Last week, we were excited to host the first Future of Work panel discussion which brought together the founders of KISI, Managed by Q, PivotDesk, and Envoy. The conversation centered around how a smart and connected office can affect company culture and business as a whole. As leaders of the smart office movement, each panelist brought a unique perspective to the conversation.
The panel came together at Managed by Q’s headquarters in New York City and was moderated by the Wall Street Journal’s tenured Real Estate Editor, Peter Grant. The cross section between real estate, technology, and business proved to be a conversation largely focused on how technology in commercial real estate can benefit company culture.
Company Culture Is Not the Same as Employee Perks
The conversation started with a discussion centered around company culture. That phrase traditionally invokes imagery of stocked refrigerators, foosball tables, and exaggerated employee perks.
David Mandell, CEO of PivotDesk challenged that idea: “There’s a big misperception about office culture. People think things like foosball tables and catered lunches are culture,” he said. He then pointed out that “culture is what differentiates and builds your business and how employees enjoy working together.”
Dan from Managed by Q explained the phenomenon of company culture in two different facets: office culture represents perks and ‘nice to haves’, while company culture is more a silent business code. He explained, “office culture is really just perks, like free food or massages. Company culture is a shared way of doing things.” He went on to say that at it’s core, company culture is a means to an end; attracting talent.
In the end, culture is a way to build a team, recruit top talent, and ultimately manage your office and employees. Dan from Q succinctly summarized that: “Nobody starts a business to run an office, but someone has to do it.”
Using Technology to Enhance Company Culture
Culture is enhanced when we incorporate technologies into the mix. Adding this layer of office technology to offices requires someone to manage it. All the companies represented on the panel were asked by Peter, “Who benefits from these changes?”. The panelists responses made it clear that technology is used to enhance and streamline the job of office operations rather than replace the function entirely.
Larry from Envoy backed up this theory by stating “People say ‘oh my god you’re getting rid of your receptionist.’ But we’re not. We’re actually enabling them to do more.”
KISI’s own Bernhard Mehl, thinks that while technology is making life easier for the office manager, there is still a lot of work to be done. He foresees that role transitioning to ‘an office automation manager, but that role doesn’t exist yet.” He continues that, “we envision there will soon be someone who works on APIs to run the office better.”
Right now that responsibility of implementing and maintaining office technology either falls on the IT Manager or Office Manager’s plate, while in reality there needs to be a hybrid of both.
While technology in the office is mostly benefiting the individuals in these roles, the decision to purchase the technology is more in the hands of the real estate constituents. Noticing this, Peter strategically shifted the focus to the actual purchasing decision.
So Who Buys Office Technology – Landlords or Tenants?
Implementing technology in an office space can be tricky business. Who gets to make the final call, the broker, tenant or landlord? Often the broker needs technology to close the deal. The tenants are also known to recommend technology to the landlord, who then denies the request. Does the landlord, know, or care, about the technology?
David Mandell from PivotDesk reaffirmed this, stating “nothing motivates a landlord to do something differently unless they absolutely have to. Brokers are looking for better solutions to offer tenant.” He goes on to say that ultimately landlords and brokers “could care less”.
Agreeing that landlords are generally a hurdle in the office technology model, Dan from Q is starting to notice a shift in the power dynamic. He suggests that “now tenants are coming to us and requesting us when they move to a new building, and landlords are having to accommodate that”. A testament to how branding has affected the widespread adoption of these office technologies.
So What is Next?
As the discussion opened up to Q+A, one audience member asked “Is there a future with a single platform that integrates all of your services?”. With four office technology powerhouses on the stage, one might think this offered up for an awkward interaction. Shockingly enough, it seemed that there was a consensus among the panelists that there absolutely would be. Dan from Q interjected “Yes, absolutely. Having all of that data in one place will allow people to make better business decisions.”
With market domination as a cliffhanger, the panel ended, but the question remains. Which company will emerge as the true heavyweight in this new office technology market? Will there be one company buying up the smaller ones for individual or niche, office functions?
Stay tuned for more events from The Future of Work organizers to keep this conversation rolling. The next event is tentatively scheduled for April 2016.