Technology Trends

Remote, hybrid working spurs digitalization

New workplace using cloud computing, AI, other innovative tools gains traction

The rise of hybrid working has given a big boost to remote office tools and audio and video conferencing devices since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, as innovative and flexible ways of working have drawn the attention of more Chinese enterprises, industry insiders said.

"With the popularization of telecommuting and other flexible working practices in China, an increasing number of enterprises and employees have shown higher demand for audio and video equipment. Business executives are pouring more money into audio and video technology," said Alex Lee, president of Poly Greater China, a leading provider of workplace collaboration solutions.

According to a survey conducted by Poly, 99 percent of enterprises have invested in or are planning to invest in remote conferencing platforms, including Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Tencent Meeting, Feishu, DingTalk and other tailor-made private cloud collaboration platforms offered by cloud service companies and network operators. Private cloud is cloud computing that is dedicated solely to one organization.

More than 90 percent of interviewed enterprises said they have invested in or are planning to increase investment in hardware devices including headsets, cameras, speakers and conference phones, the survey showed.

In addition, office spaces will become more flexible, with low costs and multiple functions, as 94 percent of the surveyed employers in China plan to redesign their offices to accommodate new working models. More than half of employers said they are considering creating a more open and collaborative space in their offices.

Lee said Poly has ramped up its localization efforts in the Chinese market through establishing strategic partnerships with Tencent Meeting, Feishu, DingTalk and three major telecom carriers, with its products and solutions applied in a wide range of sectors such as online education, remote healthcare, entertainment and sporting events.

He underlined the significance of the Chinese market, which boasts the company's largest number of employees in the Asia-Pacific region. "We have full confidence in the Chinese market and have increased investment in research and development as well as sales in the world's second-largest economy in the past year."

More and more enterprises have been attaching great importance to remote or hybrid working models due to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, Lee said, while estimating artificial intelligence and cloud computing services will be widely used in workplaces in the future.

Industry experts said the pandemic has been a critical catalyst in changing people's working habits and bolstering the digital transformation of enterprises. Market research company Gartner Inc expects that by 2024, remote workers will represent 30 percent of all employees worldwide, or a total of approximately 600 million people.

The revenue of China's cloud conferencing market amounted to 750 million yuan ($110.9 million) in the first half of 2021, an increase of 8.1 percent on a yearly basis, said a report released by global market research firm International Data Corp.

Traditional office spaces are also being reconfigured to support working and collaboration, with a focus on meeting room solutions. Lee said he is upbeat about the prospects of the hybrid working market on the back of the speedy growth of digital transformation.

"The new generation of information technology has bolstered the rapid growth of telecommuting. Taking the cloud as an example-it can provide enterprises with super-large storage space and improve data processing capacities, while reducing enterprises' costs and increasing operational efficiency," Lee said, adding China has gained an upper hand in audio and video technology and the company will further strengthen cooperation with local partners.

Zhang Zhouping, a senior analyst from the Internet Economy Institute, a domestic consultancy, said remote working has gained traction among many Chinese enterprises amid the pandemic.

"At present, enterprises are facing an increasingly severe competitive environment, along with rising labor costs. Demand for efficiency improvement and cost reductions will drive the growth of the enterprise services market," Zhang said, adding that online office and remote conferencing can effectively help enterprises alleviate operational pressure and drive their digitalization push to some extent.

Telecommuting penetration in China is still low but it is growing steadily, with huge development potential, said Zhang Xia, an analyst with China Merchants Securities.

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