Weekly Editorial

Industry Technology Update

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • July 10, 2023

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In the latest issue of viewpoint magazine (which you can read and subscribe to from here for free), we talk technology, including tech products we discovered at NeoCon last month. Putting together the issue prompted me to take a closer look at the state of technology in the industry.

If the industry were to receive an overall grade for its technology integration, I’d give it a C-. Our industry’s technology offering overall is just slightly below average with a few real gems and a few glaring gaps.

Even though technology is becoming an important part of the commercial interiors industry, it is dominated by a fragmented group of players. No one technology company has come up with a solution that represents a “complete package” of what is needed from a single source. Instead, the industry is served by a number of smaller companies that are fixing specific problems — many of them very good at what they do.

Configura and 2020 are good examples. Both companies have excellent design software that does specific things for the industry very, very well. But none of the solutions provides a one-stop shop. And that’s OK. We are a small industry with small, strong technology providers (think MRL, Ecomedes, Mercato Place, Yulio, etc.) doing a good job of seeing problems and solving for them.

More new technology is coming to the commercial interiors industry and every aspect of it will be changed in some way. From virtual and augmented reality that helps customers visualize space to ERP systems that handle every aspect of a dealer’s business, technology is making this complicated industry easier to navigate and more efficient.

It is impossible to know what new technology will affect the office furniture industry most. But researchers from McKinsey said in a report published last year that 70 percent of companies will employ hybrid or multicloud management technologies, tools, and processes. At the same time, 5G will deliver network speeds that are about ten times faster than current speeds on 4G LTE networks, with expectations of speeds that are up to 100 times faster with 40 times faster latency. By 2024, more than 50 percent of user touches will be augmented by AI-driven speech, written word, or computer-vision algorithms, while global data creation is projected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes by 2025, up from 64.2 zettabytes in 2020.

“These technologies promise access to virtually unlimited compute power and massive data sets, as well as a huge leap in bandwidth at low cost, making it cheaper and easier to test, launch, and scale innovations quickly,” according to McKinsey. “The resulting acceleration in innovation will mean that companies can expect more disruptions from more sources. Centralized strategic and innovation functions cannot hope to keep pace on their own. Companies will need to be much more involved in networks outside their organizations to spot, invest in, and even acquire promising opportunities.”

In short, to get the most out of technology, the industry is going to need to work together to create solutions that benefit everyone. Creating siloed solutions simply won’t work.

All of this will be measured against sustainability. According to Gartner’s 2022 CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey, environmental sustainability was the third largest driver, behind performance and quality, among the 80% of CEO’s investments in new products in 2022/23.

The shift caused by the pandemic is changing some of the technology decision making power from IT to HR, according to TalentCultur.com. Traditionally, human resources teams focused solely on purchasing core HR software platforms like Workday, Paycor, or BambooHR. Decisions for other software were typically driven by Chief Information Officers, IT departments, and other functional executives. But in recent years, flexible work models have become integral to workforce satisfaction and productivity. As a result, HR leaders are more deeply involved in selecting a broader spectrum of digital tools and technology. In many cases, this means HR is more heavily influencing the purchase of hybrid work tech. This year, look for technology to accelerate its profound impact on culture and employee experience. And look for HR teams to expand their knowledge and influence regarding the selection of all kinds of work-related tools and software.

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