How Tech Leaders Can Prepare for the Future of Work The expectations of younger, technologically-deft workers are driving change in the workplace that improves productivity.

By Scott McCool

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Advanced technology and a younger, tech-savvy workforce have modernized our work environment with the result that businesses must work faster and collaborate across distances more than ever. To speed operations and facilitate connections, companies are looking to invest in unified communications (UC), digital infrastructures that make collaboration technology ubiquitous.

The emergence of UC technology, which includes video, audio, content sharing and mobile applications, all of which make work possible from anywhere at anytime, has changed the role of the CIO. Not only do CIOs link the boardroom to the IT department, but now they also manage the shift from a physical business infrastructure to a digital one.

Related: Why the Future of Work Is Already Here

It's up to CIOs to provide employees with the technology they need to be most productive. To do so, CIOs have to show the board how the investment in collaboration unlocks potential in fostering team collaboration, mobilizing talent and promoting creativity.

The new IT

The three trends shaping the future of IT are the consumerization of technology, the rise in remote working and the close connection between digitization and productivity. CIOs can navigate these changes, if they have the right collaboration tools at their fingertips.

Take, first, technology consumerization.

Employees expect to be able to use their personal phones, tablets, even some wearables, and experience the same performance in the workplace as they do at home. They want a single platform to run both their work and personal lives.

Smooth integration of these devices with enterprise applications is a must, and it must happen without compromising data security or network function. The latest cloud collaboration systems operate across devices and platforms, giving IT leaders the ability to connect employees while retaining control of company systems.

Employees also want the capability to work from anywhere, which is in part why using their own devices is so important. Productive millennials are proving by example that flexible work environments can succeed, assuming they provide easy connections to colleagues, partners, customers and data. It's up to CIOs to choose collaboration technology that enhances productivity from outside the office while simultaneously protecting business assets.

Finally, today's CIOs share responsibility for the bottom line. Their IT departments must account for technology's role in enabling productivity. Collaboration technology, including analytics software, helps IT teams share information about the performance of the organization, its employees and its digital infrastructure.

Related: How Today's Tech-Savvy Employees Are Challenging the Traditional Role of Corporate IT

Getting the board onboard

The board will support UC adoption once it understands how the technology helps build dynamic, collaborative workplaces that spark innovation and make companies more competitive. CIOs must educate board members about UC's business management benefits, which include the following:

  • Reducing real estate and capital costs by lowering the need for office space, furnishings and other physical capital. If employees often work remotely, they don't need individual cubes or offices. They need only some shared workspaces and centralized gathering spots equipped with video to connect to people outside the building.
  • Improving customer relationships by providing communication options. Whether clients prefer to connect by phone, instant message or video, they can do so at the touch of a button, making interaction more convenient, efficient and productive.
  • Attracting the best talent by enabling online applications and video interviews. Candidates can come from anywhere without having to travel, and companies can record their interviews for later review by other managers. The talent pool instantly becomes global.
  • Building strong internal communications by facilitating executive webcasts, town hall meetings and collaboration on in-house social networks.

A team effort

After educating board members, CIOs need to partner with them for technology implementation. Preparing employees for the new way of work takes time and preparation; however, done collectively and correctly, it will bring rapid increases in productivity, multi-channel communication, remote work, heightened data analysis and more.

CIOs will work best with the board if they provide continuous data insights on the performance of collaboration technology. The board depends on concrete analytics to make business decisions, and it will support UC adoption if it can see evidence of the rise in productivity and employee satisfaction.

Building the bridge between IT and the board helps keep companies on the digital fast track. By winning the support of the board for UC adoption, CIOs enable their organizations to reap the benefits of the technology-driven collaborative workplace.

Related: 8 Essential Questions on Unified Communications

Scott McCool

CIO, Polycom

Scott McCool has more than 25 years of experience in building and managing IT organizations. McCool joined Polycom in July 2013 as the company’s vice president of information technology and chief information security officer and was appointed to CIO in April 2014. Scott holds a Master of Science in Computer Information Systems, a Master in Business Administration, and numerous IT certifications.

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