning of the IoT’s value in the collaborative workspace. In fields as far ranging as manufacturing and marketing, logistics, and legal, the connect-everything mantra will increasingly drive business productivity, process, and collaboration throughout the year and beyond. In other words, the IoT’s combination of low cost and high utility will become too much to pass up.

The Year in Collaboration

Like the companies that foster it, collaboration takes a lot of shapes. For some organizations, making a more collaboration-friendly space is as simple as buying or subscribing to cloud-backed communication or productivity tools. For others, a collaborative office means a connected office, with cutting-edge tools reporting metrics, providing statuses, and simplifying work processes.

The true constant is that people want to work together, and they want tools that best allow them to do that. Considering all the business productivity benefits a little teamwork can bring, this makes an endless list of reasons to make your office more collaboration-friendly — and very few reasons not to. What better time than now to make it happen with a VoIP business phone system?

To learn more about collaboration tools, contact a Vonage Business consultant.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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A woman sitting at her desk, speaking on her mobile phone.

Your BYOD policy may be outdated. It’s time to take new look at it for the new year.

Out with the old, and in with the new — 2017 is here, and it’s the perfect time to reassess current policies, see what’s working, and ditch what isn’t making the cut. Consider the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement. For the better part of a decade, this has been a tech industry buzzword that prompted a personal device revolution in the workplace.

But the BYOD policy landscape simply isn’t the same as it was five years ago or even during 2016. Bottom line? It’s time for a fresh start.

Here are three BYOD rules to retire in 2017:

1. My Way or the Highway

Mobile devices are everywhere. They’re so prevalent, in fact, that manufacturers are now taking the user out of the equation to create wireless Internet of Things (IoT) networks that can collect, store, and even analyze vast amounts of data. What does this mean for your company? As noted by Enterprise Apps Tech News, the “if it’s not there, it doesn’t exist” tactic remains a common approach for companies and IT departments not sold on a BYOD future.

Spoiler alert: This doesn’t work. Guess what happens? That’s right, shadow IT. Users connect with the devices of their choice, regardless of what IT permits or restricts. As a result, this is the first policy you need to ditch in 2017: My way or the highway can quickly strand companies on the side of the digital road wondering how competitors got so fast.

2. Quiet, You!

Another policy for you to consider tossing? Limits on how and when staff can use personal devices for business or corporate devices for personal things. It sounds unfair, right? Why should you have to bear the brunt of this responsibility? Well, because it’s 2017, and people enjoy working on devices they like and are familiar with. Sure, you could tell staff they can only make work calls from personal devices during work hours or to switch off their corporate-issued smartphone when they’re not in the office, but the chances of these rules actually being followed are slim.

Of course, you might point to a lack of mobile and traditional integration — if your mobile provider doesn’t play nice with existing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking services, you could be looking at big bills just to let users call on whatever phone floats their boat. The solution? Opt for integration. Choose a cloud-based solution that merges mobile devices with traditional business phone systems to provide unified access. Everyone comes out a winner. You get to toss bad policies, and users get to call on the devices of their choice (which, let’s face it, they were going to do anyway).

3. Meager App-ettite

Do you want increased productivity from mobile employees? Of course you do. So, here’s the thing: You need them to shelve the “approved apps-only” BYOD policy that seemed like a great idea three years ago. Sure, it worked back then, when employees and employers alike were just starting to figure out how BYOD could drive revenue instead of driving up costs for the sake of convenience, but it no longer holds the same value. According to Networks Asia, the emergence of “digital natives” and “citizen developers” has empowered an era of personal mobile choice. Users don’t want IT to dictate the apps and services they should be using. Instead, they want the ability to pick and choose solutions that work for them and meet current project demands.

By locking down app selection, IT departments create new organizational problems that prompt workers to circumvent the rules for the sake of expedience. However, by tossing bad policies and opening a dialogue with employees about what they want, how they want it, and how it empowers their work, it’s possible to proactively streamline your BYOD network rather than struggle to catch up with increasingly tech-savvy employees.

The New Year has arrived, and it’s time for a BYOD policy shakedown. Toss device demands, lose the call restrictions, and empower employee choice to maximize ROI.

For more tips on updating your BYOD policy for the new year, contact a Vonage Business consultant.

About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is an award-winning freelance writer with a passion for technology and innovation. His ability to create compelling, thought-provoking and timely content helps empower the voice of corporate vision. From UCaaS to VoIP to cloud computing, Doug has experience covering all aspects of evolving digital environments and their effects on both people and policies.

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