STANDING OUT IN A MERGING MARKET
Lenovo is a well known name in the consumer and business market. From the thinkpad laptops to the yoga 2-in-1 tablets, the manufacturer has been at the precipice of innovation. So how do they assess the market going into the new year? Elliot Mulley-Goodbarne sat down with SVP for worldwide commercial business, Christian Teismann.
As the season commonly known as ‘Tech-tober’ draws to an end you’d be surprised to find Motorola as a name that is on everyone’s lips.
The launch or revitalisation of the RAZR brand flip phones has gained a lot of admiration from press circles as a more interesting take on the foldable concept that Samsung, LG and Microsoft, amongst others, have shown interest in.
But pan out to the parent company, Lenovo, and the unveiling of such innovation shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
“We are always trying to strike the balance between driving innovation and being the first to innovate. But at the same time, to make products that are affordable and have the quality for people to use on a daily basis” said Christian Teismann, Lenovo’s senior vice president of worldwide commercial business.
You see that there are already announcements of foldable phones out there. We announced the first folding PC, about two months back. It's basically a Think Pad X1 series that is folding into a 14-inch tablet.
So, it really is the idea of a new category of devices that we are creating, like the clamshell was invented 30 years back, but it's still a dominant device. Then we invented a 360-degree foldable clamshell, which turns into a tablet if you turn around and fold it and you reduce the form factor and give a new experience of all-day computing.
ThinkPad has a legacy of 27 years for the highest quality, most secure and most stable PCs in business and for us, we need to keep innovating ThinkPad, so it stays on top of the technology.”
Sitting down in a conference room a stone throws away from Liverpool Street station, the third busiest in the country according to latest figures, Teismann spoke to catering for a “new generation of workers.
We work in an office, but people come here very often to run their own businesses, they want to use their computer anytime they want. They don't have a consumer device and a business device; they just want to have one very good device.
They want to have the security and the stability of a business device, but they also want to have the audio and video performance of consumer device because at the end of the day and into the evening, you might watch a Netflix movie with the same device that you just had a conference call on.”
“IT is an industry that requires creativity, it's an industry that requires a lot of collaboration skills, and some technical skills and if you look at most of traditional businesses that may have a higher diversity, like advertising or banking or consulting or health care, IT is getting pervasive everywhere.”
CHRISTIAN TEISMANN - SVP FOR WORLDWIDE COMMERCIAL BUSINESS, LENOVO
Such a transition is not the only area of the technology industry that Teismann, and Lenovo, is adapting to.
Teismann himself has been at Lenovo since the purchase of IBM’s PC division in 2005 where he spent 15 years and was, amongst other roles, vice president of sales and operations. Since then he has worked on Lenovo’s sales technique, employing an approach that builds relationships rather than just go in for a sale.
The blurring of the lines between product sets is another area which the hardware manufacturer is coming to terms with. From its legacy businesses in desktop and laptop hardware and accessories as well as the server business to the acquired Motorola brand, Teismann said that the Chinese company is almost rebuilding in the face of changing consumer habits.
“Our company strategy really is based on what we call our 3S strategy. That runs around smart IoT, firstly, as we were seeing devices proliferating more and more into every part of consumer life, but also commercial life with IoT, and with PCs we have all the necessary technology that we need to really expand ourselves into IoT.
The second one is smart infrastructure where we believe our datacentre capabilities are playing hugely into this cloud to edge to device architecture that we see everywhere evolving at the moment.
The third pillar is ultimately smart verticals where we look at industry verticals like healthcare, or education, or manufacturing or distribution and retail, and ask how we can help customers to build more efficient business models by using state-of-the-art or even new technologies.”
Since 2017, Lenovo have held events to show the company strategy in each of the markets it operates. First held in New York City, the event has evolved into American and European iterations in Orlando and London respectively.
Speaking back in the summer, Teismann was in London to relay that strategy to commercial customers and described a Motorola and Lenovo that is attempting to add a bit of transparency to the business and open up about how they see the markets that they operate in.
“Devices are getting much more connected and the hard tower between this is a PC, this is a server and this is a mobile phone is increasingly becoming one continuum of devices.
“That really started with mobile technology, going into all kinds of other devices, everything is starting to connect to the internet and with the rollout of 5G, this will accelerate dramatically. Then you’ll see that the compute model going from the device to the edge to the cloud.
If you see where we are focusing, a lot is also in the data centre business and high performance computing. We are by far the number one in high performance computing, we are very strong in software defined computing and these are the new ways of how businesses compute in the cloud.”
On the product side, Teismann reiterated the change that businesses are seeing when distributing devices to their workforce and highlighted the security concerns that have cropped up from that evolution.
“Three years back in the commercial PC business, there was a big discussion around what was called consumerization. That was basically people wanting to bring their own device into work because they were used to work with devices coming out of school and coming out of university that were highly adaptive to their needs, touch, good screen quality and, in many cases, easy management of operating systems.
But when they come into a world of corporate, they get one device with no choice and have to take the device with very often no touch, no good audio, average screen data and use it for four years.
Then employees decided to bring their own devices because a lot of consumer features are also valuable for business. So, the line between work and private is blurring but that also makes security hugely important because you can't protect the devices anymore with the corporate security network.”
That element of security is also one that Lenovo, naturally are taking seriously. With the shift in focus to the enterprise over the consumer, the EMEA SVP highlighted it’s work with the likes of Intel, Microsoft and Google as well as innovative features on Lenovo devices such as adapting the screen when the webcam detects someone looking over the user’s shoulder.
“People need to have trust that you act in a secure way, from a technology perspective, but also your business processes everything you do. You have to be 100% sure that security and integrity are the foundation of being a player in this field.
What we've learned in an environment that is so open and connecting so many different devices security, the way it was defined in the past, doesn't work anymore.
We have, for about two years, established our own business unit that's called ThinkShield. It's also a brand that is using the novel technology as a foundation. But we are also very strongly collaborating with Intel with Microsoft, with a MobileIron with absolute software, with Google with many other companies to really create the most secure device infrastructure.”
When it comes to security in the business arena, Teismann also added that the first line of defence, the user, is often being breeched but acknowledged that a skills gap in the IT market is a major contributing factor alongside a lack of education.
That skills gap, and in particular, the short fall of women in the IT sector, is particularly perplexing to Teismann in an industry that requires a range of different skills within every company.
“The IT industry, I would say, historically has not been as diverse as it should be and I don't understand, quite frankly, why because I believe it's a great industry for everybody to work in.
It's an industry that requires creativity, it's an industry that requires a lot of collaboration skills, and some technical skills and if you look at most of traditional businesses that may have a higher diversity, like advertising or banking or consulting or health care, IT is getting pervasive everywhere.
IT also used to be a job where you sit in a room with your programming. I also would say it is not anymore, IT is much more about thinking about how you can use all these technologies to create solutions that really matter.”
“Employees want to have the security and the stability of a business device, but they also want to have the audio and video performance of consumer device because at the end of the day and into the evening, you might watch a Netflix movie with the same device that you just had a conference call on.”
CHRISTIAN TEISMANN - SVP FOR WORLDWIDE COMMERCIAL BUSINESS, LENOVO
Teismann said that he developed an interest in the impact technology can have on a business and wanted to help customers use technology to improve their businesses. Throughout his career at Lenovo, he’s engaged with senior leaders across some of the world’s top companies to understand their pain points and barriers to success. In his current role, Christian is shaping the future development of Lenovo’s commercial product portfolio to ensure Lenovo’s technology is supporting business transformation.
When it comes to gender equality, the Lenovo SVP pointed to the policy the Chinese firm have in place that forces departments to invite at least one woman in for an interview for senior job positions as a good short-term course of action to improve the number of females in the industry.
“We have a very simple rule in our company now. We are forcing everybody who wants to fill a new senior position or higher to have at least one female candidate.
As simple as that, across the board, and if you are not capable to produce a female candidate you have a serious conversation with your boss, why not? Right? Because, from my perspective, the answer to this problem really starts when you set this as an objective as a company and in the industry.
I believe together we can do a better job and I think we are all committed to do a better job as an industry.
Lenovo has a number of initiatives, a very clear corporate policy for every new hire and from a leadership perspective, we are very carefully looking at how we increase our diversity.”