How Siemens and Salesforce are bringing employees to the office
- The market is booming for firms that can help companies safely return employees back to the office.
- The pandemic is forcing software and automation providers like Salesforce and Siemens to partner in order to provide tools to help companies track daily health statistics, and enable touchless entry, elevator access, and more.
- Salesforce and Siemens’ tool can also help increase worker efficiency and productivity, according to Siemens Smart Infrastructure USA CEO Dave Hopping.
- “It’s great to talk about safety all the time and all the technology, but there still needs to be a business case associated with it,” he told Business Insider.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A massive new market is emerging aimed at getting people back to the physical workplace safely.
Outside of mitigating the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic by resuming somewhat normal operations, a small segment of workers actually want to return to the office (though the majority prefers to remain remote). But the negative consequences are potentially catastrophic. Texas, for example, opened some office buildings back up in May only to quickly backtrack after coronavirus cases spiked.
All of that is creating a billion-dollar opportunity for helping firms virus-proof their workplaces, through everything from new products that encourage social distancing to facial scanners that alleviate the need for physical touchpoints.
The push is resulting in new partnerships between software giants and leading automation providers. SAP and Honeywell, for example, teamed up to help real estate managers oversee activity in their buildings remotely. Siemens and Salesforce are also joining forces to provide companies a host of tools designed to enable a safe return to the physical office.
The pairing is yet another example of how effective it can be to combine data from sources like building check-ins or conference room reservation systems with back-end software to create a holistic view of the workplace and those in it at any given time. And it can even help increase worker productivity, according to Siemens Smart Infrastructure USA CEO Dave Hopping.
“It’s great to talk about safety all the time and all the technology, but there still needs to be a business case associated with it,” he told Business Insider. “If I’m going to put in this technology and these platforms … how is it going to make my employees better utilized and more efficient in the job?”
Among the suite of offerings from Salesforce and Siemens is a central dashboard to give management updates on important information like when the office was last cleaned and how many active COVID-19 cases there are among the workforce. A shift management tool also makes it easier for customers to stagger employees to reduce the number of people in an office at once, while mobile “boarding passes” allow for touchless entry to the builder and elevator access.
The firms intend to roll-out the tools in their own offices first to see if they address enough of the concerns they’re hearing from both employees and employers. Salesforce will deploy the platform in its San Francisco headquarters, while Siemens will implement it in its Zurich office.
“It paves the way for a new experience for physical workspaces, not just during COVID but even beyond,” said Salesforce Chief Innovation Officer Simon Mulcahy. “It’s also then building a smarter, connected workplace for the future.”
‘We need more technology in our buildings’
The partnership came about organically.
Siemens was an existing Salesforce customer and it had also been outfitting the company’s offices with new automation features. Its Comfy application, for example, utilizes so-called “Internet of Things” sensors to enable office managers to remotely control lighting or temperature.
And once Salesforce launched Work.com in May, the pairing made sense. The suite of tools, which is designed to help companies bring people back to the physical workspace, includes contact tracing and employee health self-assessments. That, combined with Siemens automation tools, created an ideal offering that can cover many of the concerns the two companies were hearing from customers.
“Many of our building owners are saying … We need more technology in our buildings. We need more technology to ensure that people are safe and efficient,” said Hopping. “We wanted a platform that would connect not only with the leadership … but the individuals that are working in our buildings.”
Mulcahy declined to say whether the partnership with Siemens would expand beyond this initiative, or whether Salesforce planned to invest more heavily in these “return to work” offerings. And Hopping said it was not yet clear whether the automation surge would continue in the long-term.
“Our customers are definitely asking about more technology today. Without a doubt,” he added. “They see less square footage, but a higher density of technology and interface between the people in the building with the building.”
But the immediate focus shows just how much the coronavirus has upended business for top corporations.
Salesforce, for example, is synonymous with its software that helps sales teams better manage customer relationships. But as the outbreak forces organizations to make potentially sweeping cuts to the budget, some clients are pushing for discounts or delayed payments — though analysts and CEO Marc Benioff still expect Salesforce to emerge largely unscathed.
For now, Benioff is shifting the firm’s near-term focus and making Work.com a priority. He previously told CNBC that the pandemic is a time when “every company needs to reassess its relevance to maintain its market share and innovation.”
As of late last month, 35 states used Work.com to help track individuals stricken with the coronavirus.