This series introduces trendy and popular themes from among those covered in Fujitsu Research Institute's information magazine Chisounomori by interviewing consultants who are working on actual business projects. The first theme is "work style innovation."
Status of Progress in Work Style Innovation
― Previously, topics in work style innovation mainly focused on improving the productivity of white-color workers and groupware. However, nowadays, work styles relate to factors such as family care, childcare, and community interactions. How do you feel about these matters?
Nishiyama: The nature of work style innovation has been changing in Japanese companies. The original objectives were "mobile utilization" and "promotion of telework," but now the objectives are regarded more as "company-wide challenges" that directly contribute to management and business. As it is crucial to use ICT and IoT to launch new innovations, I think that not only the information systems division but the company as a whole must work on projects together as a single unit.
Hirano: I started to use the design approach method about five years ago, and I continued to carry out operations while incorporating it into the process as one work style approach. Currently, Fujitsu is implementing work style innovation related to childcare and family care. As this corporate challenge is also a theme for society, I think we can use our solution as a reference model for customers.
Nemoto: I think there are two background factors that make work style innovation a major business challenge: "changes in technologies" and "changes in people's awareness." Each company is groping about for a solution to the conflicting aims of improving productivity from the company's viewpoint and achieving a worker-friendly working environment.
― What would you say are the important points about the procedure for or approach to work style innovation?
Nishiyama: There are two types of customers who have difficulty with work style innovation: those who have clearly identified the issues they are facing and those who are only vaguely aware of their issues. In the latter case, the customer and Fujitsu must set a goal together, like "By setting this vision, work styles will change like this."
Nemoto: It is also important to emphasize the effects of innovation to the management. It may be difficult to say, "Merely by changing our work styles, sales will increase by xx percent." However, I think it is possible to calculate the effects in terms of quantitative and qualitative aspects based on references obtained through Fujitsu's practices.
Nishiyama: By making the vision visible, we can share recognition with customers, and by applying the vision to usage scenarios, we can carry out quantitative evaluations. I think such practical consulting is convincing to customers.
Places for Practicing a Co-Creation Approach: HAB-YU Platform and TechShop
― Fujitsu provides the HAB-YU Platform and TechShop as places for co-creating ideas and taking on challenges.
Hirano: The HAB-YU Platform * is a place for co-creation provided by Fujitsu where local governments, companies, and universities can make use of social innovations and social challenges for their research themes or businesses. I felt it was necessary to create a contact point with users during the process of designing in order to help them create visions that they had not yet clearly defined. We also opened TechShop ** in Roppongi, Tokyo in April 2016, and Fujitsu is working to make it an exciting place for innovation through a tie-up with the city.
Nemoto: Customers who have attended workshops at the HAB-YU Platform are highly satisfied. We received feedback like this: "For the first time, I had the opportunity to discuss a theme that I had not previously considered with people whom I had not been in contact with at the company" and "I got a new idea by using new technologies that gave me a sense of the future."
*: HAB-YU is a place to promote HAB-YU activities (forging ties (yu in Japanese) among Humans, Areas, and Businesses) built in September 2014 to experience and study how visions are developed and put into practice by harnessing the design development experience accumulated thus far and service design know-how employing ICT.
**: TechShop is a membership-based, open-access DIY workshop. Currently, there are eight shops (with 6,000 members) in North America, driving the maker movement in the United States.
How to Use ICT to Change On-Site Work Styles
― In 2015, companies organized around key phrases such as "experience-oriented solutions" and "service-oriented solutions." ICT's evolution may affect the implementation of such solutions. Could you give some specific examples?
Nishiyama: There are two customer cases where Fujitsu's Work Style UX (user experience) Consulting service has been used in an evolved way. One is a customer who wants to change its R&D work style. The other is a customer who wants to improve the efficiency of its manufacturing sites using IoT. It is interesting that customers who take on work style innovation consider use of IoT or come to employ sensing and M2M solutions. Fujitsu originally supported Human-to-Human communication; however, I think we have now progressed to the level of Human-to-Machine.
Hirano: Use of e-commerce technologies has increased in the fields of fashion, banks, drugstores, and so forth. Now the time has come to review the ways omni-channels and stores operate. Against such a backdrop, a customer who found it difficult to develop and realize its desired medium-term vision by itself came to Fujitsu. Approximately 60 people, including outside incubators and engineers, carried out a Hackathon, and eight ideas generated there are now being brought into the prototype phase.
Nemoto: As a work style innovation solution, most customers choose to update their communication platforms. Thus far, separate tools have been used for email, teleconferencing, and information sharing; however, using an integrated tool these functions can be smoothly operated with a single click, enabling decisions to be made on the spot. A frequent topic of discussion at workshops is how we should use ICT to change on-site work styles. For example, one idea is matching in-house technology seeds with social needs using AI and big data. An increasing number of customers are developing their ideas into proofs of concept (PoC), and we are looking forward to the results.
How to Organize Ideas Is the Key to Success
― You have worked on many projects. Are there any key factors that determine success or failure?
Nishiyama: The number of customers taking on work style innovation has doubled over the past two to three years. However, I often hear from them that "Ideas come up, but organizing them is difficult." I think whether or not they can organize their ideas is the key factor that determines success or failure.
Hirano: In terms of design, visualization technology already exists. However, I feel that going one step further in visualization is effective. Working together across different departments is also important. In a big company, this has the side benefit of promoting communication between employees in different departments across vertical divisions. I believe that Fujitsu's solution can provide a breakthrough here.
Nemoto: Recently, a customer who joined a work-style workshop said that they could not change their work styles because of their corporate culture, so even if they introduce a new measure, it is only a matter of time before it turns into a mere formality. Assessing the corporate culture is also a key point.
― Growing companies usually have a large percentage of young employees. It is therefore easy for them to start something new. However, old companies' employee composition is fixed and difficult to change.
Nemoto: So far, we have provided support to more than 40 companies. We sum up the points common to successful companies under the term "VMAP" *** One company conducted VMAP properly upon its 100th anniversary by implementing measures such as work style innovation, branding innovation, and an office relocation project. It successfully replaced its communication platform and brand image quickly, which was picked up by the mass media. This company successfully changed itself from within.
***: "V" stands for a Vision that is shared across the entire company, from management to field personnel, as the starting point. "M" stands for Measurement to regularly monitor quantitative results and share the effects within the company. "A" stands for Actions to review tools, systems, and facilities. "P" stands for Passion to change without giving up along the way.
Changes Achieved through Work Style Innovation Become Advantages for Japanese Companies
― Could you tell us about what you want to do or the tools you want to use in the future?
Nishiyama: In consulting, the focus has shifted from "communication" to "actual sites." Against such a backdrop, we wish to offer consulting for customers' future operations. To bring about disruptive innovation, a force from outside the company is necessary. Fujitsu has professionals in each type of industry and ICT, and we ourselves must step ahead by forecasting the future. Fujitsu hopes to provide information on the future of many businesses and industries.
Hirano: I hope we can reach a point where we impact society by continuing HAB-YU activities. If we do so, we will be able to provide references for others. While incorporating the knowledge of NPOs and governmental/administrative institutions as contact points with cities, regions, and the outside world, we want to update these references while employing them within Fujitsu.
Nemoto: The companies enthusiastic for work style innovation in recent years are mainly those in the manufacturing and distribution industries. We would like to support more types of industries in the future as well as to support Japanese companies so that they can use the changes achieved through work style innovation as advantages to increase their presence in the world and build a platform for competitive advantage.
― If we take a human-centered approach, we no longer need to be bound by industry type. I understand the importance of supporting field personnel with ICT by taking a holistic view of their lives so that they can work better. Thank you very much for joining us today.
Chisounomori (Focus Series) Work Style InnovationWork Style Innovation to Meet the Needs of the Times
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