How IT is creating the 'smart' workplace

By deploying technologies like Wi-Fi, Wikis and WebEx, IT is leading the charge as enterprises restructure for maximum collaboration.

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Konica Minolta’s structural changes are impacting the role of IT. As remote diagnosis increasingly replaces on-site service calls for the company’s printer business, service has become a function of IT. The company has eliminated outsourcing contracts and hired more IT people. Salespeople and IT are collaborating as customer conversations now include topics such as network security, enterprise content management, document management, and changing workplace practices.

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As Konica Minolta Australia evolves from an equipment vendor to an IT services provider, the company is looking to acquire small IT services companies with specialized knowledge. This infusion of expertise and broader input into decisions may provide further opportunity for structural change “like a satellite that comes into the mother ship and then transforms the mother ship from within,” Cooke says.

Energy boost at FMC Technologies

At Houston-based FMC Technologies, which provides equipment and services for the energy industry, a workforce shift is triggering structural change. Many senior engineers are retiring within a few years leaving a potential knowledge gap. So working with technologists, a knowledge management group is spearheading the shift to enhance information sharing and maximize collaboration. The company, which has more than 20,000 team members in 17 countries, has established a Center for Innovative Collaboration staffed by nine people globally.

“It’s awesome to me the breadth of what we’re tackling,” says Kim Glover, manager of knowledge management for FMC Technologies. More than 50 global knowledge “networks” or communities of practice have formed. These range from subsea drilling to design drafting. The networks, supported by a range of collaboration tools, have helped break down barriers among functions and business units.

Tools include Cisco WebEx for spontaneous web conferencing and videoconferencing, a discussion forum called “The Edge” and a wiki platform called “The Well” both based on Microsoft SharePoint. FMC Technologies is also using ThinkTank for “structured collaboration.” This approach involves determining specific objectives, gaining broad input, generating and improving ideas and assessing and prioritizing input to produce tangible results and solutions during a session or within a time frame.

The purpose of knowledge networks is often to streamline a process or improve a product. Within the networks, some 500 workgroups tackle more specific issues. The networks have mostly replaced a previous system of global councils which met annually and operated without collaborative tools. In one case, a global network of more than 800 computer aided design and drafting (CADD) professionals saved millions of dollars by standardizing layering work instructions and reducing process time from three years to one.

‘Smart’ meetings

While unstructured, spontaneous collaboration breaks down barriers and silos, enterprises are simultaneously creating value through structured collaboration. Both approaches can help transform traditional meetings into collaborative group sessions (CGS) whether participants are in one or multiple locations.

In a traditional meeting, the highest-ranking person often sets the agenda and controls the proceedings. Then participants retreat to their own workspaces to write reports or do follow up work that is then discussed at yet another meeting. In contrast, a CGS is about creating value on the spot by collaboratively making decisions, creating marketing plans, producing budgets, adjusting production schedules, improving processes and products among other results.

Since adopting a more collaborative structure, Konica Minolta Australia has experienced the highest revenue, unit sales, market share and profit in the company’s history. “As soon as we did those things, we saw a tangible result,” says Cooke.

And more change is on the horizon. Collaboration is migrating into recognition and reward systems. While FMC Technologies has yet to incorporate collaboration in determining raises, getting promoted will increasingly depend on how well team members collaborate. “They will be valued more if they share and collaborate rather than the old way which is ‘I’m more useful if I hoard my knowledge,’” says Glover.

For GlaxoSmithKline, enterprise structure continues to evolve. The “smart working” approach has migrated to laboratories as GSK pilots a “smart lab” outside London. GSK has designed the smart lab space to increase chance encounters and spontaneous interaction. Plus the company has enhanced collaboration among chemists and biologists by co-locating them in the same work space. “We’re going after all of those rules and breaking down all those walls,” says Milora. “We’re attacking it piece by piece by piece by piece.”

Evan Rosen’s new book entitled The Bounty Effect: 7 Steps to The Culture of Collaboration® shows how to design collaborative enterprise structures. More information on the book is available at He can be reached at

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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