Could that be a celebrity? In front of me, there was a sea of bobbing heads. Arms stretched high, frantically snapping photos with phones that were so last season. I could feel the excitement. Voices were raised. People were pushing and barging, desperate to see.
Barcelona has it all. Stunning architecture, fantastic food, beaches, mountains and sea. It is one of my all-time favourite places to visit. Yet, stood in the cavernous, windowless halls of the Mobile World Congress, it was easy to forget the glorious sunshine of the outside world. Something big was happening.
I was hopping up and down. Somewhere in front of me was the biggest thing in mobile tech since the last big thing. I was there to witness the first reveal of the Samsung Galaxy Fold. 7.3 inches of folding screen. Like an ancient, priceless icon, the Fold was on a pedestal in the centre of Samsung’s stand. Protected like the Mona Lisa behind glass, security guards and barriers; it sat up high, smugly looking down upon its adoring crowd. Like pilgrims, the tech industry was gathered in (not so silent) reverence and awe.
The brilliance of the folding screen cannot be understated. It boggles the mind. I have lost count of how many mobile phone screens I have broken due to their unwillingness fold. Sadly, I don’t think this innovation will solve that particular problem.
But, it wasn’t just the technical marvel of new phones that was inspiring the gathered crowds. Nor the realisation of 5G, AI and IOT tech. Whilst phones with 5 cameras had a following – they weren’t the talk of the show. The real excitement was in how these technologies would change the world of work.
Work 4YFN (Four Years From Now)
“I don’t go to work”, said Amrit Chaudhuri, SVP of Product Marketing at RingCentral, during his panel debate on the future of work. “I just work”. A powerful message. It resonated with me. Work can happen anywhere – not just in an office. Work is the people, not the location. I work from home, work from agency offices in London – even, in this case, work from Barcelona. Just because I am not at work, doesn’t mean my work stops. Sadly.
The panel painted a compelling and exciting world just 1,500 days away. Yet, their core message wasn’t about flying cars, holographic meetings or how disruptive tech will transform work. It was about how the mindset and behaviours around work are changing. Tech has finally caught up with how today’s workforce wants to work.
The growth of freelancers
One of those change is the growth of freelancing and contracting. Apparently, 6% of the USA’s GDP is now generated by freelancers. A trend that, the panel believed, would grow and grow. The idea that you can switch expert support on and off by project is very compelling. Yet, today’s corporates are not set up for freelancers. I’m sure we have all suffered the agony of corporate onboarding. It can take weeks to be correctly added to the right HR system. Let alone the pain of ordering and setting up laptops, phones and logins.
To embrace the future of freelancers, it needs to be simple for businesses to add and remove workers quickly and simply. Freelancers will most likely want to use their own laptops and phones. They will probably choose to use their own software too. As such, IT systems will need to be flexible and resilient. If the location doesn’t matter – why should the tech you use be limited as well? Dori Gurwitz from PwC extolled the virtues PwC’s policy of giving all employees the flexibility and choice to select technology that worked for them. “If your business will give your employees the freedom to work from anywhere” he argued, “why limit their freedom on the choice of technology”.
It made me think. In the future, we will most likely continue to talk about the mobility of people. But we won’t be focused on their gadgets or physical location. The mobility of people will be defined by how simply workers can move from one contract to another.
Thankfully, RingCentral is ahead of the curve on this one. Out of the box, the product is set up for the freelancer world. Need to create a new phone number for an employee? Simple. Two or three clicks and it is done. Setting up (or removing) access to video conferencing, webinars and team chat – is just as easy.
It’s about people
Team messaging is the single greatest thing that has ever come along to help with project management. This tool has revolutionised how remote teams work together and share information. Click To Tweet
Project teams are often limited to office location or geographical location. I can understand why. In a previous life, I spent hundreds of hours on telephone conferences – laboriously pulling together projects with teams based across the UK. No one enjoyed those long, daily calls. Running through detailed agendas with granular updates from each person. We knew at the time, there must be a better way.
Indeed, as working at RingCentral has shown me – there is a better way. Team messaging is the single greatest thing that has ever come along to help with project management. This tool has revolutionised how remote teams work together and share information. So as businesses embrace the plethora of tech available, teams based on location or tied to painful daily telcos will be a thing of the past.
Now that is a really exciting prospect. The workplace of tomorrow is digital. Teams will be formed around the ability and skills of the people. They will (can) effortlessly collaborate – driving efficiency and innovation. Teams will be made up of the right people, rather than the people at the right location.
Will it ever stop?
I came away from Barcelona, a little plumper (I love tapas) and excited to be part of the future of work. I have written about just a few simple trends. Yet, they will transform the workplace. “Will this digital transformation never end?” – I hear you cry. Quite simply, no. Digital transformation is a journey and not a destination. The future of work will always evolve and change. RingCentral is leading that journey and I am thrilled to be part of it.