What is the intelligent workplace?

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Imagine an office workplace that is streamlined, highly automated, and efficient. An employee can find any document, then know it is easy to print or easy to archive. Communication is fluid and reliable, and every device and app is secure and safe to use at any time.

That’s the idea behind the intelligent workplace, a concept that makes documents, scanning, printing, copying, and everything in-between as fluid as possible. It creates an environment where an “everything digital” mindset prevails and the old-school thinking of forcing employees to follow a complex and complicated process becomes a distant memory.

As an example of how that works, think about an expense report. Employees might view this as drudgery because they have to find a document, print it, fill it out, and sign it. An intelligent workplace makes this more seamless, perhaps even providing an app or an online form. To the employee, there isn’t the same consternation over finding documents and printing, but instead, they can find what they need and follow an established digital workflow.

An important note to make is that the intelligent workplace is not something you have to build once and then rely on forever. Once you establish an intelligent workplace, you can keep improving it and modifying it to match the needs of your business.

In some cases, an intelligent workplace will remove printed material entirely and rely on apps and automation (meaning, it is mostly digital). It’s an effort to make employees more productive in their daily tasks and make a company more responsive. To understand the basic components of the intelligent workplace, it is best to think of four broad categories that help define it.

1. Workflow improvements

At the heart of the intelligent workplace is a brand new workflow, one that benefits from digital transformation and emerging technologies like 5G wireless, biometrics, and cloud storage. In many ways, an intelligent workplace is one that relies fundamentally on workflows that are radically informed by, equipped by, and improved by digital transformation.

What this means for your business is that the workflows need to be optimized. That may be a difficult process, especially of the processes you use now are well-established and even ingrained in the workforce. New digital workflows may require new training and other upgrades to devices and software, but that investment will be worth it because the end result is more automation and more productivity. Improved workflows lead to more efficiencies.

2. Digital imaging

An intelligent workplace is also one that relies heavily on digital imaging. In the past, employees might have relied on printed documents and copying, but the modern workplace has become far more automated, digital, and efficient. A sidenote to make here is that “the past” models of a document-centric workplace that used mostly paper is not so long ago -- some companies have not yet embraced digital transformation, and some are still stuck in the past.

Digital imaging is a multi-purpose process. It’s more than just scanning documents; instead, it’s an entirely new way of looking at your business processes. For example, there might be a mentality in the real-estate field that says everything must be on a printed document. That may be somewhat true depending on local and federal laws, but the truth is that even those printed and signed contracted need to be digitized, stored, and automated in a new workflow.

3. Cloud-based printing

Once an employee at a company has pulled up a digital document on a smartphone and tapped one button to print it - all without any configuration or hassle - there is no going back. The intelligent workplace is in full swing. Being able to print through and from the cloud is a game-changing experience because it makes employees more productive. And, it is not rocket science. Documents are stored in the cloud for easy retrieval, and the devices in the modern workplace are all cloud-connected, so using a cloud-based printing approach becomes more fluid. Employees wind up using the resources more often and without productivity loss.

And, the results are surprising. It’s not just the smartphone they use, but every device is connected - tablets, laptops, kiosk terminals. Even one printer connected to an intelligent workplace and print to another device in another department. It’s all about extreme flexibility and yet extreme understanding of how it all works and the benefits.

4. Apps instead of documents

There’s another part of the intelligent workplace that might be surprising. Too often, there’s a printed document mindset about a company workflow or process. Although it’s highly regulated, the health industry has started embracing the intelligent office when it comes to removing printed documents from the equation, choosing to use more efficient apps, cloud storage, and document storage and retrieval. Yes, they still print materials - patients and state legislators might demand that - but the workflow itself is highly digitized. 

In other cases, apps are there to augment, not replace at all. This makes the intelligent workplace even more attractive because it’s not an all or nothing approach. Employees can rely on apps, or they can use another process that matches their needs.

5. Robust security

Connecting all of these pieces of the intelligent workplace is the thick, reliable thread of a security infrastructure. Without good security, the bells and whistles of an intelligent workplace would not be as viable. Employees will be productive - but also exposing business secrets to hackers. That’s why security helps unify everything in the intelligent workplace. When an employee decides to print from a mobile device when documents are scanned, and when departments generate a new print job they know it is all secure.

In the end, these components all work together -- no single element is more important than another. Employees also don’t see all of the connecting tissues but use the intelligent workplace as one unified entity that fits perfectly into their daily routine. The ultimate benefit here is that the company itself moves forward as everyone works in better harmony.


John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.