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Wednesday, 15 December 2021 16:30

Nine key trends that will shape business in the future

By Todd Vandenberg, national manager of connect and collaborate, Ricoh Australia
Todd Vandenberg, national manager of connect and collaborate, Ricoh Australia Todd Vandenberg, national manager of connect and collaborate, Ricoh Australia

GUEST OPINION: As businesses continue to emerge from the unforeseen disruptions of the past 24 months, many are fine tuning their strategic plans for the years ahead.

Key to this planning is a recognition that the world of work has fundamentally changed. Previously office-based teams continue to work remotely, and many processes and workflows have been redesigned or replaced.

The ways in which technology is being used have also changed. On-premise infrastructures protected by firewalls are being replaced by cloud-based resources and accessed by myriad digital devices. IT managers have had to rethink their architectures and redesign them so they can deliver the support that staff require in this environment.

As the new year unfolds, there are nine key trends that will guide business planning and activity. These trends are:

1. Work patterns will continue to evolve

Having been forced to make significant changes very quickly at the start of the pandemic, businesses will need to continue to adjust where and how their staff work. While it’s clear that hybrid working is here to stay, achieving the optimal blend of in-office and at-home activity will be key. The best model will be different for different businesses, however taking the time now to figure out what works best will pay dividends in the future.

2. Real estate requirements will change

With staff spending less time in offices, their size and fit outs will change during the year. Many offices will be redesigned as hybrid workplaces with a choice of settings and spaces created that suit different workstyles. Space will also need to be allocated for ad-hoc working as well as more formal meetings and collaboration sessions.

Tools will also need to be deployed that allow remote workers to connect with their office-based colleagues. These tools should be seamless, simple to use, and provide first-class audio and video.

3. Staff safety will become an even bigger priority

Bringing employees back after an extended period of working from home will require thoughtfulness, deliberation, and attention to detail. There will also be a dramatic change in how organisations manage office space.

The need to cater for fluctuations in schedules, capacity, usage, and ongoing legislation means organisations will need to specifically focus on the wellbeing of their employees as well as compliance with health and safety guidelines. Flexible, low-touch or contactless working environments will need to be introduced that incorporate mobile apps synced to key technologies. It will also be important to allow for workplace process automation and optimisation. Employees will require simple, secured communications tools that support their flexible working environment while smarter meeting spaces and workspace management software will streamline how the overall office functions.

4. Increased focus will be placed on IT security

The importance of effective IT security is well understood, however businesses now need to ensure they have the components in place that afford protection to large numbers of remote and hybrid workers. Rather than focusing on maintaining a secure network perimeter, IT teams must achieve this in a new ‘everywhere workplace’.

Steps that can be taken including deploying multi-factor authentication (MFA) tools that require users to provide more than just a password or PIN to gain access. Some firms may also consider embracing the concept of Zero Trust where all users and devices connecting to a network much prove their identity before they are granted access as part of their cybersecurity policy.

5. Business agility will become even more important

Businesses were forced to undertake massive changes in a very short space of time, but unfortunately no one can be sure what lies around the corner. For this reason, it’s important for agility to become part of the corporate DNA.

6. There will be ongoing adoption of digital workflows

The digitisation of business workflows has been increasing for years, and the trend was given a massive push by the pandemic. Businesses will search for additional ways in which manual and paper-based workflows can be replaced with digital equivalents to enable greater flexibility and to improve business agility.

Initiatives could include using automation tools to streamline document workflows and increase staff productivity. Organisations can also consider deploying robotic process automation (RPA) tools to further improve the way tasks are completed.

7. AI usage will increase further

Artificial intelligence is already be used by businesses in a range of ways, but these will continue to play major roles in shaping business decisions and outcomes. AI tools will support business decision making by analysing large volumes of data and identifying trends and opportunities.

AI will also be able to offer suggestions on the best way to complete workloads or how processes can be improved. They will also be able to assist with administrative tasks such as scheduling meetings between groups of people.

8. Businesses will streamline their technology partners

Many businesses have multiple IT partners who provide support for different systems and services. In an effort to reduce complexity, many businesses will aim to reduce the number of partners and forge relationships with those who can provide support across multiple areas. This will assist the businesses to better align technology with business outcomes and potentially reduce costs.

9. Staff will demand a better work/life balance

Working from home has been both a blessing and a curse for many people. Ways need to be found to allow people to have a clearer demarcation between their work day and private life. Achieving this balance will be a focus throughout the year.

It’s clear that the new year will be a year of both challenges and opportunities. By being aware of these trends and taking them into account when formulating strategies and plans, Australian businesses will be well placed to thrive.

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