How can your office support the collaboration demands of today? 

Rob Quickenden, CTO, Cisilion
Over the past decade, the office environment has evolved, with online collaboration tools becoming the norm. But how have organisations been adapting to meet these changes and what more still needs to be done?
With working life reliant on wireless connected laptops in place of wired connections to the corporate network, but is the office of today struggling to support the demand for this new way of working, and are collaboration tools being used effectively?
Evolution of the office environment A survey by Microsoft Surface found that more than four in five UK workers (83%) are still in the same office environment as before the pandemic. Yet, fuelled by an increase in data centres and the growing popularity of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the network optimisation services market is expected to grow to $11.84 billion in 2027 at a CAGR of 15.1%.
The make-up of the office needs to adapt quickly, and tools need to be used effectively to make hybrid working productive. There are some key areas where companies should be focusing their energy and budgets.
Freshen up the network
Pre-pandemic, a wireless network may have only been used as a guest network, but now it must support all workers requiring a wireless connection. Almost every meeting or call features video, screen and app sharing and collaborative working. To do this in real-time with good quality audio and video, businesses need the right infrastructure. For example, some networks can’t handle the increase in capacity and minimal latency that video enabled meetings and collaborative working requires.
With the acceleration of cloud adoption, combined with the birth of AI powered services such as Microsoft 365 Copilot, connectivity needs to be able to be application aware and optimise network traffic in real-time. Your Wi-Fi performance should be the first port of call when exploring a network optimisation project.
Rob Quickenden

Howard Kennedy LLP, a London based, full-service law firm worked with Cisilion to refresh its core infrastructure to reflect its adoption of hybrid work across the organisation. Due to a higher demand in video conferencing and remote working, it was deemed that its existing infrastructure was no longer fit for purpose for this new way of collaborating. With its ageing Wi-Fi infrastructure approaching end of life, the solution was to optimise its corporate network for low-latency wireless connectivity. Refreshing the existing infrastructure meant switching to Cisco’s Catalyst 9k family of products, providing Wi-Fi 6.

Collaboration is a requisite for the law firm, and Teams and Zoom enable this perfectly, yet the network needed to withstand ‘everyone on Teams or Zoom all the time’. Wi-Fi 6 ensures that the law firm now experiences hardly any glitches on video calls in the office due to its error correction capabilities. Howard Kennedy benefits from the same network speeds as a wired connection, withstanding the increased demands for connectivity.
Outdated wired IP telephony
The higher demand for video conferencing now means that conference rooms with wired IP telephony are now outdated. Video conferencing software such as Microsoft Teams and Webex are now second nature.
On-premises telephony systems that are hosted in company datacentres are now being replaced by cloud-based telephony platforms that can easily integrate with Microsoft Teams and Webex. Not only does this enable improved collaboration, but it also circumvents employees needing to use call forwarding functions to their mobiles.
Minimise network disruption
In most cases, new equipment can be situated in existing wired access points which can minimise disruption. In the case of Howard Kennedy, the installation of its new wireless network was completed over a weekend, causing minimal downtime. A site survey may be necessary to map out the Wi-Fi signal if the office is set across different floors to avoid dead zones. It may be necessary to add additional Wi-Fi points, however, overall a network optimisation project should be straightforward.
Create an inclusive and collaborative office space
Many organisations are transforming their traditional offices into intelligent spaces that are more appealing to work from, are more sustainable and promote a collaborative and inclusive environment that is aware and can adapt to how and where people work. These new “employee hubs” use the network to monitor air quality, people flow, and room
occupancy whilst delivering secure, end-to-end cloud-managed connectivity supporting the needs of every employee.
Changes to layout and the creation of more free-flowing workspaces may be required to suit a larger number of hybrid workers. For example, the higher volume of video conferencing calls means that workers will need space to retreat from the main hub of the office. Therefore, a greater number of smaller meeting rooms or break-out areas may be more appropriate rather than a boardroom and larger conference rooms.
Using meeting technology effectively
There have been huge advances in meeting room technology, but if adoption isn’t high and people aren’t taught how to use it effectively it’s a waste of money. You can have the best network, great collaboration tools and amazing new energy efficient office spaces equipped with the latest video technology, but without due process for people they amount to nothing. You need to ensure your people know how to use the right tools and how to get the best from them. This is not simply about training; it’s about embedding a mindset of learning too.
Company-wide security adoption
Security isn’t about a product or a new tool. It’s about ensuring your whole organisation adopts a Zero Trust approach to security rather than simply protecting the legacy network boundary that existed before. This approach ensures that employees have suitable security enabled on their devices, like two-factor authentication. Employees also need consistent training on the latest cybersecurity threats.

Regardless of where your team is logging on, if successful collaboration is achieved it will promote a more empowered, engaged workforce that is highly productive across the business.


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