We were moving offices, we had defined our desired outcome and our strategy, and we had started on our phone system. While lengthy debates ensued as a result of the decision to move to agile working, the strategy from a technical perspective was simple; irrespective of what they chose, we would enable them to be agile. Meaning, if they chose to be static at their desks, they would still be using the same technology as those that would be agile. This was obvious really, as it supported a plethora of other benefits. It supported our HR move to offer staff flexible working, working from home benefits, it meant that staff could roam around the office and integrate with other teams on cross-department initiates, as well as helping support a better business continuity setup.
There was always a big drive to move to laptops, in many cases it was what departments chose for their staff, but there were two significant decisions made;
- Move everyone to a laptop device
- Move to a single device policy, where the laptop would be the only device
The second point above is significant, creating a single device policy. As mentioned, we had a significant part of the company already on laptops, but in the majority of cases this was alongside a desktop. The decision was that they would only have a single device. The obvious benefits could be seen as cost-saving, but they weren’t. Yes, we would have a more straightforward estate to support, we would save on device licences and numbers, but it meant that we could reinvest money in better devices. This was important when it came to migrating users that used high-end, high-spec kit. We could pay for more costly laptops, without impacting the budget.
By the end of the migration, we had halved our estate but significantly moved from 55% laptop devices to over 95%. The only fixed, desktop devices that remained were for freelance, temporary staff positions, and a number of test devices located in the equipment/server rooms.
From a technical perspective, this was the simplest change we made in the move to the new building, but it was by far the most transformative initiative. Without it, none of the other enabling technologies would have made the impact they did.
Desks, docks, devices
So, you decide to make your company agile, you give them a bunch of laptops, simple right? Well not quite. They obviously need to plug this into a whole range of peripherals. But the challenge comes when you realise that they potentially could be moving locations on a daily basis. So whatever they need to work needs to be set up, configured and ready to work at any desk. Throw into the mix the requirement they may need to work from any device. But not just that, the devices may have different USB connection types. So, to reiterate; any device, with multiple connection types, from any location, with peripherals to suit any requirement. Hmmmmm.
Let’s start with the thing that connects the laptop to the bits around it, the docking station, or dock. There are lots of docks out there, all very good, but our initial need reduced this list down significantly; it needed to work on Mac or Windows, and it needed to work on either the old USB type, type-A, or the new USB type, type-C. The beauty of the latter is that it runs both connectivity as well as power to the device. Meaning there is no longer a need for power adapters to be carried around. Even though we had invested heavily in our hardware, we still had some older devices out there with the old connection type that weren’t quite ready for replacement.
We therefore needed a dock that had both connection types. Dell offered this with their D6000 dock, that simply had a cable with a connected adapter. We liked it, and this was our initial plan. However, when starting the discussions with Humanscale, the furniture manufacturer, we soon realised they had a dock which not only provided universal connection but also offered further benefits that weren’t initially obvious.
Going back to our requirements, ensuring people would have a consistent setup at any desk, every day, was essential. But we know people love to fiddle. We wanted to present staff with a dock with multiple connection ports, but it was critical that they couldn’t fiddle with the dock and wiring, and impact the experience of future users of that desk. The Humanscale dock solved that problem by being split; a user-facing part above the desk, but with the connected infrastructure cables below it. It made for a compelling product choice.
The above conversation then drove some improvements with the integration between technology and the desk. Again, wanting to ensure that users had a consistent experience at any desk, it was critical that we could ‘lockdown’ the workplace environment so that it couldn’t be changed or interfered with. The result of this was a restricted desk; you needed a key to access connections, the dock was hidden in part. Several months on, it has been a significant win in regards to high user satisfaction and low support contacts.
Keyboard and mouse, simple
When you start to consider things like the keyboard and mice, it’s not the most glamorous area of such a project. But such things, that staff will engage with so much, can make or break a move into a new environment. As such, it justifies careful consideration. Having decided to create an environment that anyone could work in, with any device, we again set ourself the challenge when it came to the keyboard. We needed it to work with both Windows and Macs, which we know use different keyboard configurations. So we needed a keyboard that was configured for both operating systems. Surprisingly, there aren’t many out there. We found one by Logitech, but it was Bluetooth, not something we wanted. After that, we found nothing else.
We then stumbled across a company that seemed to offer some innovative keyboards, Editorskeys. We put the idea to them about making a bespoke keyboard for us that offered the ability to work with both Windows and Mac. After a few prototypes, we settled on a design that featured a button that switched the configuration, after which we placed an order for 1000+.