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We’re moving ever closer to the changing of the guard. The era of millennials dominating the office environment is fast upon us, and by 2025 they are expected to make up the majority of workers. This group of young professionals is rapidly expanding while the baby boom generation prepares for a well-earned retirement. As one of my colleagues noted in a recent Blog article, the millennials are eager to make their mark on the world of technology — even here at LRS.

But with this shift in the workforce will come a turnover in institutional knowledge. Those born before 1990 may remember floppy disks, wired phones, and dot-matrix printers, but those who will enter the workplace in the next five years probably don’t. Some might say “out with the old and in with the new,” but we are still in the early stages of this transition. The largest cohort right now is the one between the baby boomers and the millennials, sometimes called “Generation X.” They are comfortable with new technologies but still familiar with the ‘old ways.’ However, in seven years, they too will start making their retirement plans.

What does all of this have to do with LRS and why are we writing about the office workers of the year 2025? I’ll get to that soon, but first let’s first take a walk down memory lane…

The year is 1998; the setting is a conference room right before a meeting. Sitting on the U-shaped arrangement of desks is a set of printed notes for each attendee. In the corner is a flipchart listing all the subjects to be covered in the upcoming meeting. Nearby, an assistant or secretary is getting ready to take notes. Not one phone is visible on the table. The participants file in and their take their seats in anticipation of the groundbreaking ideas that will come from discussions, safe in the knowledge that any topic needing further research will be tabled and investigated in time for the next meeting.

Flash forward to a meeting probably taking place down the hall from you right now: everyone has a laptop, phone and/or tablet. There likely still are some printed materials on the desks, but not as many as before. A projector and/or a white board are used for presentations and comments. Everyone has a laptop for note taking and perhaps someone has started a Slack channel. Ideas can be researched instantly through Googling, a word that did not even exist 20 years ago. Some attendees may rely on Instant Messaging (also a relatively new concept) with people not invited to the meeting for additional ideas or answers. Often these messages are returned within minutes, and the meeting can continue with new information. It is a whole different way of working.

Information is digital and instant. People don’t have to wait anymore, and things don’t get tabled for later follow-up. We have various devices and technologies that help us find information, share information, and publish information. There is a need to be on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. And don’t forget about LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. There are some big expectations that come with all of this exposure. Businesses must practically be online and (re)active 24x7 in order to succeed in this new era.

In the here and now, LRS sees how changes in work patterns impact the way people manage their output. Our software solutions have always been developed to meet customer requirements, and when requirements change, so must our products. Take, for example, our recent emphasis on mobile (workforce) solutions and enhanced data security. Everyone will understand the focus on mobile solutions, but with greater access to digital information comes greater exposure to risk. Properly securing data is a necessity, one you cannot afford to overlook, especially when it comes to documents.

Researchers predict that the mobile workforce will soon include more than half of all office workers, meaning mobile solutions will only grow in importance. When it comes to printing, enterprises need to do more than ‘just’ print from mobile devices like tablets and phones. Workers on the move need easier ways to connect to printers and retrieve print jobs in various office locations. Likewise, there is a growing number of organizations implementing VDI solutions such as Citrix. Clearly, the number of remote users is increasing, and seamless “anywhere anytime” access to print resources from any mobile device is a key requirement.

Mobile solutions are closely tied to security, as data is made available on various types of devices. Security measures such as data encryption can prevent high fines for breaches. While the US is still the country with the most concerns about data security, Europe is now feeling the pressure as well with the new GDPR having come into effect earlier this year.

“Always on” connectivity brings about another concern, one that probably does not get the attention it deserves… increased bandwidth consumption. Businesses depend on the Internet to function (think about the conference room full of always-connected millennials). What is the impact now and what will it be in the future when Internet speeds slow to a crawl or stop altogether? There are solutions, including LRS Workplace printing, that help reduce bandwidth consumption for print-related traffic. This is just one way that LRS is adapting to rapid changes in the office environment.

It’s time to get ready for 2025 — a mere seven years away — when we can anticipate an entirely different office than we’ve ever known. It will be a time of rapid innovation and new technologies; one marked by declining ownership of both software and hardware as well as growing numbers of service agreements and “on-demand” resources.

Offering true IT value will be that much more important. The Internet has opened up new ways to find information and many more options to choose from. That also goes for service providers and their offerings, which will need to even more closely match their customers’ requirements. The faster technology changes, the more flexible providers will need to be in their offerings. We are moving towards a rapidly changing and always moving world where the options are endless, and we must all be ready for it. Or we will be as extinct as those floppy disks.

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