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Achieving Flexibility Through Strategic Workplace Planning

Agility will result in a highly collaborative business team that supports the company's work force, manages operational cost, and maximizes competitive advantage.

2011 Directory
In today's business climate, only the agile survive. Adaptability to change remains a significant concern to CEOs, and many of their companies are ill equipped to respond quickly to business needs. In a 24/7 world, the C-suite is looking for new ways to compete, innovate, improve productivity, and reduce cycle time. Adding to the complexity, the global business climate has withstood a series of rapid changes that have undermined the very structure of traditional business. Some organizations thrive, while others suffer. What makes the difference between success and failure?

Successful companies have a lean profile, providing flexibility to meet changing business conditions. By contrast, companies with traditional management models that include fixed locations, costs, and employee work practices create significant inefficiencies and obstacles to achieving corporate agility. These companies will need to rethink many aspects of their management models before implementing progressive plans to achieve true corporate agility.

Demographic shifts, a change in strategic direction, and a volatile economy are all unpredictable factors that can suddenly cause a need for contraction or expansion, but real estate occupancy tends to be a long-term decision. Corporate real estate departments strive to maintain flexibility in their portfolios through shorter lease terms, expansion/contraction options, and staggered lease expirations, as well as space layouts that can be changed easily to accommodate more people. A portfolio strategy well matched to the various demand and risk profiles of a company's space requirements can introduce the desired flexibility - and at the right cost.

Five Steps to Achieving Agility
Too often companies focus on workplace solutions solely as a real estate initiative to cut costs and often lose the ability to support the rapid change required from the business. Numerous Fortune 1000 companies have proven that agility-building processes can be used in a variety of scenarios when integrated support programs are in place. Examples of integrated support programs include onboarding (i.e., employee orientation and mainstreaming), labor-based location solutions, workplace repositioning, or data center site and building selection. These programs require open collaboration across human resources, real estate, and information technology. By integrating these functions, a company will increase its agility.

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Are you working to improve your company's flexibility? Submit your business questions below to Ask Area Development and the article author will respond.
1. Create shared need.
• Assemble a high-level executive task force of information technology, real estate, and human resources executives.
• Develop an integrated value proposition.
• Identify strategic outcomes.
• Align strategy among functions.

Driving collaboration is no easy task. Ambiguous goals and misaligned agendas can undermine productive teamwork. Instead, teamwork relies on an open leadership approach.

For example, Accenture - a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company - created a shared need to align its real estate and information technology functions. The firm allocated a portion of the real estate cost savings associated with its workplace flexibility initiative to fund technology reinvestment for all employees.

In order to facilitate open communication, a scorecard should be used to monitor and report results against program costs and savings. This tool reinforces the shared need and creates interest at all levels within the organization.

2. Shape the vision.
• Build a business case.
• Assess current workspace utilization.
• Analyze information and develop scenarios.
• Identify necessary changes in processes and systems.
• Address "what's in it for me" issues.

Once senior leadership signs off on project goals, the next step is to analyze opportunities and model outcomes to create a business case. Assembling a team of action-oriented problem-solvers is key. The expanded team that includes business leaders impacted by this change will collect data, analyze information, and identify possible scenarios before moving forward.

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