Digital Transformation And Company Culture Were Dominant Themes At WORKTECH Singapore 2018

Clouding the workforce, open company culture, ecosystem-based business models, flex and core real estate, and work-life integration – these are some of the workplace concepts you need to know now.

  • Marco Maria Pedrazzo (Carlo Ratti Associati)



BY Narelle Yabuka

27 September, 2018


The annual WORKTECH Singapore 2018 conference always has its finger on the pulse of the latest thinking in workplace design and strategy. This year was no different, with a strong line up of speakers diving into the latest thinking at the Holiday Inn Singapore, Orchard City Centre on Tuesday 18 September.

Work settings as a service

After an introduction from emcee Neil Salton of ChangeWorq, the day’s presentations were kicked off by Glen Foster and Brendan Bruce, the Vice President of Sales and the Managing Director respectively of Haworth Asia Pacific. They spoke about work settings as a service in the workplace of the future, drawing on the findings of Haworth’s work with Deloitte for a number of key clients in Australia.

Can furniture assets be thought of as flexible components of the agile workspace? Haworth has a vision of incorporating a sensor onto every work point that comes out of its factories – smart furniture for a smart workplace where data on real utilisation allows for better decision making. Foster and Bruce discussed the possibility of different financial models – for example, leasing furniture for agile spaces while static zones could continue to be served by a normal furniture-purchasing pattern.

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Glen Foster (Haworth, centre) and Brendan Bruce (Haworth, right)

They also discussed the possibility of using tech tools to speed up procurement and the visualisation of space – to complement or even replace physical mock-ups. And as wellness and the environment continue to grow in importance via the millennial workforce, there is some expectation that the second-life furniture market could soon be a component of talent attraction and retention strategies.

Andrea Egert, Senior Strategist at Calder Consultants, and Janneke Maisey, Operations Manager at law firm Hall & Wilcox, discussed the way they have been catering to constant change in the legal industry and evolving the Hall & Wilcox workspace with it. Theirs is a story of the continual involvement of the designer and the move to an ecosystems-based business model.

Work-life balance shifts to work-life integration

Andres Ortola, Director of Enterprise Commercial at Microsoft Singapore, and his colleague Veeramani Mahadevan, Enterprise Account Director, dissected how technology can make meetings – and workdays – more productive. We now need to be productive all the time, said Ortola, as the quest for work-life balance shifts to the management of work-life integration.

Company culture is crucial to the successful use of technology and space, he suggested – it’s the new currency. Transformation fails because people’s behaviour doesn’t change. Technology, said Ortola, can improve collaboration for greater creativity – and the ability to be creative is what people believe their success depends on these days. The workplace, meanwhile, is now being thought of as a tool. The question today’s workers ask themselves is: “What do I need to get done today, and what will be my tools?” Now that we can work anywhere, ‘work’ is not a place we go but a thing we do.

Microsoft has been working with Steelcase to look at how the integration of technology and space can be used to foster creativity. Microsoft’s Surface Hub 2, said Ortola, will be coming to Singapore soon.

The internet of the workplace

Rob Wilkinson, an Associate Director, Corporate Solutions, APAC at Colliers International, talked about the cloud-based ‘internet of the workplace’ (IoW) – the means of doing complex data analytics on aspects of how spaces are used (water, lifts, lights and so on) to allow adjustments that will improve efficiency. The next level of the IoW, he said, will be personal-level use – for example, the use of smartphone apps to control window shades. ‘Clouding the workforce’ – which can be a partial or full transition – will support a ‘flex and core’ model of real estate, he suggested, where flexible workspace becomes a core part of a real estate portfolio.

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Rob Wilkinson (Colliers International)

A future of connected analytics

Vanessa Sulikowski, a Distinguished Systems Engineer at Cisco, painted a picture of how AI – beyond today’s smart workplace – will impact innovation at work. The early use of AI will allow us to do things like adjust the air con settings as more people enter a space. Detection and recognition systems will soon analyse human workers to gauge, for example, whether we are on board with a concept being discussed at a meeting. Connected analytics will be the future, she said, linking people, technology and space. Technology will be a workplace utility, like plumbing.

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Vanessa Sulikowski (Cisco)

Future-proofing and diversifying workplace architecture

Marco Maria Pedrazzo, the Head of Research and Business Development at Carlo Ratti Associati, talked chiefly about the Market Street project his firm is working on with BIG and RSP – specifically about how user experience is being designed for this building, and how the architecture is being future proofed for times when we need less car parking for example. He discussed the need to find the right mix of live-work-play spaces for cobeing, comaking, coworking and colearning. The future of user experience is to connect the user with the building, he said, which will allow the better management of space and resources. The Market Street project is scheduled to open in 2021. Read about an IoT-enabled workplace with ‘environment bubbles’ designed by CRA in Turin here.

Digital transformation and the human-machine partnership

Digital transformation was a big topic for many speakers. For Marcus Dervin, the Founder and Managing Director of digital transformation consultancy WebVine, it is the subject of a book he has written. Copies were given away throughout the conference. He summarised his framework for calculating the real cost of issues and opportunities, and to assess potential solutions.

Dragana Beara, Dell Technologies’ Portfolio Messaging Director for Asia Pacific and Japan, continued the focus on digital transformation with a discussion of emerging technologies and human-machine partnership. AI is driving the tech industries and accelerating digital transformation, she said, pointing to an immersive and collaborative computing environment in which data is overlaid onto the physical world.

Asia’s top locations for work

Two panel discussions were had in the afternoon sessions. The first focused on the top locations in Asia in terms of talent, workspace and incentives. Moderator Duncan White (Executive Director and Head of Office Services, Singapore at Colliers International) was joined by panellists Vaughn Woods (Regional Vice President, Akamai), Turochas ‘T’ Fuad (Managing Director, WeWork Southeast Asia), Michael Cole (Head of Experienced Recruitment, APAC at Credit Suisse) and Rick Thomas (Executive Director at Colliers International).

Singapore remains an important talent hub, they noted, but as big data and AI grow in importance it is becoming harder to find talent. With demand outstripping supply, there’s a need to tap into the gig economy. Upcoming locations for tech include Jakarta and the Philippines, and in India, Pune is overtaking Bangalore in terms of appeal.

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From left: Duncan White (Colliers International), Vaughn Woods (Akamai), Turochas ‘T’ Fuad (WeWork Southeast Asia), Michael Cole (Credit Suisse), Rick Thomas (Colliers International)

What millennials and post-millennials want

The second panel, consisting of millennial and post-millennial speakers, discussed Gen Y, Gen Z and their new ways of working. Moderator Apurva Tadkase (Junior Consultant at Veldhoen + Company SEA) was joined by Abhishek Bajaj (Community Worker, Beyond Social Services), Mann Chawla (Senior Account Director, Mediacorp), Olivia Kam (Global Accounts Marketing Coordinator, Facebook) and Vanessa Chiam (Account Executive, XTRA Office).

They discussed what they look for in a new job or workplace and what employers could do to attract them. An open company culture, learning opportunities, collaboration, a non-homogenous environment, good food, the ability to add value to the company quickly, and flexibility were among the key points.

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Travelling to Hong Kong? WORKTECH Hong Kong 2018 will be held on 5 December.

 


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