“Wherever I go, customers want advice on the same three issues…”

Thorsten Stremlau

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Thorsten Stremlau, Lenovo’s WW Principal IT Architect, on the issues affecting his customers all over the world.

As a WW Principal IT Architect my job is split between the theoretical and the practical.

On the one hand I’m a futurologist, telling our enterprise customers about the future of computing and how work will change. On the other side, it’s very hands-on. I try to find the right equipment, internal processes and solutions to deliver results for our partners. For example, I might be tasked with deploying 200,000 machines in 160 countries all over the world. That certainly has its challenges! I used to be the technical support manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) as well, so Lenovo send me out when there’s a technical issue that affects a lot of machines.

As well as EMEA I cover Asia Pacific and so I travel quite extensively. I’ve been doing it 14 years now. I started the week after I got married. It’s probably why I’m still married!

Wherever I go in the world, customers want advice on the same three issues.

First, it’s all about business mobility and enabling people to work from anywhere. And giving them the tools to do so. This includes BYOD although I call it ‘BYOX’ because it could be an application or other piece of software and not just a device!

Number two is about BDI (Big Data Intelligence) and the problem of how to transfer computing power, and connected costs, into the cloud. This also covers how to reduce costs associated with IT processes.

Last, but not least, the topic I get asked about a lot is how to integrate new technologies like tablets and the Internet of Things to make businesses more productive.

I’m proud to say that Lenovo is addressing these topics head-on.

For starters, enterprise customers don’t like BYOX. And having seen hundreds of customers all over the world, I have yet to see a solid business case for it. The cost of supporting it far outweighs the savings.

So what did Lenovo do about it? We used to have just three laptop offerings for end users: the T, X and the W. They were always black and always boxy. But now we have around 30 different types of machines in our portfolio. There’s something for everyone, from the student to the executive who wants something good-looking. We’ve introduced a whole bunch of choice. That way the user gets what they want, while the corporation controls the cost and makes sure they support the device.

On the cost-cutting front, we offer a workshop whereby a sales guy goes in and optimises the work environment. The companies’ requirements really vary country by country. The UK and the Nordics are very innovative, and because the cost of hiring someone is so high, as is the taxation, corporations are willing to invest a lot more in IT technology. But then France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands are still very much process and procurement driven. Some of the companies are constantly awarding contracts to the lowest bidders, which means the IT guy has to support 30 or 40 machines. It really stifles invention, because they spend all their money on support instead of innovating.

When it comes to integrating new technologies, companies in the Middle East, Africa and the Asia Pacific don’t see a lot of traction from the Internet of Things because the cost of employment is incredibly low. It’s easier to just hire five people to do the job of one small piece of IT. But countries in Western Europe and the former Russian federation invest a lot in it, because it’s a way to differentiate their business.

We had a large project with a vineyard that needed to measure the liquid content of a barrel of wine. We can tell to the millilitre how much liquid it contains, so they can see how much has evaporated and whether the fermentation process has happened.

Another example is our partner Vuzix, who make augmented reality glasses. Some of our customers use them to automate their processes in warehouses. But then I also have a number of automotive customers who use them to generate an augmented reality-type instruction manual so the technician can fix the engine while seeing more detail than they otherwise would. It’s a great example of how new technologies – and Lenovo – can benefit our partners in many different ways.

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