ASB’s high tech office breaks workplace traditions

ASB’s high tech office breaks workplace traditions

ASB’s new head office environment means employees can work anywhere, with the device of their choice, and printers are often on respite. CIO New Zealand takes a tour of North Wharf in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter.

On a recent Friday morning, Russell Jones, ASB executive general manager – technology and innovation, arrived 30 minutes early for an executive meeting. While waiting for his colleagues, Jones started working on his iPad, accessing all the documents he needed from his virtual desktop.

The 8.30am meeting lasted for three hours, after which he left the building for lunch. He returned for one-on-one meetings held on separate floors, then headed home.

“I never used a desk the whole day because I was always in meetings, doing other things. I went to the area that suits the work I will do. That is activity-based working,” says Jones.

There are two buildings joined by a glazed multi-level walkway over Te Wero Lane.
There are two buildings joined by a glazed multi-level walkway over Te Wero Lane.

ASB implemented activity-based working or ABW when it moved to North Wharf, its head office on Wynyard Quarter. The building in Auckland’s Viaduct was designed to encourage the 1400 staff to work where, and with who, it suits them each day, and with the technology of their choice.

Jones says North Wharf is one of three main buildings of ASB in Auckland. The other two are C-Drive in Albany and on Dominion Road, which houses its contact centre.

“In practice, people can work seamlessly between the three buildings,” he says. “I spend two days a week in Albany, and spend the rest of the week in the North Wharf.” There are days he will be attending a meeting at the Commonwealth Bank headquarters in Australia, and Jones says he can work in the airport lounge like he was in the office.

James Bergin, ASB chief architect, technology and innovation for the Enterprise Services Division, is also based at North Wharf, but some members of his team are working on C-Drive. In the morning, he will connect to his remote desktop from home, and go to either buildings.

In the past, he or his team members will travel from Albany to the city or vice versa. “With this environment, I just call them up,” he says. Bergin says he has one or two videoconference meetings every day. The videoconferencing suites are also connected to the parent company Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA). “We can just dial in and we can have high quality videoconference suites around the building.”

The virtual desktop environment is “where technology kicks in”, says Bergin. The entire structure is virtualised running Windows 7 so everyone in the building has access to their virtual desktop. Everyone has a laptop or an iPad depending on what device they have chosen. Other staff who have a corporate laptop have also brought their iPad to work and connect these to the wireless system.

Bergin says the team is already exploring Windows 8 for the virtual desktop infrastructure, and from an infrastructure point of view, there is nothing that will stop having other devices as BYO. Jones notes some staff have Android phones and tablets that they are bringing to work.

The wireless infrastructure relieved the need for a cable environment, and freed staff from permanent and individual workstations. “Under the desk is a thin client. All you can see is a screen and a keyboard. So literally you can sit down in any of these workspaces and pick up exactly where you left off,” he says.

Each staff member, however, has a locker which he or she can personalise. The staff member can choose where to work, from public spaces known as “boathouses” to free working spaces known as “neighbourhoods”.

Workspaces that house different business units are grouped into “neighbourhoods”. In each neighbourhood there are a variety of high, low and medium focus work settings and people are able to select which of these best suits the activity being worked on and change accordingly throughout the day.The work spaces are designed to ensure a passer-by will not be able to hear any of the discussions. Staff have free access to audiovisual screens,

The different collaboration areas provide greater flexibility to work with other people while wireless technology and mobile devices drastically decrease reliance on paper.

Next: In the neighbourhood

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Tags CIO100James Bergininnovationactivity based workingCIO rolefinancerussell jonesasbInterpolis Netherlandsenvironmentnew technologyconsumerisation of technologyMicrosofttransformationCommonwealth Bank of Australia

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