We talked to Cisco’s Mark Needham, Business Development Manager for Worldwide Collaboration Sales GTM and Strategy, about what it takes to flourish as a small business today.
What is workplace transformation?
Mark Needham: The idea of workplace transformation is actually very simple. It’s about transforming the workplace through spaces and technology into something that can optimized workflows, processes and workplace productivity, in a way that is intuitive, inviting, easy to use, and attractive to millennials and Gen Z workers.
That last part is really important; younger workers today expect flexible and mobile work environments, and demand excellent experiences with technology. They also have grown up in a connected world, and they expect to be connected 24/7.
Small businesses often seem to have the cards stacked against them. How can the idea of transforming the workplace help ensure business growth and success?
Done right, it allows small businesses to compete against larger competitors in a way they haven’t been able to before by adding the intelligence of a truly collaborative experience that covers physical spaces, software, and processes to run their businesses more efficiently and effectively. Your customers and partners’ interactions with you will be the same as it would be if you were a multinational organization. Imagine what that does for your credibility in those interactions.
Is workplace transformation related to activity-based working? That seems to be a phrase we hear a lot today.
Yes, they are intrinsically related. Workplace transformation requires switching your mindset and processes into what many are calling an “activity-based working environment”, where employees have a choice of different space types to support their needs for privacy, collaboration and socialization.
Research is showing that activity-based working environments increase productivity. To improve productivity to the maximum extent possible, workers need to have a consistent experience whether they are working from home, an office or a co-office space, on their device of choice.
Let’s break it down into the two main parts you mentioned: spaces and technology. What do you mean by transforming workplace spaces?
The level of collaboration has increased by 50% over the past two decades, and today, 80% of work is defined as collaborative. One major component of encouraging collaboration is having right distribution of spaces.
Instead of large conference rooms, for example, your organization might benefit from a combination of small rooms for quiet work, rooms for brainstorming that accommodate three people, and some for all-hands meetings, privacy spaces, spaces for two or three people, and a larger meeting space.
If you really look at how your meeting spaces are used, you’ll probably find that on average, your meeting spaces are used by three people. Yet you’re probably hearing about the lack of meeting rooms, and talk about moving to a larger office space. Instead of having five larger meeting rooms that are only being used at 50 percent capacity, you may actually need ten meeting rooms of varying sizes.
What is the technology part of workplace transformation?
This part is about collaboration tools that offer a consistent experience and support modern requirements.
It goes way beyond email, which many small businesses still use as a collaboration tool. Email-based collaboration can lead to huge chains of email that become unwieldy and time-consuming. More modern tools, including video, file-sharing and digital whiteboards, are much more efficient.
With modern collaboration tools, small business can ensure a consistent experience for all users, wherever they are located, and whatever device they are using. That goes not only for employees, but for contractors, freelancers and other people outside the walls of the organization.
How might a small business use these new tools and configurations to optimize business?
It’s all about flexibility. With various size meeting spaces, your employees can always step away from the open plan into a meeting space to drive a project forward, and then jump back into the open plan office, freeing up that space for the next user.
How can workplace transformation help small businesses attract the best employees?
For small businesses to be successful innovation is critical, but attracting the best staff is highly competitive. With collaborative technologies, you can expand your recruiting outside your geographic boundaries.
You can also use your advanced technologies as a selling point for potential employees by offering flexible and remote work and the chance to use state-of-the-art tools. Millennials and GenZ workers are often happy to accept less money in exchange for these things.
Workplace transformation costs money. How can a small business afford something like this?
In the past, small businesses couldn’t even think about this because of the price of technology and the infrastructure required. But today, with everything cloud-provisioned, it’s much more affordable.
There are multiple solutions at the £25,000 price point and lower, and everything is cloud-provisioned. And then you have to think about the other costs, such as using the technology for meetings, training and development instead of traveling. For example, if your employees only travel in person to see customers—or any activity that makes the company money—you’ll save a lot.
Also, look at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Often, you walk into a meeting space and see a hodgepodge of mixed technologies from different vendors: a physical white board, speakers on the wall, TVs, PCs, a phone on the table, wires, dongles, batteries, remote controls. The initial cost of all of those components may be low, but they all have costs in terms of maintenance, support, training, implementation and making sure they work together. Often, it ends up costing more than a single vendor solution. Experts often recommend the single-vendor approach because they have a lower TCO.
So while the upfront cost may be slightly higher, the benefits you get through greater adoption, experience, increased productivity and reduced spend over the time you use it far outweighs the need to spend more upfront.