The following report appeared in gap's MFP-Copier Market Intelligence Report published Monday, March 20, 2017.

Marking a pivotal milestone in the evolution of the company’s IT business, Konica Minolta last Thursday unveiled its Workplace Hub IT management platform at its Spotlight Live event held in Berlin, Germany.  The platform and its related hardware (MFP/SFP, rackmount server, stand-alone device) are designed to bring the management of a company’s hardware, software, and services under a single multi-vendor platform.  And while Version 1.0 features were on display at Spotlight, including a new ‘Team Space’ collaboration UI and ‘Admin’ dashboard, Konica Minolta went to great lengths to also illustrate its long-term vision for Workspace Hub as a platform that integrates IoT devices and artificial intelligence to enhance decision making, while also divulging plans for derivative vertical-specific platforms.
Underscoring the significance of the launch, Spotlight Live included presentations from Konica Minolta Inc. President and CEO Shoei Yamana, KMBS U.S.A. President and CEO Rick Taylor, Konica Minolta senior leadership, and notable industry panelists.  Major company partners, industry analysts, and members of the press were also in attendance.  In tandem with Spotlight Live, Workplace Hub and other ‘Workplace of the Future’ products and concepts were also on display at CeBIT 2017 in Hannover, Germany.

gap impact summary

  • Konica Minolta unveils Workplace Hub IT management platform
  • Designed to support integration of office hardware, software, and services
  • Will launch in MFP/SFP, server rack, and stand-alone configurations
  • Launch to have limited impact on imaging portfolio, at least in near term
  • New Workplace Hub strategic global partners include HPE, Sophos, and Microsoft
  • bizhub MarketPlace re-branded Konica Minolta MarketPlace
  • Global Workplace Hub launch to occur between 10/2017 and 1H 2018
  • Revealed plans to launch Healthcare and Manufacturing platforms in future

Workplace Hub Overview

Konica Minolta’s new Workplace Hub was positioned by company leadership at Spotlight Live as a first-of-its-kind platform that is able to connect, analyze, and learn from an SMB or enterprise business’s range of disparate systems, devices, and services, with the goal of enhancing workplace productivity.  The platform itself will be supported by one of three different types of on-premise devices, including two “Workplace Edge” configurations (rackmount server and stand-alone) and a new Workplace Hub bizhub MFP.

Across a series of carefully organized and clearly presented live demonstrations and marketing materials, Konica Minolta defined the four major components that comprise Workplace Hub, including the web-based ‘Admin Dashboard’ and ‘Team Space,’ ‘IT Infrastructure,’ and ‘Managed IT Services.’  Descriptions of these components include:

Admin Dashboard

Designed as a user interface that provides an administrator with visibility into a company’s range of IT systems, such as servers, storage, WiFi, MFPs, security, and the system’s users.  Notable features of the web-based Admin Dashboard include the ability to review and manage hardware and software licenses, a security UI that provides a ‘traffic light’ overview of system status, and the expanded role of the re-branded Konica Minolta MarketPlace.  Specifically, Konica Minolta plans to increase MarketPlace’s role as a portal for admins to access desktop software licenses (i.e. MS Office), infrastructure services, and professional IT services.  MarketPlace will also feature single invoice billing supported by Konica Minolta, a feature that the company revealed will require a multi-million investment in its SAP system.

Team Space

Representing what will be the most widely-visible component of Workplace Hub among a company’s users, Team Space is an employee- and team-oriented UI that incorporates a range of communication, document management, AI-based ‘Smart Features,’ and integration with Konica Minolta MarketPlace (via the Admin Dashboard above).  The Enhanced Communication component incorporates many features already popular in offices that are offered across multiple solutions – i.e. audio/video meetings, chat, screen sharing, mail, calendar, tasks, calls, social media (likes/comments), etc. – into a single platform.  These integrated features are enhanced by support for file sharing and file assignments, while MFP integration enables input/output functionality from any location or device and a digital conversion of scans and faxes into Team Space.

One very notable productivity-oriented feature of Team Space is contextual replies and executive summaries.  Workspace provides automatic suggestions for email responses based on a combination of content and previous answers, as well as contextual information such as what a customer is asking.  Similarly, emails and other documents can be automatically highlighted by Workspace to improve productivity when reading documents (i.e. an executive summary).  Konica Minolta stated that it expects these smart features to evolve over time.

Managed IT Services

Building on the success of its managed IT services to-date, the Workspace Hub portfolio is comprised of a range of existing and new offerings from Konica Minolta (and All Covered).  Highlighting a widely-held industry view, Konica Minolta emphasized both system security and data protection as key customer needs and features of Workspace Hub.  As part of its security offering, Konica Minolta noted its strategic global partnership with Sophos for ‘unified threat management.’  This security offering supports the admin-facing ‘Security Overview’ UI noted above.

One other notable component of Konica Minolta’s Workspace Hub Managed IT Services portfolio is its helpdesk.  Konica Minolta stated that Workspace Hub and its customer base will be supported by three major helpdesks (Americas, EMEA, AP), as well as regional helpdesks for customer support in local languages.

IT Infrastructure

Konica Minolta noted that Workspace is comprised of several pieces of technology, including an MFP, data storage, HP Enterprise server, WiFi access points, and a hybrid cloud.  The vendor also noted that the system is equipped with an uninterruptible power supply.

MFP Role in Workspace Hub

While Konica Minolta highlighted its new Workspace bizhub MFP during Spotlight Live and at CeBIT, the company’s imaging business otherwise played a limited role in the launch event.  That said, company executives stated that Workplace Hub would contribute to growth in the MFP business given the expected success of the new platform.  Acknowledging its gradual shift away from MFP discussion and further toward Managed IT as a customer conversation, Konica Minolta cited its observation that customers are more engaged with partners that will help them evolve their workplace for the future (i.e. versus discussing new hardware features).  With Workplace Hub Konica Minolta also sees a significant opportunity to grow its share of business and influence in customer’s offices.

In terms of the Workplace Hub bizhub MFP itself, Konica Minolta does not expect the new model to have a significant impact on its portfolio in the near-term, understanding that many customers will only purchase one Workplace Hub MFP.  With that, the new bizhub MFP, following its planned October 2017 launch, should not be expected to replace any existing devices and will likely sell at a measurable premium to whichever bizhub MFP engine it is based on (to be identified by gap intelligence at a future date).

Strategic Impact and Outlook

Konica Minolta’s launch of Workplace Hub marks an ambitious expansion of the company’s existing IT services business, as well as a major investment in the company’s nascent Workplace of the Future portfolio and a tangible product of Konica Minolta’s sustained investment in its Business Innovation Centers (BIC).  In fact, Konica Minolta further stressed the importance of the BICs last week by noting the Centers’ role in helping identify customers’ technology needs related to the new platform and other Workplace of the Future concepts.

The near-term impact of Workplace Hub will be its role in strengthening Konica Minolta’s position as a leader and collaborator in IT services.  With at least six months until an official launch, Konica Minolta should be expected to expand on the specific customer applications and revenue opportunities presented by Workplace Hub to its channel partners, while likely launching customer-oriented campaigns to increase awareness of the needs this platform addresses.  Despite Konica Minolta’s assurances and confidence at launch, it is worth noting that competitors do exist for various components of Workplace Hub, underscoring the need for Konica Minolta to highlight the benefits of its fully integrated and equally-capable single-layer platform to partners and potential customers.

The success of Workplace Hub will hinge on its ability to successfully displace the disparate systems that it has identified as a key customer pain point, grow its user base, and attract more technology partners to the platform.  Assuming the company is able to achieve its target customer base objectives, Konica Minolta will be in a stronger position to drive its planned evolution of Workplace Hub into more complex AI-based predictive analytics, as well as the expansion of Workplace Hub into target verticals (i.e. Healthcare, Manufacturing) where the company sees more targeted opportunities to displace complex disparate IT systems.