Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

WORKTECH London – 6 top takeaways

December 13, 2016

The venue for this year’s London WORKTECH event could not have been more appropriate,  or more spectacular – the 39th floor of One Canada Square, (and for those not in the know – that’s the tall building with the pyramid on top, bang in the middle of Canary Wharf.)

The day started with the 39th floor shrouded in mist, but this soon dispersed to reveal a stunning panorama of the Thames and the City of London, a truly memorable view of this iconic skyline.  As I gazing out the window in walked our first speaker, none other than Richard Rogers, the architect behind some of the best known buildings below, including the Lloyds Building, the Millennium Dome and the “Cheesegrater” (and, he also happens to have projects like the Pompidou Centre earlier on his resume!)

The WORKTECH organisers managed to pack 30 speakers into a day and half, providing a prefect forum to discuss the latest thinking on the future of work and the workplace.

Here are my top six takeaways from this excellent event;

Real estate and facilities management used to be mundane back-office disciplines, relegated (often literally) to the basement. These days are well and truly over.  The workplace is now widely recognised as a key strategic lever and is being discussed at the most senior levels in companies including the boardroom.  In many cases it’s a matter of survival, organisations have no option but to transform if they want to attract the best talent.  And the workplace plays a pivotal role in helping to ensure that an increasingly diverse quad-generation workforce is motivated and empowered to deliver to the best of their ability.

2. Many speakers (myself included) highlighted the fact that workplace transformation can only be effective when considered under the broader umbrella of a workforce. This journey is necessarily cross-functional and cannot be executed by any one discipline in isolation.  Three core actors were identified by multiple speakers – Facilities, IT and HR – reflecting the fact that this transition needs to consider the physical assets, the technology and the workforce.

3. Some industries, such as consulting, have always encouraged employees to work away from the office (albeit away from the firm’s own office and into that of the client). Today a much broader spectrum of employers also recognise the reality that presenteeism (if there is such a word?) does not equate to productivity. This is especially true for knowledge workers, and many employers (such as Cisco) no longer mandate that their employees come into the office. In fact, we are at liberty to select whatever environment we believe will make us most productive – whether this happens to be within and outside the office is incidental.

4. Under this new regime the office no longer has a “captive audience”, it must (literally) attract the employees. If one is going to invest the extra time and effort and money to come into the office – it had better be worth it!  As one presenter (Erol Aziz from KPMG) succinctly put it  – the challenge is to turn the office into a “destination” – somewhere that people want to go.  A very interesting parallel from the retail sector was flagged up during a subsequent panel session, with the emergence of shopping centres which are specifically being promoted as “destinations” in an effort to attract online shoppers to their physical stores.  An insightful Tom Savigar from The Future Laboratory took the thinking one step further, anticipating that the role of facilities management will ultimately morph into hospitality management.

5. One the most poignant exchanges of the whole conference came during the Q&A with Richard Rogers when a member of the audience stood up and introduced himself as the current facilities manager for (“his”) Lloyds Building! This building was considered “state of the art” when opened in 1986, and has recently been designated Grade 1, meaning that the interior (as well as the exterior) are protected, (which I must say struck me as slightly ironic given that much of the interior is sited on the exterior!).  The ensuing dialogue related to the fact that Lloyds and the Local Planning Authority recognise that this building has to be upgraded if it is to remain fit for purpose as a 21st Century workplace. This exchange highlighted the fact that all workplaces – even the best of the best – need to continuously evolve. Today’s state of the art buildings such as The Edge, should fare better 30 years from now, as one of the principal design objectives has been to deliver spaces which are future-proof.

6. And finally, the biggest surprise? The resident poet!  I must admit that I did sigh when I saw poetry on the agenda. But Matt Harvey’s, short and pithy interludes lifted the sprits of the whole audience – and on reflection served as a timely reminder that the ultimate raison d’etre for all the innovations to the buildings and the technologies is to enable the company’s most important asset – its people – to excel.

Those who did not manage to attend WORKTECH in person may be interested to know that videos of all the presentations are available here (including own my session outlining how we at Cisco are transforming our own workforce).  Or visit our Workforce Experience webpage for more detail.)

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  1. Hi John
    I could not agree more with your blog, I was lucky to attend the event and found it inspiring to say the least with so many great speakers from various organisations. I found the sessions very insightful, however for me the key take-away (other than meeting new contacts outside of the IT Function across my accounts) was understanding the Importance of HR and Corporate Re-Estate playing a Pivotal role in their companies strategy around Workplace and Workforce transformation. I believe we at Cisco need to change the conversation we are having we many of our clients, we should make sure we all have a plan around targeting HR and CRES teams with in our customer base if we have not got one today. The conversation and planning around our clients workforce and workplace transformation is happening as we speak, however what I see in our accounts within HR and CRES teams they are already having the conversations with companies like Cushman and Wakefield not Cisco . Cushman and Wakefield are a leading global real estate services firm that helps clients transform the way people work, shop and live, does this statement sound familiar……..because it should. The only difference is Cushman and Wakefield are having the conversation one or two years in advanced with those teams in our accounts, influencing the Technology decision within their overall discussion around “The Art of the Possible” for workforce and workplace transformation. We Cisco need to align with companies like Cushman and Wakefield, help them to understand our relevance in this space whilst targeting HR and CRES teams in our customers.