A guest post from Tony Simonsen, Managing Director, Polycom Australia & New Zealand
Like any leader overseeing a large geography, I have often found myself meeting with partners in Sydney, attending a customer event in Auckland and joining an analyst briefing in Singapore – all in the same week. The difference today, is that I can often complete these meetings without having to board a plane. In 2017, this changing dynamic of workplace culture and collaboration will continue to impact business at all levels, from C-Suite to intern.
Workplaces are transforming and technology is the driving force. The workplace of the future is also generally more flexible than the traditional workspace – flexible both in terms of how a business’s physical space may be used, as well as flexible in the expectations for where employees may be located on any given day. All of this reflects an increasing dependence on global teams in business – 69% in Australia and 71% in New Zealand – according to our own Workplace of the Future research.
In 2016, we’ve seen many collaboration predictions come to fruition – particularly when it comes to technologies that are easy to use and enable more natural collaboration across environments and locations. Workspaces and workplace behavior have also evolved. Witness the rise in popularity of the ‘huddle room’ (or small group meeting space), which not only encourages impromptu catch-ups but also delivers better use of company office space. Wainhouse Research estimates there are now 30-50 million of these worldwide compared with 10 million traditional style conference and board rooms.
From Good to Great – Workplace Collaboration in 2017
So what impact are all these changes having, and what direction will workplace collaboration take in 2017? I’ve identified five areas that I believe will be important in the year ahead.
Access Anywhere Collaboration As more people get access to collaborative technologies at work, there is an increased end user expectation that collaboration tools should be as easy and intuitive to use as smartphones or tablets. People expect to be able work in the same way across any device - in different rooms - as they move from a desk to a meeting room – seamlessly and effortlessly. To continue to drive user adoption, collaboration tools will need to be designed for this fluid way of working.
Creating Intelligent and Personal Customer Experiences Organisations understand that to create loyal customers, experience is everything. In an age where information is instantly available online, customers are more empowered than ever before. Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2018, the world’s largest companies will make use of intelligent apps, big data and analytics to improve customer’s interaction with their organisation. In 2017, interactive collaboration technologies like video are expected to be increasingly adopted as a way of personalising the customer experience. Face to face communication in real time enables customers to be more closely connected, develop rapport and have open dialogue; which can lead to even greater innovation, as well as loyalty.
Digital Transformation Continues to Move Up Government Agendas Companies will continue their digital transformation journeys in 2017; and, according to research firm, IDC, worldwide spending on technologies is expected to exceed US $2.1 trillion by 2019 . However, we are now also seeing the need for a digital transformation shift beyond the private sector to Government. Digitising economies and public services is now high on the agenda for many governments across Asia Pacific and within ANZ. Highly ambitious initiatives like the Digital Transformation Office in Australia, are a great example. With more digital natives joining the workforce - harnessing the right technology to ensure connectivity to society will be crucial to the success of public sector digital transformation initiatives.
Evolving Workspaces and Workstyles Using a mix of cloud, mobile and desktop collaboration apps is fairly commonplace in today’s modern workplace and most organisations want their employees to be able to work easily regardless of location or device. Tomorrow’s technology has to be flexible enough to meet the demands of different workstyles and collaboration requirements ranging from group brainstorming to talent acquisition and training. Likewise, the ability to collaborate seamlessly is expected to be an integral factor in the design of future workspaces. Expect more open meeting spaces, huddle rooms and personal workspaces; as well as home offices.
Startups and Entrepreneurs, More Collaboration Needed Business startups and increased entrepreneurial spirit among millennials has contributed to workplace transformation and innovation throughout Australia and New Zealand. Co-working spaces, crowdfunding, and the hiring of freelancers has become increasingly commonplace among this new breed of business owners. However, there is risk attached to startups which has led to high failure rates. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggested that startups and established companies would both improve their success rates if they collaborated instead of competing, combining strengths. It’s expected that collaboration technology and platforms will continue to drive the spirit of innovation, keeping ideas and business concepts alive through the right connections and transfer of knowledge.
True Collaboration Delivering Real Value in 2017 Businesses of all sizes, and industries of all types have a common goal - and that is to bring people together to get things done, have meaningful and productive exchanges and work towards success. Collaborative technologies have the power to level the playing field and give all a voice in the workplace of the future. This represents a tremendous opportunity for both the public and private sector to unleash their collaboration potential and embrace new ways of working.
I really believe that 2017 is the year more businesses will discover the real impact that rich, meaningful collaboration can deliver to employees, customers, and ultimately their bottom line.
Tony Simonsen is Polycom's Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand. In this Q&A he discusses his first 100 days in the job, the evolution of Polycom's channel partners, and the trends driving the workplace of the future in ANZ.
What have you learnt in your first 100 days in this role? What I’ve found is that we’ve got a really good team of people in ANZ and globally, who are focused on a common set of objectives. There is a real spirit of embracing collaboration in everything we do here and truly enabling the Workplace of the Future.
Our technology is fantastic and extremely innovative. We have a broad range of new solutions in market which gives us unique opportunity here in ANZ, a market that is in rapid transition around a few key issues. The technology also has changed the look and feel of the Polycom brand and what we stand for in the marketplace.
Polycom’s partner community is strong albeit with opportunity to do some things differently. Relationships with partners such as Microsoft are so deep and so strong that there is a level of great mutual benefit. That relationship is something I have focused on to understand how we can together add value to customers in ANZ. I’ve also found that we have a very loyal customer base and now a large focus for me will be to help them ready themselves for the Workplace of the Future.
What does the future workplace look like for people in Australia & New Zealand? What are some of the trends driving this new reality? We look at Australian and New Zealand businesses in a couple of different ways: the way organisations used to collaborate and work together and how they will going forward. The availability of technology is really critical for the future workplace as it is about the way we work (workflow), the experience we have and importantly, the workplace and how it’s changed. Bricks and mortar have made way for collaborative working environments that can be physical or virtual, enabling people to work in any place, at any time using technology and applications to stay connected.
However, despite the changes under way, there is still more work to be done to shift cultural perceptions about whether employees need to work from an office to undertake their jobs effectively. In Polycom’s recent ANZ Workplace of the Future report, we found that opinions are divided on both sides of the Tasman. We discovered very interestingly that almost two thirds (64%) of Australian businesses prefer their employees to work from an office compared to just one third (35%) of New Zealand based organisations. The ‘see to believe’ mindset needs to be addressed, as the Workplace of the Future is not a physical place but represents a new model of working which supports both office-based and remote workers.
Another trend is the ability for companies to hire people who can work from anywhere, including working from home. In our survey we found organisations are seeing a large increase in the use of global teams (69% in Australia versus 71% in New Zealand) and in tasks that require cross organisational collaboration (82% in Australia versus 84% in New Zealand).
What role will channel partners play in the workplace of the future?
Traditional channel partners for Polycom were organisations that provided audio visual solutions to companies, because video was treated as an audio visual application in most organisations. Today, the Workplace of the Future is driving different dynamics and the channel that we either resell through or partner with are very different to what we might have done 3-5 years ago. This includes organisations that are more people-oriented than technology-oriented, such as those which provide activity-based or workforce planning activities, or that are building and designing new workplaces.
Our channel is changing and adapting to organisational trends, and so are very different and new to Polycom. There is opportunity for all our partners – of which we have over 500 across ANZ – to adapt the solutions they are offering to the new workplace. That means focusing less on the technology and more on three things:
- the workplace and the environment people work in - the experience the user has every single day - the way in which they work (workflow)
It’s not just about a great product any more; we continually reference Workspace, Experience and Workflow in our discussion with customers and elevate the conversation, thereby becoming more consultative. Our partners are doing the same thing – not just providing technology but an experience, which is absolutely critical to customers. What do organisations need to do to embrace collaboration as a company-wide business practice? Measurement and metrics are number one. Our premise at Polycom is about putting collaboration at the core of the business and we provide the experience required. But metrics are crucial to an organisation in order to measure productivity, how to measure utilisation and adoption of the collaboration tools provided. Our research tells us that only 24% ANZ organisations measure the utilisation of their collaboration solutions. This represents an opportunity to understand potential areas for improved productivity. It’s necessary to measure impact on productivity whether it’s reduced administration costs or faster time to market as result of better collaboration. A baseline of measurement should be established to see the improvements over time and truly embrace and reap the benefits of collaboration. Collaboration technology should also be used throughout the organisation and not reserved for a boardroom or only a certain set of employees.
The Australian government recently unveiled a $1b innovation package. What opportunities does this bring for Australian businesses, as well as vendors such as Polycom? The budget is a significant amount of investment over four years and from a Federal Government point of view, it’s about all about driving innovation and the ‘ideas boom’ that will impact Australia in that period of time.
There’s never a better time for organisations to invest in doing things differently in their workplace, such as driving a Workplace of the Future strategy, utilising some of the funding as part of the ideas boom and showing how increased collaboration can benefit the economy.
Could you explain some of the innovative ways ANZ customers are using Polycom technology? What were some recent customer highlights? DEXUS Property Group is an excellent example of a customer that has adopted Polycom technology and built a business model around our Workplace of the Future story. Rather than being just another organisation that simply provides an office space, they provide an experience by integrating every type of collaboration technology – from immersive telepresence to high definition audio conferencing – to provide a truly collaborative workplace for their customers. They have taken what was originally a business model of providing office space and stacked on great services and doing a great job of innovating in the market place.
Which market areas or verticals have the biggest growth potential and opportunity for Polycom in ANZ? We have typically sold to three verticals: government, healthcare and education, and they’re where the majority of our business in ANZ comes from. But we can’t rely on those to sustain us over time, so we set about looking very closely at the customer sets – those who are embracing Workplace of the Future solutions the most. Two of those stand out in terms of rapid innovation: financial services and professional services. These two sectors are moving very quickly to activity based working and collaborative working environments to drive competitive advantage and be seen as innovating. We now find that these two verticals are making up the majority of new opportunities for us.
Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? I started my career at 15 as an apprentice machinist and somehow many paths led me to where I am today. What I can say is that I love my career in technology, particularly in the point of view of enabling positive change in the workplace. I’m happily married for over 20 years and have four children, three dogs, a cat and a bunch of chickens and we live in a rural area, more than 50kms out of Sydney. I enjoy fishing and playing cricket and am also currently enrolled in an MBA program. In addition to my role here at Polycom, I’m also on the board of a charity that supports homeless youth, adults, and families.
How have video and/or other technology innovations impacted your life? It goes without saying that video collaboration is a fundamental element to my role, in keeping in daily contact with my teams across Australia and New Zealand and of course collaborating with my colleagues across the world. Whether I’m in rural New South Wales or in the heart of Sydney, location and time zones really don’t matter – video helps me manage my schedules and time better and keep my teams productive.
What’s your favourite Polycom solution? My favourite by far is RealPresence Centro. To bring conversations to the centre of the room is really important and to have that 360 degree view in a collaboration session is just awesome! As a solution to a business problem around agile working, RealPresence Centro is an incredible product and I can’t wait for customers to experience and leverage it.