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Tech – furnishing your office

By Team Digit | Published 01 Feb 2005 13:35 IST
Tech – furnishing your office
The agricultural age was based on ploughs and the animals that pulled them; the industrial age, on engines and the fuels that fed them. The information age we are now creating will be based on computers and the networks that interconnect them.

Folks at Sun Microsystems can now say, "We told you so", and everyone would have to agree. Their famous punch line "The network is the computer" is slowly coming true with the workplace undergoing a major upheaval since the early days of the computer. But merely having a computer and a printer connected on a network are not enough to say that your office is IT-enabled.

With today's technologies, the use of various devices in tandem can help you get the most for your business.

According to researchers at IBM, nearly 70 per cent of all work is collaborative in nature and only 30 per cent is done individually. Why, then, are most offices still made up of individual desks?

Most offices would do well to optimise the way employees work by refurbishing the workplace to suit today's technological needs. This could, in fact, even help save some money in the bargain. Let's look at the various parts of an office that could be truly 'IT- enabled'.

The Cubicle
Cubicles today are typical- they have a computer, a telephone, sometimes a printer, almost never a scanner and a soft board. Space for the person working in the cubicle is at a premium, and he or she has to manage space and  devices efficiently. While a printer is a necessity, a scanner might not be required as frequently.

However,  arming every cubicle with a printer could  cost the company much more, apart from cramping up the cubicle.

The solution here is simple. Space could be freed up in a cubicle by strategically placing a multifunctional device (MFD) so that four or more workers in a particular bay could use it. This would also reduce hardware costs in terms of peripherals and maintenance.

Space in the cubicle could be further enhanced by replacing the existing CRT monitor with an LCD one. These certainly take up less space, and although they cost more that would be recovered from the power savings they offer.

Today's executives are tech-savvy and would surely appreciate the extra space made available to them. They have enough devices they would want to either sync with the computer or simply have at hand at work.

Some devices that are now commonplace with today's on-the-go executives include a PDA, a cell phone, digital camera, pen drives and more. The computer in his or her cubicle should have at least two USB slots to accommodate two of the above devices at a time.

There are enough executives who would like to sync their PDA with their computer and cell phone, and add digital images in a presentation saved on the pen drive!

But is this a practical way of working? Sandeep Mehrotra, sales manager, Adobe Systems India, says, "I think offices that incorporate technology in a big way will not only reap benefits in terms of saving costs but also see a great deal of increase in productivity. Technology will be an enabler in making the office an enjoyable and comfortable environment."

V Krishnan, general manager, consumer sales, imaging and printing, HP India, agrees: "A tech-intensive office will definitely involve a fair amount of initial investment and hence, the start-up operation will be more expensive than the conventional non-tech office. But, a well-designed and well-linked office will be able to pay for its investment within a short period," he says.

The Conference Room
What can easily be called the great coliseum in an organisation, the conference room is one of the most important areas. Given today's pressures and tech-readiness most employees have, the room should not need to be "prepared" before each meeting.

Some of the most important aspects of a conference room are the projector, projector screen, a computer for playing presentations, a phone with conferencing facility and a video- conferencing facility.

The layout of the conference room must be conference-friendly and the computer should ideally possess the following: a DVD combo drive, USB ports, memory card slots and a lot of RAM so that the presentations don't drag around. Remember, this is also the room where you would possibly be making an impression on the client. So let 'er rip!

A good projector is a long-term investment. But having the right one to suit your needs and your conference room is a major task. While the range of projectors available is vast, you need to make sure you get just the right one for your office. (Refer the January 2005 issue of Digit for more on projectors)

Videoconferencing is gaining in popularity, and if you could "meet" with the client without having to leave your office, what a way to save time and money!

Says Yugal Sharma, country manager, Polycom India, a video conferencing major: "Video conferencing boosts productivity-there are no two ways about it. Executives globally, and even in India, have reported benefits thanks to faster decision-making, improved employee morale, improved access to the best talent, reduced time to market, better customer responsiveness, more efficient work practices, fewer concerns about travel problems, and a greater focus on results overall. And, of course, measurable costs like travel and accommodation are reduced."

A tech intensive office will definitely involve a fair amount of initial investment... But a well-linked and well-designed office will pay back the investment in a short span of time.
V Krishnan, General Manager - Consumer Sales, Imaging and Printing, HP India

The Boss' Room
Contrary to what you might think, bosses do have a lot of work, and therefore, require all the space and gadgets they normally have in their rooms! An ideal room for a boss would be a hi-tech, efficient place where things happen at the touch of a button.

As boss, you probably carry a range of gadgets, and with good reason. Your laptop, cell phone, PDA, pen drive, and a whole lot of data spread across these devices is your lifeline.

You also need to attend a lot of meetings and keep track of a variety of other intra-office activities and events including birthdays, anniversaries, appraisals and more. How does one person accomplish all this on time? Synchronising data on various devices is one way of ensuring you never forget. At any given point, at least one of the devices would be with you. So even if your PDA is in your bag, the cell phone would remind you of a meeting or a birthday. This job could also be carried out by the secretary and you need not worry about missing another appointment.

In fact, if your PDA is e-mail compliant and can support MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, you need not worry about not having a file during a meeting.

You could ask your secretary to e-mail it to you. You could then download it using either Bluetooth or Infrared, and you're good to go!

Tomorrow's Office
While these setups are possibly enough in today's scenario, imagine having an office where anyone could sit in any cubicle without having to worry about any kind of setup.

Given that all cubicles are identical in size and have the same hardware, employees could simply choose the cubicle closest to their team with every change and their data, e-mail and extension would follow automatically. How?

Your identity card would be the most important tool at work. With every cubicle being identical, there would be a swipe facility outside the cubicle. Simply swiping your ID card would mean that the computer in that cubicle would open your e-mail account and personal settings and the Internet phone in the cubicle would simply assume your extension.

This process repeats every time you change your cubicle. With all your data on the network and safely encrypted, the only thing you need to carry around is your coffee mug!

All this sounds good but isn't it a little fancy? "A number of functions in today's situations can only be performed using intelligent devices and hence, technology and gadgets can only help augment the mental capability of an individual and help perform his/her tasks far more efficiently," says Krishnan.

Team Digit
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