Building the future connected office

Industry Insider

By Patrick Charron 

While Bring Your Own Device may have started out as a simple request to bring personal devices into the workplace, over the past few years it has grown exponentially.

From mobile devices to personal applications, web services and social networks, employees now have expectations of how technology should help them with daily tasks. These employees are now looking to utilize these technologies in the workplace for quick and easy ways to collaborate, connect and be more productive.

Moreover, with the growth of the Internet of Things, this always-connected frame of mind will continue to expand to more and more devices. These 'things' may include home appliances, automobiles and other emerging devices. A recent report from Gartner predicts that the IoT--which excludes PCs, tablets and smartphones--will grow to 26 billion units by 2020.

As we look to build the connected office of the future, video chat and audio streaming will be a standard way to meet with colleagues down the hall or in another office. All business documents and files will be stored in the cloud for easy access, editing and sharing. Social commenting and reviews will allow for more complete collaboration across the company.

Applications will be accessible from any device, regardless of the screen size or layout, through the use of response design. And business documents will be able to be printed to any printer from any device, anywhere in the world.

It's a lot to handle--so in order to prepare for this influx of connected things, IT managers must prepare the enterprise infrastructure, and develop proper policies and procedures to allow for an open and collaborative environment.

Preparing the infrastructure

One of the hardest parts of building the connected office is connecting all of the devices and accounts. Currently, there are large amounts of data being shared across the enterprise, and this is only going to continue to grow in the near future.

As such, the connected office will likely leverage cloud technologies to help manage the large amounts of data being passed between locations and devices while avoiding large upfront costs associated with facilitating these solutions in house.

Businesses will also need to rely on cloud partners and vendors to keep connected devices secure. Developing stringent service level agreements that also meet any compliance and regulatory standards will be key.

Data encryption and application-level security will also be necessary. Organizations can no longer rely on passwords only to protect sensitive information. Encrypting data at rest, but most importantly in motion, will be essential with the number of devices accessing the information.

IT managers should also begin to focus on the accessibility of all things in the office--devices, printers, applications, documents, etc. This includes ensuring standardization of applications across the enterprise.

Today's app culture has led to the term BYOA--Bring Your Own Application (not to be confused with Bring Your Own Access). This is due in part to the fact that most business apps do not offer the simple user interface that today's employees prefer. Employees use apps in an ad hoc manner, finding whatever application that will help them get their work done.

Eventually, however, the line will blur and there will no longer be a difference between consumer and business apps; there will just be productivity apps.

There are already rumors that Google's next Android release will focus heavily on enterprise apps and data encryption. Regardless of the type of application, it will be important for businesses to select a standard set of applications, putting control of the data and security back in the businesses' hands.

Even with a connected office, standard workflows will largely remain the same. These workflows will just become digitized in the cloud and through applications, allowing for greater flexibility and accessibility by employees regardless of where they are located.

Creating opportunities

While there will be plenty of future revenue opportunities for device manufacturers and application developers, the services partners who will help train employees and provide ongoing support will also have much to gain through these advances.

Gartner notes that IoT product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue of around $309 billion, mostly in services, in 2020. These services companies, or vendors with service arms, should start preparing now for this always connected future.

As more devices become enabled with Internet connectivity, the demand for network operator services will increase. Enabling additional devices will create an opportunity to expand applications with the potential to address even further needs for both consumer and business users.  And as previously stated, the need to support and maintain these services will be essential for the long term success of such ground breaking technologies.

It's clear that the future office will provide a multitude of opportunities for employees to better connect, collaborate and produce across offices and across the globe. It's just a matter of how long until we get there.

About the author: Patrick Charron is assistant product manager, solutions, at Brother International. He works with the sales and marketing teams to develop documentation and campaigns for the company's suite of cloud products.

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