InterviewsTech@Work

Tech@Work: “Our Jobs and Personal Lives Are Becoming More Digitally Reliant”

Shadi Bakhour, the B2B Business Unit Director at Canon Middle East, speaks about how technology today helps businesses grow

Which products and solutions do you offer for today’s workplace?
Today’s workplace is shifting and 2020 accelerated many of the burgeoning trends we were seeing in the workplace – while home and mobile working was becoming increasingly popular in recent years, it was the necessity to operate remotely during lockdowns which changed the traditional office (from the default working location) to one option of many, with remote working and Working From Home (WFH) leading the way.

This has had a fundamental impact on how we use the office and what we need from office technology. The experience also forced many businesses to accelerate their existing digital transformation plans, in order to give employees the digital tools to work remotely and effectively from anywhere. McKinsey predicts that by 2025 ecosystems based on digital platforms will account for 30 percent of global revenues, as traditional office set-up and industries stagnate, moreover, 85% of C-Suite executives surveyed in the UAE are pursuing or planning hybrid cloud strategies in the next 12 months, to facilitate better remote and WFH practices.

Canon offers the most comprehensive hardware, software, and service portfolio in the industry. We have been developing our portfolio to help meet our customers’ evolving needs, be it in a traditional work setting or a hybrid one. Our new devices get our customers ready for tomorrow’s workspaces: the imageRUNNER ADVANCE DX C5800 and the image PRESS C170 Series, are two examples that are designed to give our customers the tools to thrive in a changing hybrid environment.

In a post-pandemic reality, a device needs new capabilities to make it a hub for both print and digital workflows. Canon’s portfolio has been designed with effective hybrid working in mind. Our smart devices are built with the latest document capture and processing technology, and inbuilt advanced cloud connectivity to cloud storage and workflow applications. This means workers can easily transform print documents into digital information, which can be stored in applications such as OneDrive or Dropbox or plugged directly into company workflows such as SAP’s Concur. This enhanced connectivity makes sure that information is made available to colleagues, regardless of their location, supporting more effective working from anywhere.

How do you think technology today helps businesses grow?
The key success factor for any business is to continually innovate and improve the service offering for the benefit of the end customers. Developing products and services that answer a current need and solve customers’ problems is at the heart of any businesses’ growth strategy.

The right technology can help improve a company’s overall efficiency, performance, employee productivity, streamline communications, build lasting relationships with customers, enable effective collaboration (especially when WFH), and support corporate sustainability goals, to name just a few benefits. Successful businesses don’t view technology simply as a way to automate business processes, they view it as an enabler to open up new ways of doing business and helping companies achieve growth and success when utilized effectively.

How is tech driving our economic recovery?
As businesses and economies restart, many companies are reviewing the role of traditional offices and workspaces and exploring new ways of working that allow uninterrupted service, corporate efficiency, streamlined processes, and collaboration, especially across distributed locations. According to The Climate Group, in 2015 there were 1.3 billion mobile workers and by 2025, millennials – who are increasingly attracted to flexible and mobile employers – will account for 75% of the global workplace. Mobile and home working will be a big driver of economic recovery and technology which supports and enables this will feature highly on an organisation’s considerations.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to rapidly adjust to allow employees to work remotely and a major tool was the use of cloud-based applications to maintain ‘business as usual.’ Cloud offers a host of benefits that have made it the transformational technology it is today. For example, cloud solutions allow users to access the same applications and services from multiple devices and locations, as well as enabling effective collaboration, so employees can work well as a team (even when they’re not in the same physical space).

Moreover, research shows that online collaboration tools improve team efficiency and enable employees to stick to their tasks for 64% longer than those who are working alone – facilitated by faster access to information, immediate feedback, and easier management of documents and tasks. From mobile and cloud-based printing and scanning solutions to cloud-based document management that is accessible from the anywhere – home, office, or on the road, Canon is committed to supporting economic recovery and helping businesses adjust to a “new normal” way of working.

How is tech shaping the infrastructure of tomorrow?
During the pandemic, we saw new approaches and solutions being developed in response to social distancing and other restrictions. Digital tools that enabled businesses to redesign processes, redefine business models, and take the customer journey online became the norm, all underscored by a strong IT infrastructure that enabled staff to work remotely, mitigating any major impact on performance. Here, cloud technology plays a crucial role, enabling businesses to work in a more effective and dynamic way, transcending physical locations.

Within any new working environment, businesses need to consider how they will function day today. Essentially, how information is going to flow through their business and the infrastructure that enables it – a business consideration that is at the heart of an accelerated acceptance of digital transformation and cloud-enabled platforms, in a post-COVID-19 era.

Harnessing cloud enables services gives companies the tools to manage new business environments. Managing the document lifecycle through the cloud allows businesses to remain in control, enabling employees to collaborate, share and print efficiently and securely. At Canon, we are committed to supporting every company’s unique journey towards digitization and offer cloud-delivered, on-premise, and hybrid solutions which allow companies to maximize and build on existing investments, taking new steps towards transformation and infrastructure development – which is the backbone of a digitally reliant world.

How according to you, are women powering the tech industry?
Tech is one of those fields that has historically been male-dominated – the latest Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey found that just 11% of tech leaders are women, and only about one-fifth of IT teams are female. In a post-COVID 19 era, with accelerated digital transformation and technology being more important than ever, we have a growing need for more Technology savvy professionals – and this boasts a tremendous opportunity for more women to join this field.

One of the biggest barriers and deterrents for women has been a culture of long office hours, however, with everyone WFH there is much more flexibility now. As an industry that suffers from skills shortages, it is important to consciously implement programs to attract, enable and empower female talent, and the results will speak for themselves. Take Canon MENA for example, which has been building women empowerment and advancement programs for many years and currently has more than 50% of women occupying leadership roles in the Middle East and Africa HQ.

How is your company investing in the workforce of tomorrow?
Canon has always been a big advocate of investing in its workforce and runs many initiatives aimed at building long-term employment relationships, with a particular focus on women’s empowerment, youth engagement, professional upskilling, and incentivizing the workforce. With more than 50% of women occupying leadership roles in the Middle East and Africa HQ, Canon is committed to greater gender equality in workplace leadership positions and actively empowers women in the workplace through several initiatives, such as providing support to working parents, maternity leave policies that exceed the mandated laws of the country and flexible working hours, among others.

In 2020 Canon also launched the ‘She Rise’ programme as part of its continuing commitment to advance female employees by offering mentoring, training, and feedback sessions. Moreover, we recognize that the youth is the future and actively work towards encouraging them to hone their skills and become part of the workforce. We offer a range of opportunities to support them including internships, university tie-ups, apprenticeships, flexible and part-time working hours, coaching and mentoring, work shadowing, career paths development, and extensive continual learning workshops, amongst others.

How is your company working towards a sustainable future?
At Canon, we believe in the philosophy of Kyosei – ‘living and working together for the common good. This philosophy is at the heart of everything we do and underscores our vision for sustainability, which is to ‘grow the positive power of our imaging technology and services. As part of these efforts, we are consciously contributing to a circular economy. For example, Canon strives to recycle products, reduce water consumption, and the generation of waste from manufacturing at our operational sites. We consider each stage in the lifecycle of our products and look to minimize energy and raw material consumption.

Canon has reduced its products lifecycle CO2 emissions by 40% since 2008 and is also a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact committee and is committed to supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by their 2030 deadline. Additionally, Canon’s runs multiple programs to support the next generation, including the first-of-its-kind AKTASHIF programme which encourage youth to ‘Discover Your Passion’ and create the next generation of storytellers and content creators in the GCC, as well as the Young People Programme (YPP) which supports the youth to harness the power of visual storytelling to drive environmental and social change.

How do you think tech will shape the 2021 landscape?
It is safe to say, that both our jobs and personal lives are becoming more digitally reliant, connected and automated – and this trend is here to stay. WFH is set to continue, but to facilitate this, organizations need to implement certain measures, like the move towards digital transformation and migrating to cloud-enabled alternatives, which can support secure access and scale according to varying workloads.

Increased access to technology and its accelerated acceptance as a part of life in a post-COVID era, means that more time and energy is being devoted to developing tech-enabled solutions, and this trend is sure to continue into the future. Digitization and technological advancements are propelling innovation across entire organizations and creating new digital experiences for both employees and the end customer. Undoubtedly, technology is the cornerstone that will lead both economic recovery and shapes the trends that not only drive 2021 but the future as well.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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