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The pace of digital innovation has resulted in the transformation of entire industries over the past decade. Companies have undergone a radical shift in everything from the types of products and services they offer to how they operate, strategize, and compete. However, often lost among the rush to replace old processes with new technologies are a company’s most important asset: their employees. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, less than 15 percent of workers feel happy and engaged at work—evidence that companies need to innovate their approach to the workplace as well.

Fortunately, cloud technology is creating new ways to connect your employees and harness their creativity and innovation. For example, because workers can now use the cloud to seamlessly share ideas and collaborate no matter where they are, traditional team structures and physical offices are no longer necessary. This can not only help increase productivity, it can also make it easier for your company to deliver the work-life balance that millennial and Generation Z workers expect.

Here are three ways you can use the cloud to transform your business by giving your employees a more modern and collaborative workplace.

Collaborate from anywhere

Employees want the flexibility to work wherever they feel most comfortable—which often isn’t the office. In fact, 75 percent of millennials would like to work from home or other locations. Your company can meet these expectations, while ensuring frictionless communications, by implementing the latest virtual meeting and collaboration tools.

These platforms go far beyond old-school videoconferencing by bundling multiple tools, such as chat, notes, broadcasting features, voice recording, and file sharing. Employees can get more out of meetings wherever they are, as well as patch in new contributors as needed. And it gives them more flexibility and opportunities to contribute—factors that can increase personal satisfaction with work.

Consumer goods company Henkel discovered this benefit when it migrated from a traditional phone system to a cloud-based telephony solution. This gave its employees more work-from-home options, while also increasing their productivity. “We aren’t having more meetings—we’re having more efficient meetings,” says Markus Petrak, corporate director of digital workplace integrated business solutions at Henkel. “We have become more mobile and agile and generally better equipped to compete in a digital world.”

Consolidate data across your company

Today’s digital economy has inundated employees with data, which can interfere with productivity and make efficient collaboration more difficult. One McKinsey report found that the average worker spends 20 percent of their time simply looking for information. Fortunately, advances in intelligent cloud technologies are helping workers grapple with all this data in more meaningful and efficient ways.

For instance, the cloud can empower employees by breaking down silos and consolidating data coming from across your company, all while keeping your data secure. From there, your employees can run data through advanced analytics and data visualization tools to uncover hidden insights, reveal patterns, and generate useful visualizations and reports. Increasingly sophisticated virtual assistants, chatbots, and AI programs are also making data searches far more efficient and taking over routine or repetitive jobs, freeing workers to put more focus on innovation.

Consolidating and analyzing information through the cloud helped construction company MacDonald-Miller create a more collaborative workplace. Because buildings consist of so many independent parts—heating, ventilation, air-conditioning units, lighting, security, and so on—managers often had to sort through several systems to detect problems, alert technicians, and provide them with the right information to make a repair. Using the cloud, however, MacDonald-Miller was able to connect these systems together: Problems are detected by IoT sensors, then a notification is automatically sent out to service staff, who can quickly access the information they need to arrive with the right tools and parts to make a repair.

Get the most out of your office space

Designing a modern office space can also be a great way to promote creativity, collaboration, and productivity—as long as it caters to the needs of today’s employees. A variety of cloud-based and IoT-enabled tools are making this process easier.

One of the most intriguing solutions available for building a modern workplace is the digital twins concept. Historically used to model industrial equipment, these comprehensive digital models of physical environments allow companies to explore how people work and interact within buildings and other shared physical spaces. This makes it easy to rapidly test out ideas and discover unseen opportunities for efficiency and productivity, leading to faster and safer innovation.

Steelcase, a workspace design company, recently used this technology to develop its Workplace Advisor, a network of IoT-connected sensors that analyzes how people utilize buildings. Anonymous data is collected then aggregated in the cloud, where companies can see which spaces are being used, which are not, and why. For instance, a room may lack amenities such as a whiteboard or natural light. By using data to discover these insights, companies can then optimize their offices and turn them into more collaborative spaces for their employees.

The digital transformation made possible by the cloud is allowing companies to reimagine how their employees collaborate. However, collaboration is just one of many ways that the cloud is changing the modern workplace. Powered by new technology, companies are also discovering new ways to become more flexible and responsive in the digital economy, as well as new ways to protect their data from emerging threats. Across the new workplace, the cloud is helping companies gain a competitive edge.

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