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The future of work is here

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Thankfully—as this is being written—the unprecedented global pandemic is winding down. Looking back over the past tumultuous 2 years there has been tremendous change, much of which will remain in place as the world gets back to a more normal rhythm.

Some of the most significant transformation has taken place in the business world, with impact felt across every industry, in nearly every region of the world. As companies made the shift to a mostly remote or hybrid workplace, there’s no sign that the embrace of these work models will change anytime soon.

Going beyond the standard tools

According to one study, approximately 70% of companies plan to transition to a hybrid work environment. Another survey claims most industries have at least 25% of employees working either hybrid or fully remote, with 15% working entirely remote, 37% of employees are working in the office and remotely, and 48% work on-site only. To summarize both studies, the traditional in-office mode of work may now be a relic of the past.

There have been a lot of positives from changing the normal 9-5 to this new mix of remote and hybrid, including cutting commute times (which is also great for the planet), and providing employees with more flexibility about how and when they work. However, these quick and dramatic changes have also impacted businesses’ IT spend, forcing companies to quickly equip employees working onsite, remotely, or both.

The question is whether organizations are prepared to address, from an IT perspective, what might be a permanent remote/hybrid/onsite work environment. This entails going beyond the communication tools we’ve all become accustomed to, such as Slack, Teams, and Zoom, to the collaborative capabilities and integrated workflows. This requires equipping teams with enterprise content management, cloud-powered applications and advanced enterprise search capabilities that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) technologies for real-time data search across documents and the enterprise environment.

Three areas organizations should focus on to improve collaboration

There are three key areas that organizations should focus on to bolster inter-company communications and collaboration, while building their sustainability and corporate social responsibility resumes. These include:

  • Adopting team collaboration software and enterprise sync and file sharing platforms, such as SharePoint for content management. This can enhance the efficiency of the hybrid work model because teams will be able to access and edit documents in real time. With dozens or hundreds of employees working on the same documents, day-in and day- out, sending Word files back and forth is a recipe for disaster. Enterprise content management systems are one effective way to eliminate chaos by streamlining workflows, inherent version control capabilities and making files and documents readily available to those with access privileges, anytime and anywhere.
  • Digitizing processes to make information available securely to all employees, in the office, at home or on the road.Companies are now investing heavily in the digital transformation projects they may have put on hold in 2020 and 2021, and there’s good reason for this enthusiasm. Digital transformation is more than just a buzzword. It drives better data sharing, fewer data siloes, and delivers a much better user and customer experience. Digitizing paper documents is an important component in digital transformation—which is more than just moving processes and applications to the cloud. It’s really about making sure all systems and technology platforms can communicate with each other, and empowering organizations to automate processes that were previously manual and employee-driven. Automation saves resources, including time and money, increases accuracy and accelerates processes, which is a win-win-win for customers, employees, and the company’s bottom line. Cloud-based platforms are highly scalable and feature open archixteture which makes it easy to integrate services which accelerates IT agility. Finally, the pay-as-you-go licensing model of the cloud helps businesses save money on upfront IT costs.
  • By making digitized records a top priority, organizations can take stock of their processes and work to decrease paper usage and carbon footprint. Most companies are spending a lot of money on office and paper storage space. Through document digitization and adopting a permanent hybrid workspace, companies can downsize office space. There’s another upside to digitization: companies can decrease the paper they store in file cabinets and commit to more “green” work processes. Less office space equals less energy usage (and costs) for lighting, heat, and a/c. Take mortgage processing applications, for example. Instead of sending stacks of documents from point A to B by FedEx, or other carriers, documents can be captured at the source and shared electronically, saving costs on transport and reducing the carbon footprint associated with flying files across the country. While we may never be able to achieve the much hyped “paperless” office, we certainly can meet the goal to be less paper-dependent. Paper is still the best first step for customer intake and can be an invaluable back up in the case of a ransomware attack or other business continuity threats, but once the paper copy is created, it must be scanned and digitized.  From that point it can then be incorporated into automated workflows or made available for search which increases a company’s business intelligence.

Moving toward a more flexible and highly connected distributed office

Digital transformation is one of the drivers of innovation in collaborative platforms, which in turn delivers companies value, competitive differentiation, and provides the added bonus of decreasing their carbon footprint. As enterprise “sync and share” platforms continue to evolve, including Microsoft OneDrive, Teams, Yammer, Google Drive, and Box, these solutions will be in high demand as organizations continue adapt to the new more flexible and highly connected distributed office.

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