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Knowledge Overview of business reviews and other measures for creating a smart office

What are the important business reviews for smart office transformation at overseas locations, and how can tools be used to assist?


One of the points to consider when promoting smart office transformation at overseas locations is a review of your existing business operations. Business processes centered on paper are not compatible with smart offices and cannot fully leverage the effects of smart office transformation. It is effective to review business operations and how they may be converted from analog to digital.

What specific perspectives are necessary for business review when transitioning to a smart office? This article introduces the importance of business reviews in the context of smart office transformation in a global environment and goes over specific measures.

1. The importance of business reviews in smart office transformation

When considering smart office transformation, one important aspect is the efficiency gained through business review. Let us discuss the reasons why it is effective to conduct business reviews at the time of smart office transformation.

What is a smart office?

First, however, let's clarify what we mean by "smart office," a term that has become increasingly common in recent years. A smart office is an initiative to create an office environment that is comfortable to work in by utilizing digital technologies such as IoT, AI, and communication networks.

With the development of digital technology, the use of digital technology to improve the office environment and increase productivity and employee satisfaction has gained attention worldwide. The spread of telework due to the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in work styles are also reasons why smart offices have gained attention. To enable new ways of working for the new era, an increasing number of companies are implementing smart offices at a global level.

Why are business reviews important for smart office transformation?

In the context of smart office transformation, reviewing existing business operations is effective for improving business processes and promoting communication among employees. Digitization of business operations has a lot of potential, such as data utilization, paperless processes, and the promotion of remote work, and a review of business processes is needed to fully utilize these functions.

For example, as part of smart office transformation, if fixed seats and landline phones are eliminated, the traditional paper and telephone-centric work style becomes inconvenient. Additionally, when requesting a superior's seal of approval on an approval document, the introduction of a smart office means that the superior may not be in the office.

Maintaining analog business processes while only transforming the office into a smart one may result in the analog tasks becoming a bottleneck, limiting the overall effect. It is necessary to consider digitalization of such analog processes themselves in order to fully utilize the potential of the smart office.

Transitioning from paper to digital by utilizing tools

As part of the business review considerations for smart office transformation, the first step should be going paperless. The use of paper can become a barrier when adopting free addressing or telework.

For instance, when introducing free addressing, it is difficult to arrange personal stationery and documents at each desk as was done with traditional fixed desks, making it challenging for users to maintain a consistent working. And in the case of telework, paper documents cannot be used unless one goes to the office.

To address these constraints and challenges, initiatives such as transitioning from stamping to workflow systems and from paper meeting materials to electronic versions using tablets are necessary. These measures help transition from paper to digital, improving flexibility that is not constrained by time or place, and allowing for the advantages of a smart office to be fully utilized.

2. Specific examples of reviews

Here, we introduce specific examples of business reviews that are effective in smart office transformation at overseas locations.

1.Improving approval processes with digital workflows

Digital workflows are tools that enable approval processes on computers, eliminating the need for paper and stamps.

Digital workflows are very effective for enabling flexible ways of working, such as telework. With a PC or mobile device, approval processes can be executed anywhere, removing the restriction of having to be in the same place at the same time as with paper stamping processes.

If telework is promoted without introducing digital workflows, inefficiencies such as having to go to the office just for stamping may occur. If digital workflows are used, however, unnecessary expenses and travel time can be reduced, and supervisors and subordinates can work flexibly without being tied to a specific location.


2. Improving contract processes with electronic contract systems

Similar to digital workflows, the introduction of electronic contract systems is an effective tool for facilitating telework and paperless operations. In recent years, electronic contracts are becoming established as a commercial practice. They can eliminate the need for in-office stamping.

Electronic contracts have the following benefits in addition to paperless operations:

・Eliminates the need for printing, binding, sending, and storing contract documents

・The original contract is stored on the electronic contract system, making it easier to manage

・Contracting parties distributed in different countries or regions can conclude contracts remotely

These benefits show that electronic contract procedures do not just make contracting procedures more efficient, they add to the overall efficiency of the whole office.


3. Improving meeting processes with video conferencing systems and tablets

Smart office transformation is also effective when used in conjunction with video conferencing systems in meeting rooms to connect regional offices, headquarters, and multiple overseas locations for discussions. In recent years the spread of online meeting tools has progressed globally. For important meetings or frequent inter-location conferences it may be worthwhile to introduce high-quality video conferencing systems.

To better integrate the elements of face-to-face meetings into remote ones, various tools such as sharing materials electronically through a file sharing system or installing tablets in meeting rooms to clearly present meeting materials are effective.


4. Establishing a communication infrastructure with phones and chat tools

It is also important to establish a communication infrastructure for employees. With smart office transformation, employees can work flexibly both inside and outside the office, but opportunities for face-to-face communication decrease. Therefore, measures are needed to facilitate smooth communication from any location. For example, transitioning from landline phones to smartphones and sharing information through chat tools can be effective.

The following diagram organizes communication methods along the axes of "number of people" and "real-time degree." Video conferencing and phone calls are useful when real-time communication is important, but when simultaneous communication is not necessary, communication via internal wikis or project management tools is enough. It is important to have a variety of options available to choose the appropriate communication method for the situation.


5. Digitalization of paper documents with AI-OCR

You may receive invoices, receipts, and application forms for contracts on paper from other companies. AI-OCR is recommended as a means of digitalizing these documents. AI-OCR, an advanced form of optical character recognition (OCR) that uses AI technology, can read a wide variety of characters, including handwritten text, with high accuracy.

In Japan, the revision of the Electronic Bookkeeping Act now allows for the scanned storage of legally required documents, such as invoices and receipts, provided certain requirements are met. Legal requirements and progress differ by country, but electronic document storage is advancing in Western countries, Singapore, and Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia. The digitalization of such documents has the following benefits, making it a valuable measure to consider:

・Easy search by keyword or date, making it easier to manage documents compared to paper

・Reduces the use of paper, saving storage space for documents (e.g., filing cabinets)

・Allows access to documents and papers from remote environments, improving work flexibility


6. Advanced internal information search with generative AI

Generative AI, which has recently attracted much attention, is one of the tools that can be used to improve work efficiency. Generative AI has the ability to generate answers based on knowledge learned from large language models (LLMs) as well as new knowledge provided externally. This method is called "grounding," and various applications are being explored.

An example of using generative AI is internal information search. With grounding, generative AI can be fed internal wikis or regulations, and generate appropriate responses based on internal information to the questions posed.

As paper documents decrease and digitization progresses with smart office transformation, there is a demand for improved search accuracy. By utilizing generative AI, it is also possible to construct a system that allows for chatting-style questions about digitized internal information.

7. Improving the office environment with sensors

Additionally, measures to improve the office environment by installing sensors such as IoT devices in the office are effective. For instance, by utilizing IoT-enabled motion sensors, lighting and air conditioning can be controlled non-contact, and office usage such as desks and meeting rooms can be visualized to optimize usage. Solutions combining facial recognition with temperature measurement, as well as non-contact control via smartphones or voice recognition, also exist. The introduction of such sensor technology can enhance the efficiency of the office environment and ensure the comfort and safety of employees and visitors.

3. Points to consider when reviewing business operations using tools

Here, we introduce points to consider when reviewing business operations using the tools mentioned above.

Can employees master the tools?

Various tools introduced to achieve operational efficiency require a certain level of IT skills or literacy. For example, when using an electronic contract system, it is necessary to understand the setup process for electronic signatures. Some employees may find it difficult to fully master the tools.

Measures to address such situations may include:

1.Preparing manuals and conducting explanatory meetings

2.Establishing a help desk or consultation service

3.Appointing an implementation leader at overseas locations and promoting skill improvement

Tools essential for business, such as workflows and electronic contract systems, are sure to be used by employees, so it is important to ensure they understand how to use them. The preparation of manuals and the establishment of a help desk mentioned above are effective measures. On the other hand, for tools that are not essential but beneficial, such as generative AI, one should start by helping employees understand the utility of the tools. Specifically, placing an implementation leader who is an expert on the tools within the organization can help with skill improvement and tool adoption.

Are the introduction and operation costs excessive?

There are costs involved in tools for operational efficiency, and if the cost is high, even with a high degree of efficiency, there is a risk of negative returns. Therefore, when introducing tools, it is necessary to evaluate the return on investment using evaluation methods such as IRR (Internal Rate of Return) and NPV (Net Present Value). After introduction, it is also necessary to periodically review whether the tools are being used appropriately and whether there are any unnecessary tools that are not being used.

At overseas locations, adopting cloud-based services allows for introduction with minimal initial investment, and if necessary, withdrawal without incurring costs. When starting to use tools, it is recommended to consider and take into account how easy it is to terminate their use.

Are there any security issues?

One point to be cautious about with smart office transformation is security. While smart office transformation enables employees to work flexibly, the risks of information leaks and difficulty in detecting unauthorized entry into the office increase. In addition, while some countries have high standards and regulations for security, others apply more lenient standards, so when advancing smart office transformation, it may be insufficient to just comply with the regulations of each country. Countries with low security awareness tend to be easier targets for cyberattacks and hacking, so appropriate measures against security risks must also be considered.

Security risks also arise with the introduction of tools for smart office transformation. Adequate security measures must be taken when introducing tools.

One option is to adopt tools such as SaaS (Software as a Service), which do not require in-house security measures. If in-house security resources are limited, adopting SaaS can be beneficial. Additionally, if in-house security responses are not possible, consulting with companies that have specialized expertise is effective.

Even when using SaaS, it is necessary to take measures against the following security risks:

・When accessing SaaS from outside, is there risk of eavesdropping or peeking?

・Is there a risk of information leakage from the SaaS operator?

・Are there sufficient measures against targeted attacks, such as handling phishing emails?

4. Conclusion

This article explained the business reviews that should be carried out for smart office transformation at overseas locations.

Our company provides one-stop solutions for centralized support in establishing, relocating, and renovating offices at overseas locations. We can also support the review of IT infrastructure for smart office transformation, so please feel free to contact us.

Additionally, below we offer a white paper explaining "Preparation of IT Infrastructure Often Overlooked at Overseas Offices."

Please consult a KDDI consultant.