Last week in this space I wrote about one of the things that enterprise IT and Facilities/Real Estate people share, which is an ever-shortening upgrade cycle. Planning horizons that used to be measured in decades are now years, and discrete elements of those multi-year plans are starting to get old almost by the time they’re implemented.
A recent conversation I had with Matt Harris, head of workplace technology at Envoy, brought this point home. Envoy makes visitor management software for offices, powering a sign-in system whose interface is probably familiar if you spend much of your time calling on clients, partners, or others at the offices of companies with whom you do business. Envoy is itself a young company that needs to be agile, and Matt is the person there who has to somehow keep the company’s offices working for those employees.
Envoy has been growing rapidly, and needed to move to a new space. The team at Envoy approached the situation as one where they expected to “take new space and turn it into everything we’d always dreamed,” Matt told me in an interview.
Then the process hit a snag: “We grew too fast.” They needed to get into the space much sooner than slated in their original planning process.
That meant Matt and team needed a more modular, standardized approach that the company could build quickly and that would provide the flexibility to use the space as needed now, while allowing it to evolve in functionality as the business continued to grow and change. That meant a lot more emphasis on movable furniture and standardizing meeting room setups so their use could be flexible, both now and in the future. For example, Envoy used the same Zoom A/V setup in each room, and deployed soft-seating in conference rooms so the rooms could also be used for one-on-one meetings between employees and their managers—the idea being that a conference table isn’t well suited for this type of more-intimate conversation.
The result of “forcing ourselves to move much more quickly,” Matt said, was the ability “to create a really dynamic space.”
The need to have a really dynamic virtual space is also what’s driving IT to move more of its technology systems to the cloud. Surveys of enterprise IT and communications managers consistently show that the appeal of cloud-based systems (Zoom, for example) doesn’t come from any projected cost savings, but rather in the agility it provides—the ability that cloud services give IT to make changes much more quickly by supplementing or replacing current services, as opposed to locking themselves into 10 years or more with equipment and software they’d purchased.
For both office environments and collaboration technology, enterprises need to plan upfront for agility and flexibility down the road. That’s the lesson Envoy learned, and it’s one that enterprise IT is becoming much more comfortable with. Put the two together, and your enterprise has a much better shot at creating workplaces that really do work for the people that are showing up to the office on a given day.