Digital Bulletin
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Digital Bulletin

Targus’ Atif Mahmood on empowering the world’s biggest companies with IoT

How Targus has moved from accessories into IoT software and workplace consultation for some of the world’s biggest companies

If you’re a businessperson working off multiple devices from an office and on the move, Targus will probably be a familiar brand.

The Californian company has been a popular provider of computing and mobile peripherals for over 35 years, its logo emblazoned upon the backpacks, briefcases and accessories that enable the secure transportation and use of our personal technology.

But at the beginning of 2019, Targus took to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and revealed an exciting new arm to its business: the MiraLogic Workplace Intelligence System. An established leader in its own field of hardware, Targus’s announcement marked its first serious venture into software — more specifically, IoT (Internet of Things) software fit for the new wave of smart workspaces.

In recent years, Targus has been improving its hardware to align with this strategic shift. Its portfolio now includes, among other accessories, IoT-enabled universal docking solutions, power strips and sensors. For Targus, the MiraLogic platform is the end that justifies the means, helping to deliver more effective and efficient working environments.

“We’ve never been in software before but we’re developing our own and it’s very important for us”

“What we’re going towards now is a very new area for us and it’s quite exciting,” Atif Mahmood, Technical Director for EMEA, tells Digital Bulletin. “It’s interesting because the response I get from some customers is, ‘well, we know you guys for your bags. What is MiraLogic?’

“We’ve never been in software before but we’re developing our own and it’s very important for us. Businesses now want to understand a lot more about their real estate and optimise their flexible working strategies. Then you’ve got the whole analytics piece; understanding how our offices are used, how can we optimise offices, meeting rooms and office management — all of this is a new area that we’re heavily investing in.”

MiraLogic creates a number of benefits for enterprise users, especially in workspace utilisation and provisioning — where it monitors and captures real-time and historical data from individual workstations — control and diagnostics and the measurement of energy consumption. Ron DeCamp, Targus’s VP of global product management and development, called MiraLogic’s launch a “huge step in making our workplaces more intelligent”.

This leap forward is comparable to Targus’s own transformation journey. Technology has emerged as the company’s catalyst and Mahmood, who will reach nine years with Targus in November, has been central to this transition. Over his time in different IT leadership roles, Targus has refactored its architecture and focused its work on data.

“When I started there wasn’t a proper strategy as to how technology was implemented, and the processes involved with the technology were broken,” says Mahmood. “I was brought in to fix that and then translate into technology terms how we could facilitate our business better, facilitate the workforce and really get to a more methodical process state.”

The transformation involved a shift to Microsoft’s cloud services and the digitisation of many administrative processes, such as invoicing. But it’s in the business intelligence discipline that Targus has engineered the most change.

Targus IoT products

“We told the central HQ in the US, where most of our policies come from, that as a business in the market, we don’t really understand our customers and we don’t understand how our workforce is being productive,” adds Mahmood. “The analytics part is really important to us and we’re driving that a lot more.

“With the business intelligence tools out on the market, it’s really transformed us and continues to do so. Reports are changing, analytics are changing, the way we respond to customers is changing, so it has made a huge difference, especially over the last five or six years.”

A desire for customer centrality has been the motivation behind the internal and external transformation at Targus. Its distribution channels and clients include major retailers, corporations and educational institutions, as well as 90% of the Fortune 1000 companies. Mahmood works on a consultative and advisory level with its largest enterprise customers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Targus — which has developed a specialism in universal docking stations — looks to equip these businesses to deal with a changing workforce; one that is not only used to smart office spaces but is increasingly demanding more flexibility around working hours and location.

“For us, the biggest shift we’ve seen is in remote working policies and flexible working,” explains Mahmood. “It’s a trend across Europe, as well as in Australia and the US, and we’re seeing it in parts of Asia now as well. But the dynamics involved in the UK are very different to France or Switzerland, for example. Then you have the Middle East and South Africa — all of these places have different policies in terms of how they view the workplace.

“Now it’s all about the customer intimacy for us; what the customer needs and what the focus is around how it’s developing its business. It’s very important for us to work closely with the end users.”

This often involves bouncing customers from different industries off each other in an effort to find the right solution. Mahmood admits that, with each organisation’s setup and strategies different to the next, Targus can’t always hit the right note on its own.

“I try to bridge our customers together because everybody is learning,” he says. “Sometimes we don’t know what the solution is. If someone has already had a successful deployment in a digital transformation exercise, we like to promote that across different verticals. We’ll bring those customers together and let them talk amongst each other.

“What I see across the enterprise customers is that they all have the same challenges. They’re all trying to transform the way they work but there are risks associated with making big changes because the way we work has really changed from traditional offices to remote working.”

Research indicates that this move to remote working isn’t slowing down. Previously a divisive subject, a weight of evidence is emerging that illustrates the benefits of this approach and more companies are incorporating positive remote working policies.

Stanford University conducted a two-year study on 500 workers at Ctrip, China’s largest travel agency, and found that remote workers were more productive by an average of one full working day every week. Last year, there was also an estimated $5 billion in savings for companies with employees who worked remotely, according to data collected in the United States.

These are compelling details but what do they mean for Targus? Mahmood says technology still holds the key to remote working being optimised at scale.

“The connectivity piece is probably the most important,” he explains. “You can be out and about but if you don’t have the tools available then it’s hard.

“Our laptops are changing, and you have tablets and your phone too. The one device we carry everywhere is our phone and it’s the one piece of equipment that is connected 24/7. With 5G coming out soon, all of these technologies come together and that’s a challenge. Then there is the security piece as well, which is very important.”

“Reports are changing, analytics are changing, the way we respond to customers is changing”

Back in the office, Mahmood says many of his clients are engaged in programmes aimed at refreshing the workplace. This is again driven by the demands of new generations of employees. His job is to point them in the direction of Targus’s smart office products and MiraLogic.

“Younger generations expect digitised workspaces,” ends Mahmood. “The measurements are becoming more important — a number of years ago, we never had Waypoint devices in offices, for example.

“When you go through this transformation, you have the physical elements with the office space itself, and then you open it up into a flexible working environment with collaborative working spaces. All of these things are changing and we’re unique because we deal with enterprise accounts at a consultative level, therefore we get a good understanding of the challenges.”

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