The Year of Living (Working) Dangerously

Millennials-work-0116The world of audiovisual technology and software has been an exciting place to be over the past several years. Anyone who has seen the transition from analog to digital, to IP-based everything, and now to software can attest to that. It’s been both volatile (anyone remember Tweeter? How about Kodak?) and profitable for the right companies.  It looks like 2016 will be even more-so. Workplace transformations that began a few years ago (and had their roots in early research like the Office of the Future Project) are poised to dramatically change how AV companies can, and should, support their customers. Here are three particularly large trends that can make 2016 a dangerous and exciting year.

Millennials become the Majority. According to Millennial Branding, a research and consulting firm, Millennials will outnumber both GenX’ers and Baby Boomers in the workforce in 2016. They’ll be the largest generational group in the workplace and will make up one in every four managers by the end of the year. If you haven’t been following how their approach to work will demand new approaches to AV, it may be too late. But here are the Cliffs notes: Informal instead of fixed/scheduled meetings, a focus on collaboration instead of presentation, and support for mobility and ad hoc work spaces are key. Companies that are embracing these trends are positioning themselves to aggressively recruit top, young talent, and they can gain a competitive edge by leveraging AV and IT technologies. AV consultants and resellers need to be aware of these trends and not be caught flatfooted. Here are a couple good reads if you find yourself behind the curve:

yammer-150x150-0116Social Networking Habits Enter the Workplace. The 2nd wave of social media technology – based on the 1st generation platforms of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter – are set to make a real impact in the workplace. Enterprise and business-oriented social media platforms such as Jive and Yammer support new ways of interacting within the context of business. These technologies will enable peer-to-peer and non-hierarchical collaboration. Information sharing between team members and knowledge transfer will further transform the need for (and meaning of) more formal meetings. Of course, these platforms are a response to the interaction habits workers learned consumer (non-work) platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc. But those forms of interaction have become so ingrained that to ask users to work differently isn’t realistic anymore. Pervasive, social networking and content sharing in the work environment removes barriers to effective communication and collaboration, and it promotes more direct interaction between colleagues who may never have had the opportunity in the past. Imagine a company CEO who can weigh in on a potential marketing slogan as easily as she/he could “like” a photo on Facebook.

New Collaborative Technologies will unmask Single Use, Single Source Meetings. Consumer wireless media streaming is very 2015. This year, corporate enterprise, education, and government are accelerating their adoption of enterprise wireless sharing for their meeting spaces. As businesses realize the gains to be had by meetings that are not constrained to a single presenter (who has the video cable)  they have already been transforming their meeting spaces to support wireless collaboration. A secondary impact that I’ve started to note among some of our customers who use Solstice is that cable-driven meetings are universally dreaded. I’ve seen customers entice their employees to move into a new building by deploying Solstice into the meetings rooms, only to find that people from other buildings (and presumably left with wired conference rooms) abandon their own space for the new building and over-book the new spaces. Of course, if your in the business of helping meetings become more effective, this is a very good thing.  It can be dangerous, because wireless collaboration acts like an accelerant for the transforming workplace. Once you pour collaboration into the mix, you’re accelerating the adoption of Millennial trends and social networking. Introducing a better meeting can’t really happen piecemeal. This means that AV consultants, designers, and resellers will need to support large, potentially enterprise-wide deployments of products that can support an infrastructural shift away from the video cable.