“The bottom line is, it’s about the productivity of the individual employee.”
I had the opportunity to meet with Laura Longcore, GM, IO Solutions, Microsoft Consulting Services, to talk about how Microsoft Services is helping customers realize productivity gains and reduce costs in the workplace.
Steven Ramirez: Can you define what Microsoft Services means by “The Dynamic Workplace,” and describe the focus of your group?
Laura Longcore: Sure. Organizations today are really challenged in thinking about how to make their employees more productive, how to take costs out of their businesses and drive information productivity. If you’re going to unlock that potential for all employees, you need solutions that look at people, process and technology—that help our customers save money and be successful. And there’s a changing dynamic in the business world today with globalization and a multi-generational workforce. Our Dynamic Workplace Solution addresses some of those business scenarios.
Our team is building solutions that use Microsoft technology to help our customers with their enterprise business strategies, as well as with how they want to deploy this technology to address the business problems they’re facing in the workplace.
SR: What do you see as the biggest challenges around a multi-generational workforce?
LL: I think this is a challenge we’re seeing across all companies today. When you think about a multi-generational workforce, you think about the baby boomers at one end, the millennials at the other end and the Gen-Xers in the middle. And they all have different work styles. Bringing these work styles together today is a challenge. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a large enterprise organization or a smaller company.
It’s about collaboration and communication, and how to work most effectively together given that there are preferences in how people get things done. And it’s very different depending on whether you’re talking about a boomer who prefers a phone contact, for example, or a face-to-face meeting because that’s how they’ve grown up. Or millennials who are very comfortable with technology and don’t feel the need to be as face-to-face and who think about things like social computing and who have different ideas about what they want to achieve in their work life.
SR: So they’re very happy if you just text them.
LL: Absolutely. And what millennials are really thinking about is, I can do my job anywhere—I don’t have to be sitting in an office. I can have access anywhere, anytime, anyplace. But they don’t want work to consume them either. They want the flexibility to turn it on and off. They know when they need access—when they need to collaborate and work in a team environment, which is their preferred style of working together. They’re not as hierarchical as boomers. And they want that flexibility.
So when we talk about Dynamic Workplace, we’re looking at things like content management, collaboration, communications and how we look at providing companies flexibility so that they can meet all those needs.
SR: It seems like companies are trying to cut costs wherever possible yet many workers still travel. What are some of the mobile trends you’re seeing and how does collaboration technology support those?
LL: That’s a great question. I think given the challenges we’ve seen with the economy over the last couple of years, everybody’s focus is obviously on cost cutting and making sure that they’re getting the most value out of the dollars they have in their budget. Unified communications and mobility are at the forefront of the thinking here. Maybe we don’t have to get on a plane to have the business meeting.
Now there’s a time and a place that you have to have face-to-face communication, so I wouldn’t say that the technology completely replaces what people are doing. But there are a lot of cost-saving opportunities by using video conferencing, Live Meeting and Lync technologies which enable you to communicate effectively from your desktop or home office. We’re seeing companies who are very interested in minimizing the amount of travel and who are looking at alternatives—leveraging the technology where they possibly can.
I can give you an example. Nikon Corporation was really focusing on their productivity and communications. They’ve seen a 30% increase in productivity and a reduction in their people costs as well, primarily from a travel perspective. By implementing some of our communications technology, their workforce has become more effective. On top of that, they achieved great employee satisfaction because these folks didn’t have to hop on a plane and spend a week away from their families for a one-hour meeting. They could handle that meeting electronically, and they felt they were just as effective.
SR: If the goal of the Dynamic Workplace Solution is to be more productive, how do you know when you’ve achieved that? What measurements do you use in terms of cost savings, employee satisfaction, etc.?
LL: The savings comes in a couple of forms. They come from some of the things we’ve talked about already—the telecommunications and travel savings. You can very clearly measure what you were spending before you implemented these solutions vs. after. Sometimes there are softer savings as well. As I mentioned, things like work-life balance because your employees don’t have to take a trip and be away from their families.
The bottom line is, it’s about the productivity of the individual employee. And each business will measure that differently. Let’s say you’re in customer service. The savings might be in how you’re handling calls. Maybe you’re leveraging these technologies to be more effective in pulling in other resources to help answer troubleshooting-type questions. And that’s a completely different experience than if you’re just talking about the average information worker who asks, “Will I be more effective because my meeting can shrink down by a half hour?”
SR: Where do you see this all going? Are you able to look 3-5 years out and make some predictions?
LL: I think you’re going to see the technology shift primarily as the IT world focuses on cloud-based computing. The actual technology itself will probably shift, which will further reduce costs because our customers will not need the infrastructure in place to support some of these productivity applications.
I think you’re going to see a more aggressive move around people and process. Mainly what I see is further adoption of these technologies in the workplace, enabling our customers to collaborate more effectively within their ecosystem, with key business partners and suppliers, and with their end customers.
SR: It sounds like there are going to be new skillsets needed in IT to be able to support this new world of work.
LL: Absolutely. And every day we’re evolving. We’re seeing new tools in our marketplace becoming available—new products, new technologies. People are blending their home technologies with their work technologies nowadays, and we’re seeing that line get blurred every single day. I think we’re going to continue to see more of that moving forward.
People will become very passionate about the technology they hold in their hand—whether it’s a mobile device or a slate. And they want it to work wherever they are. They want to be able to communicate with whomever they need to, whether it’s geographically dispersed people or cutting across organizational boundaries. That won’t matter moving forward. It’s just an expectation. And that puts a demand on the IT organization because now you have to be able to manage all those devices, and you have to have security in your organization. You have to clearly understand the technology of the cloud and how you can best leverage it to run your business. All of those things will require new skillsets.
SR: If someone wants to get started on this path, what would you recommend that they do?
LL: Customers should talk to their Microsoft Services rep and get started with an assessment. This helps us understand our customer’s pain points—where they are trying to drive productivity in their own business. Are they looking at cost-based solutions or are they looking to increase the effectiveness of their employees? We have assessments that say, “Let’s get that landscape defined,” and from there we can say, “What are the highest priority initiatives that the company wants to deploy, leveraging our technology?”
We need to make sure that we’re talking about people, process and technology, and that’s really what our Services solutions are designed to do—to look at the problem holistically. So start with an assessment. From there you can get into whether you need more collaboration in your environment or more conferencing—being able to reduce that travel footprint today or cross that multi-generational boundary.
SR: Laura, thank you very much for your time.
LL: Thank you for the opportunity.
Dynamic Workplace Resources
The opinions and views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily state or reflect those of Microsoft.