As one of the world’s most innovative software solutions companies, BMC hosts a client roster that includes the likes of Vodafone, Dell, and Lockheed Martin. All told, its clients represent roughly 82 percent of the Fortune 500. But until recently, you would never know it by looking at a BMC office. In comparison, the Googleplex has massage centers and a tube slide, while BMC had fluorescent lights and cubicles. Facebook has a video arcade and micro-kitchens, while BMC had isolated offices and corporate artwork.
In 2012, BMC announced a new initiative designed to elevate its workspace so that it matches the high-tech standards of its industry and products. The renovations started overseas, where BMC has offices in 40 countries. Now, the company is bringing the concept to 26 locations in Canada, the United States, and South America—a task overseen by Daniel Wright, director of real estate and facilities in the Americas.
Wright joined the company in 2014 and has led the major renovation project, officially known as The Office of the Future (OOTF) program.
“This project gives BMC the modern workplaces that match our internal culture and the industry-leading solutions we provide to our clients,” Wright says.
It’s this way of thinking that led Wright, who holds an undergraduate degree in business administration and a master’s in management for organizational effectiveness, to winning the CoreNet Corporate Real Estate Leadership Award for Real Estate Executive of the Year in June 2008. He also manages BMC’s regional real estate portfolio.
Before the OOTF rollout, many of BMC’s spaces in the Americas were 20 or 25 years old. “The offices were simply outdated,” Wright recalls. “They didn’t match where BMC was going as an organization.”
They also didn’t match the changing workforce. As baby boomers near retirement, millennials are onboarding at record numbers. Wright estimates that the younger generation makes up about 30 percent of his company’s talent pool. But in just five years, that will climb to at least 75 percent.
While baby boomers have grown accustomed to private offices and desks with framed family photos over the years, millennials tend to prefer collaborative and shared spaces. Between the two extremes fall those in generation X.
Wright found that communication and transparency helped him gain buy-in from each demographic. That’s why he and his colleagues hosted a series of town hall meetings to solicit input and feedback from BMC employees. He also engaged a change management group to facilitate the process.
“We introduced a drastic change, and we didn’t want to surprise anyone,” he says. “We wanted them all to know the why behind each decision we made.” Employees at BMC’s two largest US locations—the global headquarters in Houston and a major development office in Santa Clara, California—had the chance to “test-drive” early prototypes.
Wright is adapting BMC’s OOTF plan from Europe, where his counterparts have already implemented it in places such as Rome and Tel Aviv, Israel. The concept starts with a few basics: open space, a multitude of glass, natural light, some color, and shared workstations. The old BMC featured several tall interior cubicles surrounded by a perimeter of closed, private offices. The new BMC flips the plan with a few private offices in the middle of each floor surrounded by a line of 43-inch-tall workstations. Each station also has its own sit/stand desk.
In addition, the design helps BMC manage its costs while giving employees more freedom to work from home when appropriate. Instead of assigned desks and limited meeting facilities, the OOTF features “touchdown” (hoteling) desks and huddle rooms. Employees can use the huddle rooms and other breakaway spaces to hold informal meetings, brainstorm a problem from a new perspective, or simply relax. Wright has reduced private office allocation from 30 percent of headcount to roughly 15 percent. Every space features mobile printing, robust Wi-Fi, and the ability to support several mobile devices per person.
The OOTF program is changing BMC’s work environment, moving it from a focus on the individual to a focus on the team; from space allocated by hierarchy to flexible space designed to meet evolving needs. Where the old office could represent any company, the new space is decidedly BMC. “Our remade buildings communicate who we are to our clients and also to our employees,” Wright says.
After rolling out the OOTF design in 2015 and 2016, BMC has completed renovations to almost all of its space in the Americas. Wright works in the company’s Houston headquarters. There, he and his team took BMC from about 400,000 square feet in four buildings to 200,000 square feet in one high-rise. “I’m on the 15th floor looking out at NRG Stadium and the Astrodome across the city of Houston,” he says. “It’s open, light, and energizing.”
His colleagues seem to agree. A survey issued upon completion revealed approval rates of 64 percent in Houston and 71 percent in Santa Clara. Wright used feedback from those surveys to adjust as he took the OOTF concept to the rest of his regional portfolio.
Wright is analyzing emerging workplace trends as he and BMC move forward. So what does he expect? Constant change. “Everyone wants to be more and more mobile,” Wright explains. “I don’t think the corporate office will ever disappear, but it’s going to look more and more different every year.”
In this new era of variation and uncertainty, Wright says real estate directors must adjust and do what they can to make the workplace an inviting and attractive option. Corporate buildings should facilitate collaboration and improve the employee experience. Wright also says his counterparts should be willing to take risks and try new things. Just recently, he installed several walking treadmills at BMC Houston. Employees can attach their laptop or mobile device and remain active as they work. In 2017, his team will introduce a capability that everyone can use to reserve shared spaces.
Today, BMC fits in among its high-tech peers in Silicon Valley and in other parts of the Americas. In fact, the company is using its new digs as a marketing tool to attract and retain top talent. In 2013, BMC went private and marked millions of dollars for R&D and new service development. The company is in growth mode, and the OOTF is in place to support those important strategic objectives.