“The remains of the old must be decently laid away; the path of the new prepared. That is the difference between Revolution and Progress.”
These wise words could have been uttered by a 21st-century tech innovator during a TED Talk. Instead, they were spoken by automotive pioneer Henry Ford back in 1922. Ford’s primary workplace innovation was the industrialized factory. Modern and efficient, it reinvented the way people worked by dividing big jobs into a series of smaller tasks.
Today, technology has redefined every aspect of business and industry. Even the word workplace is open to interpretation when networks and systems allow workers to collaborate and communicate half a world apart almost as effectively as when they’re sitting shoulder to shoulder.
The leaders at Konica Minolta have a deep and personal understanding of the changing workplace. The company experienced sizable internal shifts roughly a decade ago when the one-time pioneer in smartphone cameras left behind its photo and camera operations. These days, the company is making another major pivot with the introduction of an IT solution known as the Workplace Hub. “The Hub” combines a powerful server, IT security, and applications into a multifunction printer.
Just as the smartphone redefined media consumption, this multifaceted tool, designed to tackle a wide range of business tasks, could reinvent the workplace.
On a recent panel at the Fast Company Grill in Austin during SXSW 2018 titled “The Workplace of the Future: Reinvention Is Required,” Konica Minolta’s Stacey Sujeebun, director of marketing communications; Nick Pegley, senior vice president of solutions and services; and Glenn Mathis, vice president of global client services and solutions, joined Oracle’s Matt Walton, chief design officer of artificial and adaptive intelligence, to discuss workplace evolution.
Their conversation yielded four key revelations with implications that are relevant to any business in any industry.
1. Everyone Is In The IT Business.
“Regardless of what your website says you do, the reality is you’re an IT company,” Mathis told the audience. “If you’re not an IT company, if you’re not acting like an IT company, then you’re going to fall behind your competition.”
In practical terms, this means that no company can afford to overlook the advantages of using data and analytics, or shortchange its investment in the digital tools that aggregate and interpret that information. IT is now a fundamental aspect of every company, not a supplemental one.
“I just spent a day last week with a customer, a real estate company, and we didn’t spend any time talking about the real estate business directly,” Mathis said. “We spent all day talking about how they were going to build applications, what AI they could bring to bear, what efficiencies and automation they could use to help them be more efficient in what they do. A lot of times, customers look at us to do these things for them, but the reality is you’ve got to help teach them how to do it themselves.”
2. AI Is Here To Stay.
For years, the business world has discussed how artificial intelligence’s impending arrival will inform the way people work. While that discussion continues, AI is already here and, according to Walton, most of us are using it daily whether we realize it or not.
“If you’re using Waze, [if] you’re using Slack, [if] you’re using a bunch of these different tools today, you’re experiencing what AI does,” he said, going on to describe how the widespread arrival of AI came quickly once industries realized how impactful it could be for the bottom line.
“AI has actually been applied in other industries for a very long period of time—look at automobile manufacturing,” Walton said. “Machine learning was developed because these organizations were looking for ways of streamlining their processes, getting better products out to market, and, at the same time, reducing cost so that they could actually increase the volume and the profitability of the business.”
AI is widely appealing because all companies can use its primary functions, explained Mathis. If a business has employees and clients, then it can bolster its operations by leveraging AI.
“Your clients and your people are king,” he continued. “If I can predict when I’m going to lose a client or have a bad experience with a client, or when I might lose an employee or put an employee at risk, if I can predict that ahead of time, then I can take corrective actions to make sure those things don’t happen.
3. Tailor-made Solutions Are Effective Solutions.
In the past, businesses largely have been left to their own devices in implementing newly purchased software and hardware. Today, IT providers engage directly with users to ensure that new tools are installed and used properly—and that there’s no company-wide relapse to old habits two months later when no one is watching.
Given that the services of the Workplace Hub—the server, IT security, and printer—are all elements that every business has used before, it could be tempting for a client to retain its old methods of working with these elements. Instead, Konica Minolta helps each customer develop an individual plan for the business to use the Workplace Hub holistically and effectively.
“Sometimes there’s great technology, but the last mile of the deployment journey is missed, which is the employee training, the employee engagement, the demonstration, and really helping in the weeks after deployment to make sure it’s getting used properly,” Pegley said. “We focus a lot on the user interface and the user experience. We’re making sure they fit into the style of work of the type of company we’re dealing with, while making sure that it’s not a total change.”
4. Change Won’t Stop. And That’s A Good Thing.
Those who have been ahead of the curve in innovating in the workplace know better than to rest on their laurels. The “new status quo” will soon be as obsolete as the old status quo in a world where technology is so dynamic.
The key here is attitude. Companies that foster a culture of creativity, collaboration, and communication will respond better.
“I think in the next three to five years, you’ll see that technology will become even more center stage within the workplace,” Sujeebun said. “It won’t just be about automating those mundane tasks. It will be much more about, How can I make the environment much more intelligent and personalized to me and how I want to work, where I want to work, the tasks that I’m doing, and the people that I’m working with? You’ll see a huge movement toward smarter, intelligent workplaces.”
This story was created and commissioned by Konica Minolta.