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. Large OEMs are forecasting how different trends and technologies can make the workplace safer, more efficient, and manageable remotely. While some areas of the Smart Office spotlight office technology devices, the Smart Office also covers reseller automation, digital workflow, meetings, and employee collaboration. Below is an interview overview with Konica Minolta’s Kevin Kern, Senior Vice President, Business Intelligence Services and Product Planning, written by Keypoint Intelligence’s Christine Dunne.

Interview Summary

Konica Minolta’s Kevin Kern provided a framework from which his company is crafting its workplace of the future strategy:

“In our view, the workplace is made up of three key components-people, spaces, and technology,” he said. “Research that we have undertaken shows that technology is transforming the workplace that we have traditionally known, where historically it has been focused on input and outputs. Today, we are seeing technology play a tremendous role in resetting our expectations of the way people work, where they work, and how they work. As such, particularly with the rising demand of mobile working practices, workers today need to have easy access to the information they require at the right time in the most appropriate format. Currently, this is challenging for many companies.”

Konica Minolta is not just talking the talk, he goes on to say. In addition to conducting research to understand the changing paradigms of the workplace of the future, Konica Minolta has invested significantly in R&D globally to develop technologies to add value to the changing work environment. Alongside this, Konica Minolta has been transforming its own infrastructure to be a reliable, leading edge integrator for the smart workplace of the future. And so, through its own transformation, it understands the pain points, challenges, and needs of businesses to propel themselves towards the future work environment.

“It’d be hard for us to have those conversations, particularly in the mid-market and the higher end of the market unless we too had undergone significant transformations,” Kern said. “But, we have strengthened our value proposition by building up our IT arm with All Covered and our ECM (enterprise content management) business and these types of things…”

“Having these alternative capabilities has helped Konica Minolta get to the bottom of the value-based needs of their customers,” Kern said. As such, unsurprisingly, a lot of their top concern is not MFPs, though some MFP sales may result from the conversation. “More and more, we’re finding that customers are very interested in how to achieve easy IT administration, promoting a secure-physical or virtual-network, and ensuring collaboration.”

Notably, Konica Minolta’s purchase of All Covered in 2010 gave it a wide variety of security service capabilities, which can be used to help customers secure their larger IT infrastructure-including the mobile devices employees use in and outside of the office. “In those environments you’ve got to have that secure infrastructure underneath to drive the smart workplace,” he said.

No doubt, mobile devices and the ease of using apps is playing an increasing role in the workplace; with this comes the rising challenges of managing IT infrastructure. Konica Minolta, as a result, has been focused on developing technology that supports the creation of more simple and flexible work environments. This has been one of the driving principles for the company’s development of its new Workplace Hub product category. The first product from the category, the Hub, is intended to integrate disparate IT and storage capabilities while allowing easy cloud-based upgrades and downloading of apps.

“The objective is to make IT simple for our customers-akin to the simplicity that a smartphone offers,” Kern said.

Another recent addition to its “workplace of the future” portfolio is the Double telepresence robot from Double Robotics. This product lets workers remotely roam around an office without having to schedule a meeting in person-physically. According to Kern, the use of this product by a customer located in a remote area led to a several hundred-thousand-dollar production print deal. People on leave from work can also benefit from the technology through the use of a real time messaging interface, which Kern has witnessed.

“With the Double robot here, they could call into meetings, but they could be part of the meeting because they could look around like you would not just like on a conference call or video conference,” he said.

Konica Minolta is also working on deals with a state court system for its ALICE Virtual Receptionist, and a top pharmaceutical company for conference room setup and management technology. All this technology is enhancing Konica Minolta’s value proposition in support of tangibly realizing the smart office. The sales cycle for these kinds of products is often longer than 30 to 60 days, as they involve changing business processes.

“Our goal is to be the consultants who can come in and help identify opportunities and then provide the infrastructure to deliver upon those opportunities,” Kern said.
Konica Minolta now has over 200 professional services consultants in the field that are working on supporting sales reps with various IT opportunities as well as securing their own business. They can support companies with upwards of 17,000 seats, or those with much smaller requirements.

As part of the sales process, the company leverages data analysis from its channel marketing group to identify the right set of offers for a target customer. And once they have a relationship with a customer in place, it is something they nurture over time-adding services as needs arise.

“The ability to flexibly adapt to the customer’s data requirements and security requirements and everything else, with remote support-which is critical-really will make a difference we think,” Kern said.

Kern emphasized other advantages of Konica Minolta’s workplace of the future strategy, including its enterprise content management (ECM) business-which has grown from a $3 million to $54 million business in five years-and the servicing capabilities of its dealer channel. Dealers are bringing the legacy of a 2 or 4-hour response time-something often lacking from other channels.

“I think it’s going to be a service and a skillset business as much as a hardware business,” he said about the workplace of the future.