Who could deny that the rapid development of technology is changing the structure, process and content of work for businesses of all sizes and in all industries; impacting everything from communication style to management? From new collaboration technologies to smart glasses, all new workplace technologies have one thing in common: they improve efficiency and productivity.

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A recent Epson survey found that a third of white collar European workers believe efficiency in their workplace is hindered due to having outdated IT equipment. The significance of this is driven home when you look at how it directly impacts productivity. On average, these employees believe that productivity is reduced by 21% as a direct result of inefficient technology.

This, coupled with the overwhelming boom in devices, presents a challenging but significant opportunity for businesses to grasp. In 2008 alone, there were more smart and connected devices in existence than people on Earth. By 2020, there will be 50 billion of these devices, that’s approximately six per person and an extraordinary 1,000% increase in just 12 years. Trends like the Internet of Things are further enhancing this opportunity and creating a need for businesses to get smarter about how they channel the wealth of information they are presented with today.

Not only does this offer a clear business opportunity, increased knowledge can allow companies to stay one step ahead of the curve. But with such a vast increase in technology and with multiple solutions to choose from, it’s understandable that businesses – small and large alike – can find it challenging to make the right choices. These are the ones we would shortlist:

  • Collaborative technologies

shutterstock_162932888An Avanade survey of over 600 executives in 19 countries showed that businesses that embrace collaboration through technology are 73% more likely to report improved sales and new customer acquisitions than other companies.

The most commonly used tool by employees working on projects together is still email. However, employees are often overwhelmed with emails and can spend hours each day filtering the right information, which gives them a sense of being busy but does not result in much output or productivity.

Clearly, email is not the most efficient tool for collaboration, but conference calls are not a great alternative either. In fact, a recent study by Intercall, a conference and collaborations service provider, showed that the majority of professionals do anything but listen during conference calls and instead are occupied with other work (65%), sending emails (63%), eating and making food (55%) or checking social media (43%). These figures demonstrate that in order to truly be involved and engaged, employees need to be seen and connect visually with their colleagues or clients.

Thankfully, businesses can make one-sided and inefficient communications a thing of the past. Interactive projectors allow users to project information, videos or a PowerPoint presentation from a laptop or mobile device while holding a video conference, enabling interaction between colleagues or clients in different locations while viewing common information. Users can annotate or amend the shared image or document remotely, and in real time, helping to encourage a more creative and collaborative approach to discussions.

  • Alternative ink delivery systems

shutterstock_138992264According to Epson’s efficiency research conducted in 2014, European IT underperformance results in an estimated €24 billion annual productivity loss, with around €7 billion attributed to printer technology. Almost half (48%) of all issues and frustrations associated with printing are the result of centralised print models that require products to be shared by vast numbers of people.

By employing a distributed printer fleet structure, local users can control their priorities and eliminate delays caused by network problems. The distributed print model is ideally suited to small work groups and is particularly helpful in environments where confidentiality and direct access to prints is important.

An often-heard argument is that a centralised printing model has fewer maintenance requirements than a distributed printer fleet because there are fewer printers to maintain. However, new alternative ink delivery systems such as Epson’s advanced Replaceable Ink Pack System (RIPS) technology has made this a thing of the past.  Products using this technology can print up to 75,000 pages uninterrupted and without the need for a supplies change, which improves productivity by reducing time-wasting interruptions to change ink cartridges, deal with supplies mismanagement, fix problems or wait for IT support.

  • Smart glasses

shutterstock_231334669Smart glasses are the latest technology set to revolutionise the workplace. Sectors leading the way, and already leveraging this technology, are the service and heavy industry (areas such as healthcare, engineering and construction). Smart glasses with Augmented Reality capabilities involve the overlay and combination of relevant data, text or graphics with real life situations, enabling on-the-job training of employees or remote instruction for engineers on how to fix equipment and perform maintenance tasks.

As we become more familiar with the technology and lower-priced versions are introduced, more applications will be developed and more businesses will adopt smart glasses solutions. Eventually, smart glasses will change the way businesses access, collect and use information to improve training, efficiency, productivity, collaboration and the customer experience.

It’s clear that workplace technology is evolving at breakneck speed. It’s tempting to wait and let your competitors test a new technology before adopting it yourself, but in today’s competitive business environment, organisations that want to get ahead would do well to take a little risk and embrace the competitive advantage afforded by new technologies.