Kathy Gibson at Lenovo’s MEA Summit, Cape Town – By 2020, millennials will form 50% of the workforce — and most of them will prefer jobs that give them workplace agility.
“Millennials are refusing work at companies because of the type of device they provide, and the time those devices take to operate,” says Dilip Bhatia, vice-president: worldwide PCSD marketing, user and customer experience at Lenovo. “People’s expectations are led by the always-on world.”
Companies around the world are thinking of ways to redesign their workplaces to meet the needs of the modern workforce.
The workplace of the future will be a product of technology and space, Bhatia says. “People used to work in cubicles, but that is going away. Nowadays, companies are looking for workers to collaborate, so you are seeing the concept of the huddle room instead of cubicles and big conference rooms.
“Customers are all changing their workplaces, and the focus is on making the meeting place more efficient.”
Lenovo is investing in solutions to make the conference room of the future smarter. “We are working with Microsoft on some of these solutions,” Bhatia says.
These smart office solutions are not yet available, he adds, and will represent a new class of technology that Lenovo believes will be a big growth area.
Some examples of concepts include always-on and cable-free devices that will help meetings to start on time.
Other technology could address the room itself, for instance, to dynamically schedule room occupancy depending on actual usage; or to monitor temperature and lighting.
“We want to make the conference room smarter and increase the productivity of employees.”
For hot-desking, systems like USCB and Thunderbolt already make it easier for users to work seamlessly. Built-in microphones help to improve remote meetings and conference calls, and technologies like Cortana make users more efficient.
The company has a history of inventing new devices and innovating in the technology space, consistently winning awards for innovative and exciting products.
“Very few brands survive a long time,” he points out. “But we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ThinkPad and we have shipped 100-million ThinkPads this year.”
Customer-centricity is a big focus for Lenovo, Bhatia says. “We need to delight customers.”
Customer experience is important, he says, and will soon overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
“Companies that are brand-centric are all about themselves. Customer-centric is about user pain points, about their issues.
“We can become customer-centric if we observe our customers in everything they do and come out with great products.”
Key to this is to understand customers, identify the customer experience lifecycle, and – most importantly – listen to customers.
The company has a number of tools to do this. It listens to customer sentiment in the market and this is used to develop products.
“We do customer experience surveys, customer experience channel surveys, product ownership consumer surveys and use enterprise feedback tools,” Bhatia says.
Customer-centricity is so important that every Lenovo employee is urged to make customer-centricity one of their main focus areas.
Technology innovation is not a new thing at Lenovo. “If you line up ThinkPads from the last 25 years, you will see they are created with form following function. We aim to create a great experience.”
Within this, there is consistency in the ThinkPad design and usability. “The power port is always top left; the trackpad is always dead centre — there is consistent behaviour from generation to generation.”
From a user experience viewpoint, ThinkPads include a few details that make a significant difference to the user experience.
Touchscreens are becoming prevalent, making sense with the adoption of Windows 10.
“But how annoying are the fingerprints on the screen? We are bringing our anti-smudge touchscreens.”
Some of the keys on ThinkPad keyboards in the past developed shiny keys, but the new keyboards from Lenovo retain their matt finish.
Users all want to have special keys, so Lenovo has introduced user-defined keys — so customers can set up their own keys as they prefer to work.
“The blue screen of death is an issue that annoys all users. We want to significantly reduce the number of crashes,” Bhatia says. AI will keep the system updated so crashes are less likely to occur.
Going forward, technology is not about the personal computer anymore, Bhatia says.
The number of devices per person is growing all the time, the number of digital assistants is also growing apace.
“But the number of identical digital wardrobes is zero,” Bhatia says. This means that every user has different needs and wants. “There is no common digital wardrobe — everyone has a different set of devices.”
Companies like Lenovo have to find ways to reset their focus.
“The fundamental question we need to ask is: what matters?”
The top issue is that time is precious. Users want their devices to help them streamline tasks.
The second issue is flexibility — the comfort and freedom to move. Users want more flexible devices that don’t make user compromise.
The last issue is about human connections. Customers want solutions that better focus on shared experience and human connection.
“As personalised computing evolves, users are looking for offerings that are not only different, but focus on issues that matter,” he says.