The nine-to-five job is past its expiry date. Today, productivity is no longer limited to office hours. Modern businesses run on laptops, tablets and smartphones—from trains, roof-top gardens and airport lounges. But that doesn’t mean the office or home office are condemned to the past. After all, a modern workplace is much more than just accessible from anywhere. Mobile devices now help us achieve levels of flexibility and productivity we could previously only dream about.
Andreas Wilker, member of the board of Bechtle Systemhaus Holding AG, has looked the future of our workplace in the eye. In our interview, he outlines ways to make it a reality.
How do you see the future of the workplace?
Andreas Wilker: The workplace of the future is digital, enabling a whole new level of functionality and opportunity. Corporate networks enable employees to collaborate efficiently wherever, whenever and on whatever end device they choose to work—side by side with intelligent machines and digital assistants.
Companies devise modern room layouts and concepts to foster flexibility in the office, and also invest in innovative technologies. They understand the value of a positive working environment for their employees, encourage them to share knowledge and experience, and help them unlock their full creative potential. A key goal is to create a working atmosphere that puts collaboration at the forefront.
A feel-good atmosphere may be important, but it can’t be the main argument for investing in new technologies, surely?
You’re right. The focus should always be on improving and expediting communication, streamlining systems management, and enabling the flexibility needed to respond to future developments.
It is much easier to recruit and retain employees if you can offer them a cutting-edge working.
Andreas Wilker, member of the board of Bechtle Systemhaus Holding AG
So where do companies approaching the workplace of the future stand today?
No two companies are alike. They each have different CVPs and their success may depend on entirely different factors. So the starting point changes with every new project. Customers usually begin to tackle the topic when they want to refresh their IT and become more attractive to their employees—their junior staff in particular. Others may have just acquired an Office 365 licence and come to us to help them maximise the return on their new investment. Some are already reaping the benefits of advanced collaboration tools.
Who is involved in such a project?
We usually receive enquiries from executive management, typically from companies with 150+ IT seats. In the run-up to a project, we talk to all sorts of managers, from CEOs to CIOs and sales managers.
The workplace of the future is also up there on HR managers' agendas. It is much easier to recruit and retain employees if you can offer them a cutting-edge working environment.
What are the next steps then?
In an initial web conference, we align the customer’s vision of a modern work environment with our own. So the early discussions are indeed not about specific products or solutions, rather they are designed to hammer out an overall strategy. Our experience is that customers respond very well to live demos of the latest devices and hands-on insights into modern collaboration and knowledge management. Our meeting rooms are also equipped with digital whiteboards and we can connect directly with technical experts within the Bechtle Group to clarify any questions. Our customers quickly get a good picture of the opportunities and benefits that new technologies have to offer.
You mentioned that no two customers are alike. I take it off-the-peg solutions just don't cut it here?
That’s precisely why we place such importance on understanding our customer’s business. We’re looking at a growing number of applications and devices, so when we dissect the needs of different stakeholders, processes, objectives and concepts in the next step, we keep this in mind. Only then can we begin to develop a strategy together with the customer and eventually implement it in their environment. Finally, we measure the project's success.
In your experience, would you say there are certain factors that are crucial for success?
It is very important to centre all efforts on the actual needs of the employees. And it is also advisable to keep employees in the loop from early on.
Everyone should be informed of new possibilities well in advance and a comprehensive action plan should be put in place to help employees familiarise themselves with new technologies. Last but not least, management should spearhead user adoption and use new technologies in their everyday business as a matter of course.
You have built a next-generation workplace at Bechtle’s head office.
Yes, we have designed a dedicated office space to demonstrate the workplace of the future together with Bechtle partners including Cisco and Microsoft, and a number of specialised Bechtle units. We realised early on that the subject touches on diverse areas such as service and support, training, technology, data protection, data security, and many more. We wanted to take all that into account and develop a functioning solution for a simulated company. The result is now a fully-fledged walk-in demo. The many enquiries we received show that we have our finger right on our customers’ pulse.
Our workplace of the future has been designed and equipped in collaboration with a number of Bechtle Group companies, namely the IT System House Neckarsulm, Bechtle direct, our Public-sector Division, CIO Organisation, Bechtle Systemhaus Holding, HanseVision, Bechtle Software Lösungen, and Modus Consult.
Why is this such a hot topic for companies?
Today, job satisfaction is very closely linked with a desire for independence, flexibility, and creative freedom. In other words: Employee motivation and commitment hinges on a healthy work-life balance. Workplace design plays a critical role in this. The time and place should be largely up to the employees.
Employee motivation and commitment hinges on a healthy work-life balance. Workplace design plays a critical role in this.
Andreas Wilker, member of the board of Bechtle Systemhaus Holding AG
A key challenge for companies is to address the different needs across all generations and incorporate them into their overall strategy. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if colleagues use chat or e-mail. What matters is that everyone has an optimal toolset for effective collaboration at their fingertips. A modern workplace is also a crucial factor in the competition for skilled employees. A shrewd investment goes a long way in securing future business success.
As well as an extensive product portfolio to equip the workplace of the future, Bechtle offers comprehensive workplace services—all from a single source.