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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Lenovo melding hybrid work and Work for Humankind

On the heels of its success in 2021, Lenovo has launched its second iteration of Work for Humankind to show how everyone can think differently about the future of hybrid work. In partnership with Lenovo, Island Conservation, and the Robinson Crusoe community, volunteers work their own jobs remotely from one of the world’s most far-flung offices. The NGO Island Conservation and the local community on Robinson Crusoe Island thoroughly vetted and screened prospective volunteers from across the world who sought to participate in this initiative through an open application process. These volunteers use Lenovo’s technology and donate their professional skills spanning design, technology, sustainability, and biodiversity to support conservation efforts. Lenovo’s efforts recognize that technology is pivotal in creating the flexibility to fulfill knowledge workers’ desires to work from anywhere while enabling them to do good in their communities. Through the Work for Humankind project, Lenovo demonstrates what is possible when people and technology are brought together for the good of humanity.
After launching the volunteer application form in December 2021, Lenovo received thousands of applications worldwide for fewer than a dozen volunteer spots. All volunteer finalists went through multiple rounds of screening before selections were made by Island Conservation (NGO) and the local Robinson Crusoe community.

Since first announcing the Work for Humankind project, an enormous amount of work was done to prepare for the arrival of volunteers on the island. From a technical perspective, Lenovo had to increase the island’s internet bandwidth to support its local NGO partner, Island Conservation, and enable the island to advance its own community goals and equip the volunteers to do their own day jobs remotely. Together with Island Conservation and the local community, Lenovo has established a community technology hub, fully equipped with some of Lenovo’s devices, solutions, and services, and significantly upgraded internet connectivity from 1 Mbps to up to 200 Mbps, bringing high-speed internet to Robinson Crusoe Island for the first time. The broad portfolio of Lenovo’s devices, solutions, and services being used include:

Lenovo 2

The Lenovo technologies incorporated into this project aim to accelerate proven conservation actions that preserve the rare habitats and endangered species thriving on Robinson Crusoe Island. After the program, the technology will remain on the Island for the community to use long-term.

Capturing and highlighting the meaningful work on Robinson Crusoe Island is a priority for Lenovo. Therefore, Lenovo uses its www.lenovowfh.com microsite to post blogs from its volunteers, testimonial interviews, videos, and photography.

Better hardware equipment and mobile devices are an essential component of remote work, but remote work enablement extends beyond hardware to applications, solutions, and work habits. Besides selecting the volunteers, the most challenging parts were setting up island connectivity and building the tech hub. The initiative focuses on empowering the volunteers to improve the Island’s ecosystem and advance the community’s desire to become more socially, economically, environmentally sustainable, and resilient while enabling the volunteers to work from anywhere on their day jobs indeed.

The industry is abuzz with hybrid work discussions, home office, safe return to the office, shared space, meeting rooms, and hot desking. Although most agree that hybrid work is here to stay, many cannot ascertain the trend's longevity because forecasts tend to be very wrong in volatile times. Most IT suppliers are focused on providing innovative technology solutions for the hybrid work model. Lenovo is showing how hybrid work can be melded with Work for Humankind.

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Evolve Small – a differentiated small business campaign from Lenovo focuses on business mentoring and community outreach

SMBs are an excellent indicator to measure the economy's pulse in any country as they constitute over 90 percent of global businesses. They intricately link to large companies, government departments, and educational institutions as both suppliers and customers. In addition, a large percentage of consumers rely on SMBs for products and services that they consume within their households. Technology plays an integral part in the daily operations of SMBs across all departmental functions, including sales, marketing, operations, finance, and customer support.

Over the last three decades, the global SMB (1-999 employee size) market has been the growth engine for the IT industry at large. The path to business growth, strategy to deal with the competitive landscape, route to profitability were predictable and linear. And the way to adopting technology was also predictable and linear. The business pressures existed, but they were few and came on slowly. But it is not so anymore. Today, business pressures are increasing, coming from all directions - cash flow constraints, access to capital, competitive landscape, need for innovation, digital transformation, erratic revenue, uncertainties, the pace of technology change, and many more. A Techaisle survey found that a typical business leader deals with an average of five business pressures daily.

What is more telling is that 52 percent of SMBs deal with more than five pressures daily. These would be enough to put the brakes on any regular business operation. COVID did just that. Small businesses are struggling with revenue loss, attracting and retaining workforce, and lacking access to capital. As a result, technology has become even more important than two years ago. To manage costs, drive growth and enable resiliency, Techaisle data shows that 41 percent of small businesses have accelerated their digital transformation initiatives. However, for 55percent of small businesses IT budget is not sufficient to meet their needs. In addition, 63 percent of small businesses are actively looking for external guidance on cost-effective technology solutions.

Launched in July 2021, Lenovo's "Evolve Small" is a purpose-driven campaign centered on lending small businesses a helping hand. Founded on the principles of aid, mentorship, and community, the "hug and a hand" approach essentially focuses on three primary vital areas:

1. Financial assistance
2. Business mentoring and consulting
3. Rallying local communities to support their small businesses

The chief architects of the "Evolve Small" campaign are John Bischof (Executive Director, SMB Sales) and SMB Segment Marketing Managers, Megan Wine & Michelle Wiese.

As part of the program, Lenovo has committed US$1 million in grant funding to support BIPOC-owned (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) small businesses. To facilitate and administer the grants, Lenovo has partnered with LISC, a non-profit organization in the US and a non-profit organization in Toronto, Canada. What is unique about the grants (average of US$10,000 per small business) is that they come with business development support. Techaisle believes that business development mentoring and community outreach is essential differentiation. Techaisle data shows that small businesses prioritizing growth are more likely to thrive in today's unpredictable economy than those focusing primarily on cost reduction or other 'business as usual' objectives. Business growth is more than simply increasing the top line in the digital world – though, of course, expanding the top line is a crucial measure of success. But growth also includes the ability to reach into new markets, identify and capitalize on adjacencies, and identify and integrate with suppliers who can extend the relevance of the small business in new ways. There is also follow-up, built into the campaign, where business development organizations that partner with the non-profit, LISC, help small businesses identify the best ways to use the funds (e.g., prioritize paying off some rent or paying employees) which new technologies they need.

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The campaign has been rolled out across seven geographically diverse cities, including Raleigh, Chicago, Austin, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Seattle in the USA, and Toronto, Canada.

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Why I liked Lenovo Flex 5G – work from anywhere and anytime

If devices define an office, the location of the user of the device determines the workplace. I wrote this entire review from my temporary workplace, Bryant Park, New York City, using M365 on a Lenovo Flex 5G notebook with Verizon Wireless 5G. The big deal is Windows 10 Pro running on Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 8cx processor and Qualcomm X55 modem, which delivers 5G - mmWave/Sub6 - connectivity from Verizon Wireless.

It was fortuitous that I was in New York City, where 5G is more widely available as opposed to being in San Jose, where Verizon 5G is almost non-existent. Lenovo Flex 5G provided me the flexibility and versatility to continue with my work, participate in video-conferences, and deliver webinars. The Qualcomm Snapdragon processor did not create any app compatibility issues for me. I use very few applications outside of productivity, collaboration, and communications – all of which worked without any hitch. Although startup was slower than Intel-based PCs, I was okay with sacrificing a few seconds for connectedness. Verizon 5G is spotty at best in New York. I downloaded the Verizon 5G coverage map and had to make efforts to look for 5G at street corners or some public spaces such as parks. The maximum download speed I ever got was 570 Mbps and the upload speed of 54 Mbps. I do like larger storage capacity and memory. With only 256GB SSD availability and 8GB RAM on Lenovo Flex 5G, I was always nervous about crashing massive data spreadsheets or running out of space.

Lenovo Flex 5G 2 in 1 notebook has an Iron Grey aluminum and magnesium chassis with an understated design. Yet, I found it imposing and business-like, weighs light at 2.9 lbs although slightly heavier than X1 Carbon, is thin enough to tuck under the arm comfortably, and has insane battery life. The interior is uncluttered with a hint of Lenovo and the Verizon 5G logo. The 360-degree hinge allows the Lenovo Flex 5G to be used in tent mode or fold it completely flat like a tablet. One evening, I used it to play some videos (in the tent mode) at the center of a table during a socially-distanced family get-together in Central Park. Even the Dolby Atmos sound through two speakers, on either side of the keyboard, was enough for us to enjoy. The Lenovo Flex 5G is a quiet PC as there is no requirement for a cooling fan since all processing happens silently as compared to Intel and AMD-powered notebooks.

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Lenovo Partner Hub – a great beginning of a long journey towards channel empowerment

What should vendors do to build strong relationships with partner channel partners? Where should vendors invest in the success of current relationships? Techaisle data shows that it is generally tricky to replace channel partners that exit from the vendor's orbit. In many ways, the core challenge in channel management is determining the optimal allocation of enablement (effort) and investment (funding) options. A program capturing the best options in all areas would be prohibitively costly. Channel program management needs to allocate attention and investment to the areas that align with their specific goals.

The new Lenovo Partner Hub is the beginning of a long journey. It is one of the most massive transformations within Lenovo. What I like about the Partner Hub is its focus on providing excellent partner experience through a simplified content presentation, persona-based dashboards, bid requests, quoting, and product ordering for both PCSD (PC and Smart Devices Group) and DCG (Data Center Business Group). Simplification is at the core of any partner program, and Lenovo has nailed the beginning.

Lenovo's global process owners from business units and key partners in all geographies across thirteen countries contributed to harmonizing the design and tools. The single objective was to give time back to the partners so they could focus on their growth plans and customer conversations.

Vendors tend to consider channel enablement and investment as costs associated with specific product sets – and as a result, these activities get tied to product sales performance. However, although well-intentioned, often, this approach ends with the channel partner positioned as a vendor sales agent, which connects with internal vendor accounting requirements but poorly aligned with the core value provided by the channel partner to its mainstream business customers. The channel's role – and its most significant opportunity – lies in focusing on buyer needs. Successful vendors are building programs and partner platforms that empower channel partners to maintain vendor presence in complex solution environments – not sales agents. Lenovo is one such leading vendor who is trying to enable empowerment approaches through Partner Hub that focus on business outcomes and partnerships.
Designed and developed internally at Lenovo, five different portals combined into one platform with an agile approach rolling out new changes every single day. Lenovo's advantage is that it does not have to rely on nor negotiate with third-party partner platforms for customizations, unnecessarily prolonging the partner empowerment approach.

A grid-like dashboard has five distinct areas – Deal registration, Bid requests, Product Ordering, Asset Library, and myPitch. There are different dashboards with pre-defined quick links for PCSD, DCG, geographies as well as personas – Sales rep, Sales manager, Marketing and Admin. The quick links get updated with the use and memorization of frequently used tasks. There are also groupings for sales, product, and services, solutions, marketing, and training. An easy to use tool is available for contact and lead management.

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