Monday, February 16, 2015

Cisco Canada's New HQ - Hard Hat Tour

Last Friday, I was part of group of analysts/media invited for a hard hat tour of Cisco Canada's new HQ here in Toronto. Their current offices don't lack for anything - and have a great view - but this isn't about moving into a new space. This is about the future of work and what it takes to create the right environment to support it.

Cisco doesn't do things in half measures, and when it comes to building a foundation for the future, they're doing this figuratively and literally. Some businesses move to save money or to find a more suitable space or a better location. These are all good reasons, but pretty superficial when it comes to the big picture. Cisco isn't interested in just moving to a better space - they're interesting in creating a better space - one that suits their vision of how the workplace is evolving.

Of course, this is about showcasing Cisco's technology, and if you buy into this vision, you'll have a very cool workspace. Technology can sure do wonderful things, but to get those results, it needs to be properly supported. To that end, the hard hat tour was to show us what goes into a smart building, and what can happen when factoring the end result into the construction plans.

We got a taste of that by hearing not just from Cisco, but from the property managers and construction teams. This really is a special type of partnership, and it's a rare opportunity for a tenant to have this much input in the design and construction process. I found this really fascinating, especially since I straddle both worlds of coumunications technology and smart grid/energy. There's a lot to take away from getting this sneak preview of the finished product, and I'll explore that in future posts.

Needless to say, you might wonder if the investment in this design/build plan - along with all the technology to make an office function - will become the driving force for businesses and making employees more dispensible in terms of fitting into this new model of working. This is a pretty expensive roadmap, and I hope that doesn't translate in lower pay for employees who are increasingly contract-based. That's a gloomy topic for another day, and for now I'll stick to the story.

On that upbeat note, I want to you keep my photos in mind, as this shows you what these spaces look like today. Cisco is scheduled to move in this May, and I'm looking forward to updating what the finished product looks like.

If you follow my work, you'll know this is very much an Internet of Things story, and Cisco is at the forefront of showing how this will transform everything we do. In this case, they're showing us how IoT/IoE will transform the workplace, and we heard a lot about how Cisco's employees will be working this spring. In short, there are no offices - just open spaces to foster all forms of collaboration and social interaction. It's all about video, mobility and persistent engagement, and I have no doubt this is the shape of things to come.

I should also note that there are actually two Cisco intiatives happening here. One is the office move, but that's actually the side story. The main event is their "IoE Innovation Hub", which is elsewhere in the building. This was announced a few months back, and is just one of four Cisco will have world-wide, and the only one in North America. Lucky us!

Much like the Tesla stores or Apple stores you see in malls, this space will be used to demonstrate what's possible with today's technology to transform work. I'm sure it will help sell a lot of Cisco technology, but the bigger payoff will be making all this high-end technology real for everyone to see and touch - not just businesses, but their employees, designers, developers, construction companies, urban planners, energy providers, etc.

 Cisco Canada president, Bernadette Wightman
 I kinda like this raw, industrial look - maybe just for five minutes, then it feels cold and drafty!
 PoE LED lighting - doesn't give off heat, and centrally managed from the network
 Don't be fooled - this isn't your new office. It's really just a quiet space where anyone can work. Leave your baby and pet pictures at home - all you need is a smart device and you are where you work. We're not all wired this way - at least yet - but I'm sure there's app coming to retrain us for IoE.
 Cut-outs between the floors to bring in more light and make the environment more open and social

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