Editor’s note: Commercial Integrator has teamed up with IMCCA, the New York-based nonprofit industry association for unified communications and workplace collaboration, to produce a quarterly supplement, titled Collaboration Today and Tomorrow, that focuses on all cooperation things from multiple perspectives.

Over a decade ago, the term “consumerization of IT” emerged to describe the disruptive and transformative phenomenon of employees (who are also consumers and vice versa) adopting consumer technologies into their personal lives and bringing it into the mainstream. the work of their business or enterprise. Users’ experiences with consumer technology led to very different expectations about their technology experiences at work and how they collaborate with colleagues. Add to this the current disruption with the rise of remote working, which, in itself, has led to the incorporation of smart homes, connected devices and a plethora of consumer electronics.

Taken together, we must conclude that enterprise collaboration has made an impact forever and there is no turning back.

Navigating the new era of workplace collaboration

While the notion of consumer electronics and technology impacting the workplace is not new, we are witnessing a new era in which enterprise planners must ask and plan for how things like the metaverse, AR/VR, AI, connected mobile and smart devices will impact the collaborative workplace. Moreover, the 2020s, marked by a global and unprecedented pandemic, have forever changed the world of work that now looks drastically different than just a few years ago.

With knowledge workers forced to work from home, we saw the convergence and collision of smart home devices and technology with smart office devices and technology solutions. Technology providers brought advances in wireless communications to accommodate consumer smart home devices that are connected and IoT enabled. There is an increasing use of smart displays, speakers and headphones. This increased usage has greatly influenced smart office solutions to improve and transform the way people work. Digital hubs have emerged to help people manage and control their personal productivity spaces.

This new remote work paradigm shift led to a growing need for parity between smart office capabilities and tools that workers can use at home with existing infrastructure that can also be secured and managed from an IT perspective.

Due to the global pandemic, this disruptive and transformative change in the world of work has led to a new office culture environment and a new type of employee and workforce that is more technologically savvy and flexible by necessity. A new level of technology competency is now required as workforces navigate remote, hybrid, and agnostic workplaces.

Again, due to mandatory blocks, we had to enter into a forced experiment and proof of concept for collaboration tools. Video and visual collaboration emerged as an ideal tool to help people stay connected. Thus, any device or peripheral that aided or complemented this new way of working itself became essential.

Multiple forces converge

A decade ago, when I was a Gartner analyst, we identified a nexus of forces that were converging to transform user behavior and create new business opportunities. These forces were social, mobile, cloud and information in context that was on the move and not stored anywhere in particular. Moreover, these forces were interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

In addition to these forces, we now see IoT being an accelerator and forcing a new level of connectivity. Ultimately, however, the disruptive cultural force of a global pandemic became the ultimate accelerator, driving digital transformation across industries and organizations.

As enterprise decision makers grapple with the combined convergence of consumer electronics, the metaverse, VR, and the democratization of access via cloud and mobile in the workplace, business planners must focus collaboration strategies on a more people-centric paradigm that includes not only internal constituents but also customers and external partners in the ecosystem. However, we must learn one of the most significant lessons from the pandemic. That crisis presented a common and unified need to work together-apart that only collaboration tools like video conferencing can enable. This need led to widespread user adoption.

So when we consider consumer technology and emerging trends such as the metaverse, VR, smart displays and workplace collaboration and productivity hubs, let’s focus on the actual need we’re trying to fill. We must avoid muddying the waters.

The promise and the possibilities

Consumer technology holds a lot of promise and opportunities for collaboration in the workplace, but we must be careful not to jump over our skis. For example, the metaverse, which promises to bring new levels of collaboration and social connections to virtual work, is getting a lot of buzz right now, especially with tech companies like Meta and Microsoft behind it.

However, in my estimation, its maturity is probably more than five years away – and probably not before the end of the decade. However, organizations must prepare now, which is essentially the best guide to considering all new consumer technology for the workplace.

First, assess opportunities for how interoperability capabilities and experiences can be improved and develop strategic plans, including content and infrastructure considerations. Next, focus on people use cases to understand the pulse of real interaction needs. Finally, make sure your strategy focuses on how people are experiencing work and how it enables an improvement in that experience. The addition of consumer electronics in the enterprise should minimize friction AND fill a clear need. It should never add unnecessary complications.

For more Cooperation Today and Tomorrow content, see our website archives.

David Mario Smith is the founder and director with Incoming stream Analysis.

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