Friday, July 07, 2017

Effective workplace for Digital Startups

Earlier this week, I met with a CEO of a startup in Bangalore who wanted to setup a smart office for this startup. I had a very interesting discussion on this subject and here in this blog, is the gist of our discussion.


Startups need a work environment that fosters collaboration, productivity, and innovation, it is able to attract and retain the best employees.

Office spaces are now turning into intelligent spaces - where office space can engage with employees to maximize effectiveness, connect seamlessly and securely anywhere, anytime.

How to build such a work place? 

Today, we have ultra-fast Wi-Fi, mobile "anywhere" communications, and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity that connects physical building work places to employees. For example having a mobile app - which gives information about available meeting rooms, directions to meeting rooms and an easy one-click interface to book a meeting room - helps save 5-10 minutes off an employee's time in setting up a meeting. This alone translates into 42-85 man hours of productivity per employee per year! Freeing up time for innovation and collaboration.

In the world of intelligent work spaces technology becomes a key enabler. Every employee has fast and complete access to the applications and data they need and can use any mobile device to schedule space, operate electronic white boards or projectors, or set up video conference calls. Employees can be productive, seamlessly and securely, anywhere, anytime, whether in a quiet work space, a conference room, a boardroom, or even an outdoor space such as a rooftop café.

In a startup office, basic Wi-Fi and video conferencing are now so very common that they are taken for granted. The closed-door offices and cubicles have given way to open-space designs, casual meeting areas. Cafeterias & pantries are now seamlessly integrated with work spaces - to encourage open idea sharing and other collaborative exchanges among workers.

Understanding the requirements

Startup offices often share offices spaces with other startups (typically non-competing - Of course!)

A startup workplace must also be truly innovative. In most of the legacy workplaces, there is too much friction and inefficiency that hampers office productivity. Talented & creative employees are still shackled to desks on which sit hardwired computers that act as their main and sometimes only access point to the applications, software, and data they need to do their work.

Startups do not have a hierarchical organization structure. Instead they tend to have a team-based organizational structure. Teams are formed and disbanded depending on the project at hand. Cross-functional teams are dynamically created when necessary. This means employees need the right tools to work in a fluid environment where they and their colleagues can collaborate whenever and wherever the need arises.

Good news is that, today we have mobile-first, cloud-first and IoT technologies that enable such intelligent spaces. Facility managers will have to dorn an IT hat and ensure that:

  1. Secure, untethered, and consistent connectivity anywhere.Security is of paramount importance in a multi-tenant workplace. Employees are no longer tethered to a wired deskspace, they need to have complete mobility within the workspace - and yet have safe and consistent high bandwidth connectivity.
  2. Consistent workplace productivity solutions across all devicesWorkplace productivity tools such as Slack, Skype, Google Meetups etc are essential. These tools can work on various devices: iPad, iPhone, Android Phones, Windows Laptops, Apple Macbook etc.
  3. Collaboration solutions built on cloud
    Note that for a consistent workplace collaboration tools are all connected to cloud. Its not just the productivity tools, even booking conference rooms or meeting rooms are handled via cloud. In a multi-tenant workplace where conference rooms are shared, the solutions must be able to generate pay-per-use billing systems for all shared resources.
  4. Location based services
    Based on number of people per floor or per zone or area, smart facilities are turned on or off based on actual need. This means all lighting, cooling/heating and Wi-Fi connectivity are all based on number of people in that area. This implies use of intelligent sensors and smart analytics on the edge to minimize energy usage.   

Build Analytics into workplace  

Industrial IoT devices opens up a whole new way of seeing how an existing facility is being used. Heat/motion sensors can track which areas of the office are highly used and which areas are least used. This data over a period of time can be of immense value - to optimize the way  office spaces are designed. This data can be used to optimize the cooling & lighting requirements and HVAC systems planning.

The use of smart building technologies - sensors on the floor, motion sensors, thermal scanners, CCTV, Biometric scanners etc., generate vast amounts of data which can be used in lot of ways to a better workplace.

Closing Thoughts 

When technology and facility design is done right, we can create workspace that allows organizations, small or large, to orchestrate workflows for maximum efficiency and productivity. This will unleash the kind of innovation, creativity, and productivity needed to compete in the new digital economy.

Such a building would be a truly digital workplace where technology becomes a strong hidden foundation for a true user centered work place.

Invest in IT enabled facilities to make employees happier, attract and retain the most talented workers, it must provide employees with a modern, digital environment where they can work efficiently and seamlessly.


viji said...
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