Present and Future of Work Style Innovation: an Interview with Expert Soichi Nishiyama (Part 1)

The use of smart devices continues to evolve day by day and has expanded from the communications field into the business world. To date, Fujitsu has developed and brought to market a diversity of solutions for work style innovation. How will companies evolve due to the deployment of smart devices? Soichi Nishiyama, the leading expert in work style innovation (known as "Mr. Work Style Innovation") and Senior Manager of the Integrated Product Business Promotion Department of the General Product Strategy Headquarters, describes the present status of work style innovation and Fujitsu's future objectives in this area.

Why is work style innovation currently in the spotlight?

In Japan, work style innovation is a theme which companies have been working to promote. However, the current booming interest in innovation cannot be explained without mentioning Apple's iPad, which was released in May 2010. As past experience suggests, once a new technology is released, it first spreads among consumers, after which it makes its way into the business world approximately three years later.

This is supported by the fact that four years have passed since tablets came onto the retail market, and expectations are high regarding these devices' full-scale expansion into the corporate market. Tablet shipments in 2014 are estimated to total 1260,000, which is nearly double that of the previous year. This figure is expected to further increase to 2,720,000 in 2016, which is close to the number of smartphone shipments (Source: MCPC, Corporate Usage Trends for Smartphones and Tablets and the Status of BYOD (2013 Version)).

In fact, the use of smart devices continues to evolve daily. All devices, goods, and spaces are being connected in a user-centric sense leading to the creation of an environment in which each person's performance can be maximized.

Based on the concept of work style innovation, companies have endeavored to achieve ongoing innovation that meets contemporary needs. However, I believe that the use of the new "smart device" technology will further actualize this innovation and lead to further expansion of the market.

How will work styles be changed by the deployment of smart devices?

In Fujitsu's concept of work style innovation, smart devices are not deployed at businesses no matter what; rather our main task is to connect people and technology together.

We have a variety of customers in a variety of fields, including manufacturing, distribution, finance, public institutions and municipalities, education, medical care, and social infrastructure. Accordingly, there is a diversity of work styles among our customers.

Fujitsu have classified smart device usage into three work categories--office administration, sales and field services--in order to make it easy for our customers to understand.

1. Office administration
The deployment of smart devices enables users to carry out tasks including phone calls, E-mail, schedule management and workflow management to be handled while on business trips, at home, or anywhere else, whenever the need arises.
2. Sales
For face-to-face sales activities, such as presentations and product briefings, tablets are key because they are easy to use and enable salespeople to show pictures and videos to clients on a larger screen than that of a smartphone. Even massive amounts of information that cannot be carried around as hardcopy can be stored on tablets. Using videos in presentations and product briefings allows users to accurately convey the appeal of products in a way that cannot be done with conventional brochures or the like.
3. Field services
Smart devices can be used as business tools in a wide range of areas, including manufacturing, distribution, facility maintenance, and medical care. They are lighter and less expensive than conventional dedicated devices, and as they are controlled via an easy-to-use touch panel, anyone can use them.

We at Fujitsu have industry-leading capabilities in the vertical integration of everything from devices to services. Our capabilities cover the three work categories described above in accordance with customer needs. We are also proud of our capabilities in the area of customization management with regard to the integration of customers' existing systems with mobile devices.

Let's take for an example the use of smart devices in field work in the financial industry. As this sector requires higher levels of security and ease-of-use than other industries do, Fujitsu can provide integration between tablets and existing systems by means of palm vein authentication.

Continuity is also important in work style innovation. For example, one of our customers first deployed tablets for groupware use in 2011. A year later, the customer told us they wanted to introduce e-catalogs to strengthen sales. Then, in 2013, we were requested to allow this customer's users to access its in-house business systems from home and customer locations in the same way as they were already doing in the case of their office PCs.

It is very natural for customers to make this kind of request. Introducing a work style at a company does not mean that it has reached its destination; rather, it means that it has started on a journey. Work styles must be continuously improved, updated, and evolved year after year to increase efficiency. We must on an ongoing basis customize and operate work style-support systems while responding to change. If a customer initially deploys a Fujitsu system and later finds it does not function satisfactorily, it is impossible for that customer to take that system to another company. In this sense, we have a great responsibility.

One of our customers encountered a situation in which authentication between a mobile groupware system previously installed by another company and the e-catalog system installed by our company for the current project were incompatible. If our systems had been used from the beginning, this problem could have been avoided, but it is difficult to foresee such issues in advance. Therefore, we must not forget that continuity is required in work style innovation.

What case studies do you have on work style innovation?

In regard to office work, we have a case study based on our own experience in Fujitsu.
We unified our global communications platform, which is used by 110,000 employees across some 200 group companies in Japan. Based on this, we are promoting work style innovations using smart devices to perform actions such as field support, changing from e-mail to a culture of real-time communication, and sharing knowledge among our 170,000 global Fujitsu employees. By demonstrating our own successful case study, our customers can make decisions about introducing these types of services with peace of mind.

I am involved in business negotiations with more than 50 companies each year. Through the deployment of smart devices, some customers want to improve business performance, while others want to reduce costs. Each customer has its own objectives with regard to deploying smart devices.

As a retail case study, Circle K Sunkus Co., Ltd., a Japanese chain of convenience stores, needed to enhance the efficiency of tasks performed by the supervisors responsible for store management. The hybrid tablets deployed at the stores are used and work in the same way as PCs at the office. The deployment of these devices demonstrated the company's decisive commitment to work style innovation.

Fukuoka Financial Group, Inc. is a case study from the financial industry.
To improve their sales processes and enhance the sales capabilities of bank liaison officers, Fukuoka Financial Group deployed tablets with built-in palm-vein authentication sensors, a thin client infrastructure, and high-speed communication lines in a closed network. This ensured that Fukuoka could build a system for easy but secure access to internal systems even from outside the office.

What are the challenges in deploying smart devices?

In work style innovation, Fujitsu's main contribution is ICT. It requires significant effort to introduce new technologies and make them work within a company's business areas. In Japanese companies, traditionally frontline divisions often hold significant power and are reluctant to introduce new technologies.

In other countries, an increasing number of companies have begun directly linking their growth and ICT strategies to eliminate this type of perception gap seen in Japan.

Japanese work styles are traditionally very serious and efficient. To this end, activities at many work sites are carried out to a high standard even without introducing ICT, and workers often feel proud of that fact.

As Fujitsu supports other companies in using ICT, we must clearly explain how work styles will change going forward through the introduction of these technologies.

Statistics and other information are of course important when explaining the changes that will accompany the introduction of technologies to bring about work style innovation. For example, it is a fact that mobile PCs are being increasingly used and that the utilization rate of tablets has increased by 20 percent. However, we also need to explain how the essential elements of the work style that our customer considers important can change, including how much overtime can be reduced by, how far production efficiency can be raised, and how fostering new collaborations among employees will make the company more creative.

In Part 2 of this interview, Soichi Nishiyama is asked about how companies have realized work style innovation and how Fujitsu enables the employees of customers to participate in this innovation on their own initiative. He also shares valuable experiences and the essence of the work style innovation that Fujitsu aims to achieve.

Present and Future of Work Style Innovation: an Interview with Leading Expert Soichi Nishiyama (Part 2)