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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Three men and a woman having a meeting.

Make sure you understand these business acronyms, because your tech team will be using them.

As technology advances, it’s tough for everyday users to keep up with the times, let alone understand every piece of tech jargon that gets flung their way. And for executives, knowledge gaps on these business acronyms can have serious consequences. Managers who simply nod and smile may find themselves backing projects they would have never otherwise approved, while those relying on the hard “no” may discover a sudden uptick in the spread of shadow IT.

The solution? Track down the tech terms you need to know this year before you make any big decisions. Oh, and you’re in luck: We’ve got you covered with this handy guide.

1. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

You’ve probably heard this term before, but if this is your first exposure to SaaS, consider yourself lucky that you didn’t embarrass yourself by asking about it during a tech briefing. Put simply, SaaS is taking over the world by offering software delivered via the cloud rather than requiring companies to download and install massive files on their hard drives. According to Cloud Tech, the SaaS market was worth $12 billion in 2016 and is on track to reach $50 billion by 2024. Bottom line? You’ll be investing big in SaaS, so it’s best to understand the basics.

2. Unified Communications as-a-Service (UCaaS)

As the cloud becomes the go-to technology foundation for many companies, you’ll have technology experts in your office waxing poetic about the benefits of Unified Communications as-a-Service. It sounds a little new-agey at first, but it’s really just the integration of all communication services — think Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), video, and over-the-internet meetings — all rolled into one and supported by a solid provider. Opting for a cloud-based unified communications solution lets you better manage costs and optimize networks to ensure quality of service (bonus acronym, QoS) is maintained even if employees are downloading big files or otherwise hogging network bandwidth.

3. Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

No, this does not stand for “most valuable player.” It’s actually a reference to the bare minimum needed to get a tech project off the ground and onto live servers. Recently, there has been a push to change the term and make it “most valuable product,” since doing the bare minimum in a mobile-driven world is a good way to grab terrible social reviews and find customers jumping ship for more innovative alternatives. The best advice for the IT business decision maker? Track down the real intention if your team starts throwing this one around. Make it clear that you know exactly what it means and that the bare minimum won’t cut it. It’s better to be an MVP with an MVP rather than an MVP, right? Right.

4. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Next on the list of business acronyms is AI. Nope, we’re not talking about the type of AI found in “I, Robot” or “Terminator.” While the concept of super-smart, human-like machines makes great movie fodder, real AI is a little bit more down to earth. More importantly, innovators aren’t actually trying to mimic human interactions — instead, they want to design tech that’s incredibly intelligent within the context of a specific job or role. In the workplace, AI usually refers to specific tools that streamline automation, so companies can focus on their IT ROI.

5. Internet of Things (IoT)

This one gets a ton of play in the news, but despite the hype, there’s huge potential here. Simply put, IoT relies on a collection of (typically) small, connected devices that store and share information. In turn, this gives companies access to a huge amount of potentially actionable data.

Examples here include smart thermostats that measure office temperature or vehicle sensors that help manage logistics. Next-generation uses include wearables to help monitor performance and the evolution of even smaller devices across more disparate networks to produce granular data from any possible source. Expect IT to talk about this business acronym regularly, so be ready to dig in and discover exactly what they’re proposing.

So, there you have it: five tech terms you’ll probably come across in the next few months and should know something about before IT pros start tossing them out like candy. Come back in six months, and we’ll have another set on deck to get you through the rest of 2017.

Contact Vonage Business for more information on useful tech that will promote engagement and collaboration.

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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