TECH NOUS Tomorrow’s World Today

If you’re business manager with passion for new technology, particularly the kind that can transform the workplace into more enjoyable and productive environment – then I strongly suggest you check out Vodafone’s new head office in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour.
If you can, pull few networking strings to get inside that glass masterpiece (dubbed “v.nue”) because it will give you much better appreciation of how smart new technology and office design is going to impact on tomorrow’s organisations.
Vodafone recently offered me the use of two 3G phones to experience the magic of video calling and all the other 3G-powered services – so I had reason to drop into the building.
I was immediately impressed by the spacious, open-plan nature of its design (not to mention the 30,000 artificial chillies that make up the “we’re hot” banner hanging from the fourth floor).
But it is technology that makes v.nue stand-out from other commercial buildings – in particular the fact that there isn’t landline anywhere in the building.
That’s right, the building is totally (from communications perspective) wireless.
Vodafone’s building is designed to accommodate 850 employees – however, an estimated 1300 people use it daily. There are 12 workstations for every 11 workers – so you’re not necessarily shackled to the same desk day after day. When you arrive at work you simply move to the area where the colleagues you are going to work with that day are seated. Then it’s case of plugging in your laptop, having your mobile phone always at the ready and getting on with it. If you stick to the same workstation, then you are affectionately referred to as “homer”.
Flexibility is the key with this building – it has to be when you consider the constantly evolving nature of the mobile communications business in New Zealand. There are raised floors to facilitate adding or re-arranging power connections for workstations or workgroups. You’ll also notice high ceilings, soft lighting, structured cabling and the ever-present wireless LAN connect points (the LAN extends to the outside courtyard).
The building also bristles with plasma and LCD screens and two banks of television screens. In the conference rooms there is wireless control system for the lights, blinds and, yes, more screens.
Switches are few and far between while touch-screens seem to be everywhere. Sliding doors are also whiteboards and wall panels swing to create large doors.
Whiteboard usage is also state-of-the-art. Boards are linked to laptops and wirelessly fed to participants anywhere in the building.
If there’s need for an internal meeting, people can sit on barstools around “collaboration tables”. If they want to escape the coalface for moment there are special rest areas (“backyards”) featuring comfy chairs and couches.
And there is reason why, from the outside, the glass building delivers so much transparency, allowing people to look in. According to Vodafone spokesperson “it blurs the lines between company and community”.
It’s not surprising that v.nue won the Designers Institute’s Commercial Interiors Award in this year’s Best Design Awards and I’m sure the building will have positive impact on staff turnover.
But back to the 3G phones, which brought me to the Vodafone building in the first place. These phones deliver number of useful services for both personal and business use, but I must say I was little disappointed in the refresh rate each time I made video call. Perhaps the coverage is little marginal where I live, because while I could clearly see the other person (and vice versa) any movement was somewhat jerky and disjointed.
But that’s okay, we know that the next level of the technology is probably not that far away and we can expect the refresh rate to improve significantly with each successive phone model.
The 3G phones are clearly big leap forward in mobile communications, and as Vodafone puts it – it’s the mobilisation of entertainment, information and business in the same way that voice was first mobilised with the introduction of the mobile phone.
We’re seeing more and more of tomorrow’s world every day.

Glenn Baker is regular contributor to Management. [email protected]

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