Recently, Gartner Analyst Emeritus Chris Fletcher interviewed 25 experts for «The Modern Workplace 365», a five-part blog series commisioned by Nimble CRM and the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP). This series is designed to help small business teams and workgroups of up to 50 people to understand the megatrends reshaping customer and employee experiences, the benefits of digitizing the workplace, and the priorities to consider when setting their digital strategy.

I am honored to be invited to share my vision of the modern workplace by the side of renowned experts. Below is the entire interview from which parts of it were published in this article:

What communications, collaboration, contact management, and/or data challenges do you anticipate will limit small business teams’ ability to grow?
This is a multilayered question. The digital transformation as I experience it not only brings technological change, but also changes the way we work. Business models are changing, customers› demands on companies are rising, employees want to take on more responsibility, but also expect flexibility, mobility and trust.
But important changes are also accessibility, short processing times and service with a focus on the customer experience. This is where I see the real challenges for companies to grow in the future. The days when customers were willing to accept standard answers to specific questions or wait 40 minutes at a service hotline are long gone. Companies that do not recognize these changes will probably no longer exist in a few years› time. The focus must therefore be on creating a comprehensive customer journey that can be easily and agilely adapted to changes in customer needs and at the same time provides a 360-degree view of the customer.

How does the small business workplace need to evolve over the next 3-5 years in order to support a highly capable, highly motivated and customer-centric workforce?
The simple answer would be a modern, flexible, mobile and secure workplace so that employees can easily access their data at any time and from anywhere. This includes state-of-the-art tools and software that is intelligent and helps employees quickly find the information they need across applications.
But technology is only one dimension. The physical working environment and corporate culture are just as important. In the eyes of many companies, the physical working environment is losing importance due to remote work and increasing travel. The opposite is true. The office space should enable creativity, support the cultivation of relationships, allow free space and offer opportunities for retreat. Office space with these characteristics creates the basis for creative ideas, direct communication and the urgently needed exchange of knowledge between employees. This goes hand in hand with the corporate culture, the aim of which must be to create a climate of trust, openness and security. This becomes one of the most important management tasks and will determine the success or failure of a company. More than ever, companies and their employees will have to adapt to ever faster changes in their environment.

Walk us through a successful small business digital transformation and modern workplace implementation in which you helped implement AI/Blockchain/GDPR/Iot, Machine Learning in your digital workplace?
My team and I strive to make companies more successful through the above measures. This begins with an analysis of the initial situation. We need to understand where the company comes from, how it makes money, where the current and future challenges lie and why the company came to us. We analyze the technical infrastructure, the organization and existing business processes. From this we develop a vision together with the customer, which we use as a basis for implementation.
We are currently supporting customers in the digital transformation of their workplaces. To this end, we carry out changes at all levels. Employees receive new, ultra-light devices that they can select themselves – right down to colour. The devices are operated, monitored and updated entirely from the cloud using Microsoft 365. The existing applications are either transferred to a Software as a Service (SaaS) model or replaced by modern cloud solutions to reduce operating costs to a minimum. In the office area, we rely on Office 365 and Microsoft Teams for collaboration. Microsoft Teams serves as a central tool for instant messaging, telephony, video conferencing, internal and external data sharing and for communicating with customers via bots. The customer experience agents can take over the conversation between a customer and a bot directly from Microsoft Teams at any time, access customer information in the CRM and view documents without having to leave the application.

How has this technology implementation impacted customer and/or employee experiences?
The customer experience was significantly improved through the integration of the various data sources and the use of AI. This was also measured in terms of customer satisfaction and revenue. This solution also improved the Employee Experience. Employees can now retrieve all relevant information from a single application without long waiting times or switching back and forth between different systems. The resulting increase in employee satisfaction is directly reflected in motivation and can also be felt by the customer.

Are there quantifiable outcomes you can point to?
As already mentioned, customer and employee satisfaction has been improved. Through the targeted use of SaaS and the associated increases in efficiency, up to 30% of IT operating costs could be saved. It seems important to me that these savings are used to improve the customer experience.

What resources did you use to help your customer map out their digital transformation strategy?
We have developed our own framework with which we can support our customers and respond individually to their requirements. I already explained this a little earlier. In addition, we support our customers in the areas of HR, communication and training measures, which shouldn’t be neglected in a digital transformation project.

What hurdles did you help them overcome?
We help our customers to prepare for future requirements and to remain successful. Both the Customer Experience and the Employee Experience are in focus, because they are important factors for the company’s success.

Any recommendations for other small businesses addressing similar concerns?
An important finding is that IT is no longer the driver for new solutions, but the business. The task of IT is to optimally support the core business through the selection of the most suitable and sustainable technology in its processes and thus make them more successful.

Is there anything else you’d like to add to this conversation?
Another success factor for digital transformation is a contemporary and trusting management culture that is exemplified from the very top. Only then will the company and its employees be able to face the changes agilely and grow in the