ITEX Imaging & Technology Education Exposition and ITEX 365 have been exploring the future of the workplace, also known as the “Smart Office.” The Smart Office encompasses similar technology implemented within the “Smart Home,” but rather, in the workplace. Canon’s Dennis Amorosano, Senior Vice President and General Manager, anticipates that customers exploring new areas for business process automation will be the foundation of the workplace of the future. Below is an interview overview with Mr. Amorosano, written by Keypoint Intelligence’s Christine Dunne.

Interview Summary

Canon’s Dennis Amorosano believes the workplace of the future is being driven by customers seeking out new areas for business process automation. They are looking to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of workflows in departments like human resources and accounting.

“And of course, the objective is for organizations to be able to put their knowledge workers in a position where they can be more creative and more focused on the strategic activities that are necessary to drive the business as opposed to many of the mundane tasks so many knowledge workers are caught up in today given the nature of the business processes that are out there,” Amorosano said.

This need from customers is going to accelerate innovation around technology for artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and data analytics. Mobility and virtual working will be other areas of focus, though Amorosano believes the physical office will continue to play an important role in employee interactions.

“With even the best of technology, there’s nothing that replaces face-to-face human interaction in terms of being able to communicate, collaborate, convey messages, and things of that nature,” he said.

Instead, people are increasingly working in the way that makes the most sense for them in the moment.

“Basically, people are going to have the ability to work using the tools that they’re most comfortable with whether that happens to be network-connected PC, tablet, smartphone, etc.,” Amorosano said.

The workplace of the future will also see more project-based employment structures, consultants, and freelance workers. These arrangements have been common in the technology industry but will expand to other sectors.

“I would imagine we’re going to see different types of working arrangements than what we traditionally and typically see today,” he said.

Canon has made various investments to help propel itself into the office of the future. For instance, it is deeply engaged in the financial management process automation market (and accounts payable automation in particular) and is increasingly incorporating more contextual management and machine learning capabilities into this and other process automation initiatives.

Over the last three years, its financial automation efforts—including marketing initiatives—have helped it become a sought-out advisor.

“So that didn’t happen by accident, right?” Amorosano said. “We’ve built a very comprehensive marketing automation infrastructure inside CIIS (Canon Information & Imaging Solutions) that we’re leveraging to reach and nurture prospective customers…”

Recently formed relationships with Box and mxHero have also bolstered Canon’s capabilities in terms of helping customers automate and improve upon their business processes. For instance, the mxHero platform allows customers to manage unstructured content in the form of email.

Other future-focused areas of investment for Canon have been the biomedical space, as well as the video surveillance arena (acquisitions include Swedish-based Axis Communications and Denmark-based Milestone Systems). While these initiatives do not fall squarely within the office technology sphere, there will be ways to leverage them over time from an office perspective.

“It’s quite clear to see that the company itself is even more highly diversified now than it was even just a couple of years ago,” Amorosano said. “And the types of capabilities that we can bring to market are much more extensive than what we’ve been able to bring in the past.”

Over the last five years, employees within Canon’s CIIS subsidiary have interviewed approximately 15,000 Silicon Valley companies in startup mode—including nearly 5,000 organizations face-to-face. Not only is this exercise intended to help identify new technologies for Canon, but it helps the company have a better understanding of the larger IT market or competitive purposes.

“It’s that startup innovative technology company that has a new technology or a new business model approach to solving a customer problem that maybe catches hold and takes off,” Amorosano said. “In a business like ours, it’s difficult to react quick enough to compete with that. Those are the kinds of companies that concern me the most.”

Beyond disruptive threats to its core business, a different type of challenge for Canon is enabling dealers to effectively sell and deliver business process automation solutions. This is particularly an obstacle when Canon itself is still fine-tuning the right formula for selling traditional office equipment and process automation technology.

“There’s still a really big gap between selling print-centric solutions and selling process automation solutions,” Amorosano said, noting they have very different business models as well as requirements for sales reps and delivery personnel.