Technology is transforming our lives. It’s in our cars, in our homes and on our wrists. If you haven’t explored the professional implications of technology, now is the time to look at how tech can transform your workplace. By creating a tech-savvy office, you can create a platform that is more productive and responsive to your clients.
– Start with the display
A truly tech-savvy office will enable you to amplify your ideas and give them the space they deserve. Rather than gathering your clients or colleagues around a small monitor, think big and install a larger display on a wall in your meeting room. A large, wall-mounted TV will give the room a high-tech feel and enable you to throw whatever is on your device onto a big screen.
A TV with 4K resolution will give you a brighter, crisper image. LG Electronics Inc.‘s OLED TVs are pricey, running into the thousands of dollars, but they provide stunningly high contrast and range from 55 inches to 77 inches in size.
Connecting an Apple TV box (from Apple Inc.) will allow you to broadcast your iPad screen wirelessly to the TV screen. (Be sure to get the latest 4K-capable Apple TV.) Windows users can link their screens using a Windows app called Air Parrot (US$12.99). This is a great way to wow your clients with presentations or work collaboratively with a group on a spreadsheet.
Microsoft Corp. axed the smart-TV version of its Skype video-conferencing system a couple of years ago, but you still can use your TV for your boardroom video- conferencing system by using a setup such as Logitech International SA‘s GROUP. This product, which sells for around $1,200, connects a high-definition, zoom-capable camera and microphones to a laptop that is running your existing video-conferencing software (such as Skype or WebEx).
Although a video-conferencing system will allow you to talk to clients outside your office in style, a group collaboration system will enable you to talk with colleagues within your office more easily. There are many options for this type of system.
Slack (from Slack Technologies Inc.) offers excellent cloud-based group messaging and file-sharing functions across desktop and mobile devices. Prices begin at US$8 per user per month.
If you’d rather keep all your messages and files on your own premises, you can install alternatives, including Mattermost (from Mattermost Inc.), which offers a free team version and charges US$3.25 per user per month for the Enterprise edition.
– Let there be smart lighting
With your display and video- conferencing needs covered, you can turn your attention to the rest of your office infrastructure. Revolutionize your lighting with a smart lighting system, such as Philips North America LLC‘s Hue, which features a variety of energy-efficient LED bulbs and strips that can be set to a wide variety of colours and brightness levels.
What makes smart lighting systems shine is their ability to connect to your network, enabling you to control them via software. Hue integrates with many control systems, including Apple’s Homekit. This system enables you to create different configurations for your office’s entire lighting setup, then control it directly from your smartphone or smartwatch.
Say, “Hey, Siri, set working late” and watch as most of the lights in your office turn off, leaving just one corner with a soft, gentle glow. Or connect your Hue system to an online weather data feed by using the online “Internet of things” software-integration service known as If This Then That (from IfThen LLC). You can program the lights to emit a soft, warm amber glow when it’s raining outside.
– Ditch the paper
Trick out your tech-savvy office further by going paperless by using a networked scanner. You and your colleagues can scan documents from a single, central point using a dedicated system that features high-throughput, high-quality imaging.
Scanning is only one part of this solution; the other is document management. By using a locally installed document manager, you can classify and index your scanned documents automatically, storing them on a central, networked drive that gives the appropriate people access to the content.
More advanced document managers can search your network for existing files, enabling you to organize files that otherwise might be lost in digital folders scattered throughout your digital network.
Document-management systems often offer cloud-based storage, but many feature an on-premises option for financial advisory practices that want to store their files on their own networks for security and privacy reasons. Ademero (from Ademero Inc.), Dokmee (from Office Gemini LLC) and PinPoint (from PinPoint Digital Systems Ltd.) are examples in this category.
– It’s good to talk
Speech-to-text dictation software has evolved in the past few years and now uses artificial-intelligence, machine-learning techniques to be even better at recognizing what you say.
This article was dictated using Dragon software (from Nuance Communications Inc.), which is available for both Mac and a PC, beginning at US$99.99. This software allows you to dictate documents quickly while pacing around your office. Or you can use Dragon Anywhere to do so on the go by using your Android or iOS mobile device.
Just be sure to marry your Dragon software with a decent headset, such as Logitech’s H800, which provides clear audio without tethering you to your desk.