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AI Helps Shift from Non-Core to Core Tasks; Learn the Key to Successful Workstyle Innovation in a Fujitsu's In-house Case Example

Evangelist Kunikazu Matsumoto explains how workstyle innovation starts from daily operations in the field.

Main visual : AI Helps Shift from Non-Core to Core Tasks; Learn the Key to Successful Workstyle Innovation in a Fujitsu's In-house Case Example

While many companies are making efforts toward workstyle innovation, many do not feel their efforts are bearing fruit. In a speech on workstyle innovation entitled "New Workstyle Innovation Using AI―Insight into Ai-Enabled Work Visualization and Improvement Measures Gained through an In-house Practice" at Fujitsu Insight 2018 on November 28, 2018, Fujitsu evangelist Kunikazu Matsumoto used in-house case examples to provide insight into successful workstyle innovation that starts at the sites where work is actually done.
[Fujitsu Insight 2018 "Workstyle Innovation" Keynote Speech Report]

Review: Why Workstyle Innovation Now?

Why do we need workstyle innovation now? I am sure many people cannot answer this question. When many people hear the phrase 'workstyle innovation,' what comes to mind is countermeasures against long working hours, the eradication of exploitative companies, and better work-life balance. However, such ideas do not indicate the nature of workstyle innovation. The background of the need for workstyle innovation is the future drop in Japan's working population.

In the near future, people in Japan will experience something that the world has never experienced before, namely coping with a 'super aging society.' Workstyle innovation and the 'aging society' are often talked about as a pair. Here, please note that I intentionally added the word 'super.'

As the society ages, the size of the working population will shrink dramatically. It is said that within about 40 years, by 2060, the working population will decrease by 40%. By 2025, one in two employees at major companies will be at least 50 years old. This means their dependent family members will have many problems in daily life, which will lead to challenges caused by employees leaving work to care for family members.

The decreasing population and the number of employees leaving work to become caregivers will have adverse effects. Due to revisions of laws to address long working hours and the lifting of the ban on side jobs, by 2060, corporate human resources will decrease to 20% compared to now. With the number of employees reduced to 20%, will companies be able to sustain themselves? We must admit that doing so will be difficult. And it is not just companies—it will be difficult to sustain society as a whole.

Japan's total population is predicted to decrease to 50 million by 2100. The country and companies will be unable to sustain their frameworks unless each employee becomes more productive.

For this reason, workstyle innovation is an urgent task that must be addressed immediately. Therefore, the Japanese government has been making serious efforts to do so.

In September 2018, the government launched the Council for the Realization of Work Style Reform. This council's objective is to introduce systems and technologies such as removing restrictions based on place, time, and company; raising the retirement age; creating a society where everyone can play an active role; employing people from overseas; and, in the IT field, artificial intelligence (AI) and robot process automation (RPA).

Successful Workstyle Innovation Begins by Visualizing Daily Operations

Only a few companies do no workstyle innovation at all. I think most companies promote some kind of improvement by changing systems to reduce the amount of overtime or introduce flex hours, or by deploying a framework such as work progress visualization.

The reality, however, is that many employees do not feel that innovation is moving forward. I hear that in many cases, employees work more after hours outside the office or, even though the company has a child-raising or nursing support program, in the end employees must come to the office to work with the team there. Unfortunately, systems and frameworks alone are insufficient to change workstyles.

What is important for the very first step of workstyle innovation is to visualize daily operations. Effective measures must be developed and implemented based on an understanding of how employees complete their assignments.

Each year, people from about 200 companies ask me for advice on how to drive workstyle innovation. When I ask them how their employees are carrying out their tasks in their workplaces, however, most look troubled and say they do not know. In many cases, they also do not check to understand how teams and divisions operate. In other words, what is going on in the workplace is understood only by the people who work there.

If you can correctly 'understand' how work is carried out, you can 'find' where the problems are. This leads you to 'think' about the solutions, and as a result, 'change' how such work is done. This four-step innovation method comprised of understanding, finding, thinking, and changing is very important.

The method to drive workstyle innovation forward

AI-enabled Visualization of Daily Operations

The next step after visualization is to reduce the number of unnecessary tasks. Reducing the overall work volume enables employees to focus on more important core tasks, which allows them to put more effort into highly creative work. Thus, the quality of core tasks increases.

Improved work efficiency and quality by themselves increase productivity and employee motivation. Companies grow when workplace operations change. This then allows companies to implement workstyle innovation that matches their respective growth strategies.

Correctly understanding and reviewing the current states of individuals, teams, and the entire company lead to efficient operation. The company's performance improves and individual employees feel a sense of achievement. Changes in workstyles enable individuals to use their time effectively, improving their work-life balance. Such effective use of time may lead to social activities that contribute to their own families or the community. Finally, this series of events functions more and more as an ecosystem for realizing workstyle innovation.

With a view to driving workstyle innovation starting with visualizing daily operations, in 2017, Fujitsu and Microsoft announced a strategic collaboration in the field of AI. Both are using their AI solutions to achieve employee-centric workstyle innovation.

On November 27, 2018, Fujitsu released FUJITSU Workplace Innovation Zinrai for 365 Dashboard ("Zinrai for 365 Dashboard"), a new AI-enabled service to visualize daily operations.

Zinrai for 365 Dashboard, the AI-enabled Work Innovation Solution(Japanese)

Zinrai for 365 Dashboard visualizes daily operations to help eliminate unnecessary meetings and to improve paperwork efficiency. More specifically, use of Microsoft 365 facilitates accumulation of email and document titles, big data such as schedules, and daily PC usage in Microsoft Azure. Then, Fujitsu AI technology Zinrai analyzes the accumulated data from three perspectives: tasks, targets, and topics. Finally, it automatically categorizes operation data and displays it on the Dashboard.

Example Zinrai for 365 Dashboard screen shots

In-house Practice with 2,000 Employees Increased Core Task Engagement by 16%

In July 2018, Fujitsu launched an in-house practice with approximately 2,000 employees. All participating employees had an opportunity to use Dashboard to see how they usually operated. What were they spending the most time on, and was it really important and did it contribute to the business? Visualization made many employees realize that they engaged in numerous non-core tasks. Then, as the next step, they thought about what to do to reduce the number of such non-core tasks.

Note, however, that shortening meeting times does not necessarily indicate a shift to core task engagement. Meetings needed to generate new plans are strongly encouraged. What is good about Zinrai for 365 Dashboard is that in addition to visualizing the time spent on meetings, it also uses AI to analyze whether such meetings are related to core tasks.

As a result, the volume of non-core tasks, including paperwork and in-house reporting, decreased by 32%, which generated approximately 43 more minutes per employee per day. Also, improved work efficiency led to a 16% increase in core task engagement and 50% longer annual holidays because employees were encouraged to plan and take leave. As a result, work-life balance and productivity improved, thereby successfully changing the office environment.

Based on the insights gained from the in-house practice, Fujitsu offers two innovation services that visualize workstyles. In the PoC Service, a division that may produce effects is chosen, themes and rules are defined, and an innovation scenario is created. In the Basic Service, an actual trial is carried out. By measuring outcomes and proposing improvement ideas, we support company-wide workstyle innovation. Iterating these services for a long time improves employee performance and that of the company itself, enabling the company to approach its ideal.

Two innovation services designed based on the in-house practice

We support visualization-based workstyle innovation. With Zinrai 365 for Dashboard, we will continue to facilitate your innovation in your workplaces.


Kunikazu Matsumoto
Evangelist (Workstyle Innovation), Fujitsu Limited