Home & Office

​Lenovo to make bet on smart office: Here's why it makes sense

IT, HR and facilities are all in on the smart office effort, but so far we've gone open floor plan and nifty furniture, but much of office tech remains legacy. Lenovo starts sketching out a move.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Lenovo plans to outline a series of products to target the so-called smart office in the months and years ahead with a plan that's still being formulated. Rest assured the smart office concept is going to become popular because a technology vendor can widen its addressable market considerably.

The big question is whether anyone will get the smart office right. By now we've been inundated with moves to boost productivity at work, enhance collaboration and give the base of workers warm fuzzy. We've had the open floor plan (better than the cube farm for sure, but there are drawbacks, noisy collaboration tools (insert email killing app like Slack here) and big screen devices that try to make meetings fun (Google's Jamboard and Microsoft's Surface Hub).

Yet these technologies either lock you into some collaboration stack, don't talk to each other or just suck more time out of your schedule. Let's get real: It's very hard to argue that the office is smarter. Your home and even your city probably run circles around the office.

Improving productivity with smart office tech at VMware and Box

So what's Lenovo going to do? We're not sure. But Christian Teismann, senior vice president of Lenovo's commercial business, recently outlined a few broad strokes. Here are a few highlights:

  • The smart office has multiple screens and the vision is that these devices need to coordinate and allow you to move around.
  • Millennials are driving the smart office movement, but the execs behind implementations are spread out. Teismann noted that there are "workplace transformation execs," line of business leaders, facilities, IT and human resources with roles in creating the employee experience.
  • These execs are minding the details. One head of development was picking the coffee machine and gummy bears to keep his developers happy.
  • The west coast is leading this smart office movement since there's such a war for talent.
  • Companies spent big on furniture and ambiance, but we're still using the same old conferencing systems, noted Teismann. Legacy technology dominates these newfangled workspaces.
  • The smart office could become an extension of the Internet of things with an environment that senses what you need.
  • Integration across platforms should come with devices. Perhaps Amazon's Echo with touch and a screen for video calls shows the way.
  • Lenovo plans to integrate with all the key players. Perhaps there's a role for smart office middleware to make it all work.
  • A smart office technology company will have to pitch IT (Lenovo's specialty) as well as HR and facilities. "We're seeing a marriage of conversations with IT, facilities and HR. There's a different cycle for everyone," said Teismann.

It's worth adding that corporations will have to fuse remote and disparate work hubs with this smart gear too. Can a smart office also bridge cultural gaps?

Lenovo is dead-on that the smart office can be a booming market. The catch is that the market may take time for an established technology vendor to crack. Surely, the Think brand for Lenovo is strong, but the company will have to iterate. "I can't promise you our first device will be super successful," said Teismann. "But we'll start with a product later this year, early next and evolve over the next 12- to 18-months with a broader product."

Of course, the broader question is whether the smart office is driven by hardware or software or perhaps sensors. Slack sure has established a few potential smart office building blocks. Consider:

Slack adds screen sharing for video calls | Slack refines admin controls for guest access, profiles | Slack launches message menus in effort to boost workflow tools

For now, Lenovo will experiment with its own offices and work with customers and partners in its innovation centers. Apparently, the smart office is going to take a bit of trial and error and a lot of integration with various partners.


The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.

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