Open floor plans and huddle rooms are helping to foster coporate collaboration and camaraderie spanning virtually every industry. But as more workers telecommute, it’s important to look beyond intra-office communications and explore the ways technology can bring employees closer so managers can get the most out of their workforces.
Recent years have brought advancements in project management applications, as well as the implementation of virtual reality and augmented reality to help workers connect remotely. As these tools become commonplace, brainstorming ideas and even creating products across the miles will become as simple as starting a video conference. With a robust network and a willingness to experiment with new programs, your company can be on the cutting edge of corporate collaboration technology.
Project Management Made Easy
It often seems as if there are as many project management applications as there are projects to manage. In recent years, Asana has begun to overtake Basecamp as the project management app of choice for many businesses.
One thing to consider when choosing project management software is how well it integrates with other apps your workers use. Asana integrates with Dropbox, Google Drive, and Google calendar- among others – making it easy to store, access, and share files across platforms and with multiple users. You can also create tasks directly from email or within Asana’s chat platform.
Asana also integrates with Slack, so you can communicate with remote and in-office team members and then add tasks directly to Asana based on your online conversations.
Unified communication systems typically refer to video conferencing, but when common apps integrate, you can create a truly seamless workplace where workers can be productive wherever their desks might be – at home, in the office, or even other locations.
Artificial Intelligence Improves Search, Scheduling, and More
Not only will project management become more convenient as it integrates with communications technology, but the introduction of artificial intelligence into PM apps may help workers automate mundane tasks.
For instance, by using the historical data within the PM software, an AI program could provide actionable insights, next steps within a project, and even develop accurate timelines. It can detect user work patterns and assign tasks on a schedule that minimizes downtime. It can also help centralize research, data, and employee knowledge, streamlining tasks.
The use of AI in project management is still in its infancy, but the expectation is that it can help break down silos and encourage communication and collaboration by giving all team members access to consistent information, in the format they need, when they need.
Right now, chatbots within some PM programs can prompt workers to share their status, by asking questions such as, “What’s urgent right now?” or “What are you working on?”
And those endless streams of chat conversations that make it so difficult to find a small detail about a project when you need it? Sophisticated AI search algorithms may someday help you pinpoint the data you need in milliseconds.
Stay Connected with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
As project management begins to integrate with workplace communications tools, collaboration takes a leap forward with virtual reality and augmented reality systems. Telepresence used to be the top-of-the-line collaboration tool across the miles, with HD video and surround sound to make it feel as if you are in the same room as your colleagues.
Take that functionality and now, imagine you and your team can work together in any environment. Virtual reality, where users can view, interact with, and manipulate objects in a computer-generated environment, and augmented reality, where users interact with virtual objects that overlay the real-world environment, are being used in many industries, from manufacturing to real estate.
B2C companies are using VR and AR applications for marketing, showing consumers options on products that range from home theaters to new cars. Likewise, architects and builders can use augmented reality to give investors or future homeowners a virtual walk-through of a new home or an apartment complex before it is even constructed, enabling the customer to choose colors, finishes, and even kitchen layouts.
In engineering and manufacturing, products can be designed and developed in a virtual reality environment and shared with team members across the planet. Identifying and fixing problems before prototypes are constructed reduces costs while shortening the time to market in many industries.
Typically, VR tools have consisted of a headset and haptic gloves, allowing users to manipulate objects in the virtual environment. Tesla’s new Teslasuit is a full-body VR suit with a haptic feedback system, giving users a sense of both touch and presence in the virtual environment. The suit uses transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – the technology perfected for medical use in physical therapy and pain relief – to engage all the senses. There is also a climate control system to create hot and cold sensations, and sophisticated motion capture technology.
Not unlike the suits used in the movie Ready Player One to immerse citizens in the virtual world of the OASIS, the Teslasuit has obvious appeal for gamers. But practical business applications can include training, product testing, product development, and healthcare. The Teslasuit could take the concept of a mobile workforce to the next level, where your “office” is nothing more than a sophisticated suit and a strong WiFi connection.
The Office of the Future May Not Be an Office, At All
While many of these technologies are still speculative, some are closer than you may think to becoming a regular part of office life. No doubt, our definition of a modern “office” will continue to shift with these innovations.
Having a strong IT team and managed services will become more important than ever when nearly every aspect of workplace productivity hinges on collaborative technology.