[We wrote about co-located and Agile office space before here.]
Computerworld recently spoke to IT managers at a range of companies, from giants like Google to small consultancies, to get a sense of which office layouts are better for which types of high-tech workers and which are not.
Here’s a recap of what they found about IT’s likes and dislikes and why office layout is not a decision to make lightly.
“Every IT worker I have managed has jumped at the chance to move from a cubicle to an office when given the opportunity. And yet these workers still want their offices to be located close together, so they can easily bounce ideas off people who understand what they’re talking about. When they have a problem, they can quickly explain it to someone to get an answer, she says. But they also like to be able to withdraw.” – Manager (who wished to not be named)
“There’s a big difference between the needs of a network administrator and a help-desk staffer… That’s because some IT jobs require large blocks of uninterrupted time for concentration, while others involve reacting to situations as they arise. If a network administrator is interrupted midtask, it could take him 45 minutes to figure out where he was in his project, and if you’re constantly working in 45-minute [increments], you’re never going to get there.” – Shaun Walter, Sr. Unix Sys Admin of Ally Financial
Ally Financial strikes a good balance between open and private. It offers IT workers a large open area filled with aisles of cubes divided by low partitions, with a variety of conference rooms — ranging from ones large enough to fit about 30 people to small ones that accommodate just three or four — scattered around the edges.
“When workers at Google need quiet time to focus they can retreat to their individual workstations, which typically have at least a partition or low walls to separate people from their neighbors, or to offices shared with a handful of teammates. Employees generally get to choose which configuration they prefer — of the engineers who work at Google, approximately 60% are at workstations and 40% are in offices.” – David Radcliffe, VP of real estate and workplace services at Google
Google makes collaboration a priority, so everything about its office design attempts to facilitate that. For example, its buildings feature strategically located cafeterias and “micro kitchens” that are designed to facilitate “casual collisions” among employees.
“One of the common misconceptions about open floor plans is that what you see is what you get… A visitor — or a new hire — who walks into a busy office of IT workers talking around small tables or working in teams at whiteboards might assume there’s no privacy. But even for a project that requires a lot of collaboration and teamwork, workers need a place to retreat.” – Adam Monago, VP of client services at ThoughtWorks
ThoughtWorks embraces Agile methods for software development and organizes its workers accordingly. The company’s offices are divided into core project team areas that all have a main work area with shared tables and comfortable seating, ringed by quiet workstations or pods around the perimeter, as well as small meeting rooms that offer privacy.
“With Systems@Work at State Farm Insurance, we tried to build a variety of spaces where people can move around and be fluid and have the tools they need: laptop, cell phone — things that would not tie them to a specific area… The company chose to roll out the program in the IT department first and will eventually bring some of its elements to nontechnical departments, making tweaks as appropriate.” – Rick Probus, State Farm Business Analyst
State Farm engineers also employ the Agile methodology, and the company has adopted some Agile office layout principles. In early 2009, State Farm began implementing a program for its 5,600 systems employees called Systems@Work, designed to make the most efficient use of space and foster collaboration.
So what was Computer World’s findings?
Some experts agreed with the following:
“The best setting is a cube with high walls located in the same area as other people who are working on the same project, regardless of job function.” – Derek Hille, president of Office Space Planners Inc.
Huh? That doesn’t sound Agile at all!
You know what we here at Agile Scout like? We like what William Pietri put together: An eXtreme Programmer room. Make sure you check out the link!
So what are your thoughts?
What makes the best office setup for Agile teams and collaboration? Does Agile open office make sense?
Let us know in the comments!
[HT: Computer World]