By Michael Ngan
AS MANY business leaders know, the workplace of today looks radically different than it used to be a mere five to 10 years ago. After all, today’s growth in technological capabilities, the exponential increase in computing power, and almost ubiquitous Internet connectivity, are changing the way employees and enterprises operate.
Organizations are already cognizant of the need to be digitally savvy to keep up with evolving employee and client demands. The need to undergo a digital transformation is at the forefront of many business leaders’ minds; in fact, 92% of businesses globally are already planning such workplace transformation initiatives.
To gain a competitive advantage and stay ahead of the trend, organizations need to go the extra mile – being merely ‘digital’ is old hat now. The conversation has shifted from the need to be digital, to the need to be Smart. Case in point: studies show that more than 50% of employees globally expect to be working in a Smart office in the next five years.
Businesses keep bandying around the word ‘smart,’ but what does it really entail? A smart workplace champions enhancing productivity through collaboration, no matter where employees are located on the planet – primarily leveraging technology to do so. Businesses therefore need to invest in technology that can empower their workforce if they want to remain competitive and attract top talent.
However, being smart is not just innovation for innovation’s sake — truly smart business solutions aren’t about jumping on passing fads, they must address and solve the difficulties of legacy systems. A smart office is typified by having an integrated system of multiple devices and screens that work in tandem and do so intuitively, efficiently and securely, freeing up employees from technical struggles to focus on higher level tasks.
Having a smart workplace is increasingly important as it is key in driving intelligent collaboration and powering workforce mobility.
Businesses navigating today’s digital world don’t just need to enable collaboration – they need intelligent collaboration to thrive. Smart offices help drive this, which can lead to a significant impact on an organization’s bottom line.
Enabling smarter meetings for more intelligent collaboration is one of the pillars of a future-ready workplace. Smart meeting room solutions ensure that meeting spaces are easy to use, whether participants are connecting locally or remotely. By enabling businesses to conduct simple yet efficient meetings, they provide a space for participants to be creative and focused on exchanging ideas, ultimately concluding meetings with results. In fact, three in five employees believe that technology will make face-to-face meetings obsolete[3].
Being smart also means having devices that are adaptable and respond accordingly to business’ unified communications platform of choice. In fact, businesses are already investing significant sums of money on collaboration technology. There will likely be a huge demand for conference room technology over the next two to three years, with companies expected to invest around US$100B on collaboration technology in 2020[4].
As such, it’s important to choose solutions where users can quickly connect and share simultaneously from any device, be it wired or wireless and regardless of location, especially with today’s mobile workforce.
With globalized talent flows and the power of cloud, the Smart workplace of today is not necessarily a physical space. Workplaces are more likely to be online, anytime, anywhere, and with anyone.
In its “Global Mobile Workforce Forecast Update 2016-2022,” research firm Strategy Analytics predicted that in the next four years, 1.87 billion people worldwide will be mobile employees, comprising 42.5% of the total global workforce. In Asia, the rise of technology and an increasingly younger talent pool mean that employers will soon see a larger number of mobile workers. Asia’s inaugural Youth Mobility Index 2018 found that, in order of ranking, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan lead when it comes to youth mobility. Hence, it is paramount to enable mobile productivity.
As organizations wade into the Smart era, much of the focus has been on applications and software. However, companies need to remember that hardware will also be key in enabling their Smart office evolution. After all, software and hardware go hand-in-hand; it’s counter-effective if organizations have the latest software solutions but lack the hardware to support them.
For example, keen on introducing Windows Hello for face authentication? This will require a camera specially configured for near infrared (IR) imaging to authenticate and unlock the device.
In other words, businesses should prioritize procuring the right computing devices. To get the most out of mobility, businesses need to invest in endpoint devices that enable flexibility, connectivity, and security without compromising performance.
A good workplace transformation strategy should not only meet the requirements of the entire workforce but also ensure that IT is not burdened. Two focus areas for businesses should be:

• Workplace optimization: This covers everything, from endpoint devices to collaboration tools and meeting spaces

• Downtime reduction: With the right devices, security, software, and support service, minimal end-user downtime results in a happier, more engaged and ultimately more productive workforce.

Employees are already looking ahead; almost half (46%) of today’s workforce is looking to Augmented or Virtual Reality (AR/VR) technologies to perform better in the workplace[5]. It is likely that businesses will very soon see AR/VR being used to collaborate on projects or attend meetings remotely.
Machine learning can also be used to intelligently address employees’ needs. Imagine working in an office where lights can brighten or dim in anticipation of employees’ schedules, and voice assistants in conference rooms react to ongoing discussions to take more intelligent notes, arrange future meetings, or send task reminders on the spot.
Today, technology such as Intel Optane memory can already adapt to users’ working patterns and identify how to provide higher performance without compromising storage capacity. This results in faster applications — think running multiple presentation decks without crashing or large media files playing smoothly — and laptops that are more responsive to everyday tasks, accelerating productivity gains.
For now, start by understanding what direction the organization wants to move in and work out the infrastructure needs. Then, find a technology partner that can provide end-to-end services to help navigate both the solutions and services required to scale the business to greater heights.
Are you ready to kick off your workplace transformation?
Michael Ngan is Lenovo Philippines’ country general manager.