We are experiencing a period of rapid changes that are combining to disrupt conventional work practices as the conversion to a digital workplace occurs. This is particularly so within the office environment where there are a number of significant trends affecting the way we are starting to operate.
These trends are combining to transform the workplace, a transformation that is reducing costs and improving efficiency. Businesses that leverage these efficiencies start to build competitive advantages because they have lower costs, and because they have access to actionable business intelligence which enables them to make faster and better decisions.
Furthermore, for those that embrace these types of capabilities and improve the performance of their own business, they start to understand how to leverage their new skills and transform the value proposition they, in turn, offer to their customers. In so doing, it often becomes possible for them (for example) to start a transition from a transactional value proposition (heavily exposed to online competition) to a service-based proposition, allowing their products and services to be bundled into a monthly service charge that online competitors have a much harder time unraveling and interfering with.
Businesses that ignore these trends and that fail to adapt to the digital environment are starting to lose out to those that do.
It is the digitization of workflows that underpin the most profound changes in the workplace. It used to be that business documents were printed and filed. To review a document meant it had to be retrieved from a physical filing cabinet which meant the user needed to be in the same location as the document.
These days, many documents that used to be printed no longer are. Simple items like invoices, remittance advice's, statements, shipping notices, tracking details, etc. are all electronic. Instead of being printed and stored in a physical location, they're no longer printed at all and the storage location is now an electronic filing cabinet, not a physical one.
It is this change that has enabled the workforce to become mobile because it is no longer tethered to the central office where all the records used to be stored. Instead, using permission-based login systems, authorized personnel can access the files they need, whenever they need to, and from wherever they have an internet connection.
The digitization of "simple" documents has expanded to include more complex material, such as customer presentations that are now frequently prepared as part of a collaborative effort with different people contributing from different locations. Often these documents require approvals from management which can also now be obtained quickly and seamlessly, regardless of the location of the individual at the time at which approval is required.
It is not difficult to visualize how these developments not only speed up the process, they also reduce the number of pages that are printed. Instead of printing multiple copies of customer presentations, the salesperson may now present the material directly to the recipient's screen.
Of course, many businesses may want to verify their salesperson really did visit the client premises and to know how long they were there. Well, with their company-issued smartphone and the use of GPS technology, this has become possible, thereby helping to overcome lingering management resistance to allow employees to operate out of unsupervised, mobile locations. This means employees now only have to visit the corporate office for the most important meetings and, instead of wasting time to travel to the office, can spend the freed-up time more productively on other company business.
The company may issue a smartphone, a laptop, and perhaps other electronic equipment to its employees. These are expensive items, for which accountability needs to be maintained, and for which warranty and service agreements need to be tracked. Cloud-based asset management software allows this to be accomplished and, depending on the degree of implementation, can be configured to make sure software updates and security software are installed and operating optimally. The "umbrella" view this facilitates combines to reduce the risk of cyber breaches and to ensure ongoing software compatibility with the complete network of users.
The Internet of things
The analyst firm Gartner, estimates there will be 26 billion connected devices by 2020, others estimate the number will be much higher, perhaps as many as 100 billion devices. This, put simply, means almost anything with an on/off switch can be connected to the internet. The internet of things (IoT) is a giant network of connected things (including humans) that allows a multi-dimensional relationship to be established that encompasses "people to people", "people to things", and "things to things".
Imagine this - you are on your way to a meeting and your phone has your calendar and meeting location, it plans your route and calculates your travel time automatically notifying your meeting contact of an updated arrival time in the event of an unforeseen delay, such as that which may occur because of a traffic accident.
The transformation to services
We've introduced examples relating to the improvements in efficiency and changes in work practice that lead to reductions in hard copy print output. We've also introduced the concept for how it's now possible for a business to connect all its printing devices to the internet and to view a dashboard to show how much is being printed and what the cost is. As a result, more effective budget control becomes possible, along with triggers for auto replenishment of ink and toner that eliminates emergency (costly) replacement and downtime.
Even more importantly, the days of needing one or more $20,000 copier machines each capable of printing 50,000 or more pages per month, along with the expensive lease and maintenance agreements that come with them, are now numbered. In knowing actual print volumes and sizing equipment according to the degree of utilization that's expected, unnecessary capital expenditures can be avoided.
Then, to cap it all, the smartest suppliers, that perhaps used to sell 1,000 or more different items for the office in hundreds of separate transactions, can now wrap them all up in a monthly service charge, simplifying their customer's processes and reducing administrative time to process payments etc., while continuing to ensure they have all the supplies needed to operate smoothly on a daily basis.
Based on all these developments, it shouldn't be difficult to grasp that businesses which adopt digital technologies reduce their cost and improve the efficiency of their operations. These improvements combine to help them build a competitive advantage. Furthermore, they also learn how to improve their own value proposition which helps with their customer acquisition and retention rates.
So, in summary, adopters of digital practices find they are often able to:
Those who don't, well they increasingly start to fail on each of these four counts.