When Lenovo went through a large acquisition in 2014, acquiring IBM’s x86 server business encompassing about 1,500 employees in both office and hardware development labs, Director of Global Real Estate Deidre Buzzetto had only six months to find them space in or near Lenovo’s Raleigh, North Carolina, headquarters. Having worked at IBM for 15 years and Lenovo for another decade, Buzzetto had been through more than her fair share of acquisitions.
“In fact, when Lenovo acquired the PC business of IBM, I was not part of that acquisition, but I knew they didn’t have anybody for real estate in Lenovo and decided to go over,” Buzzetto says. In addition to the hundreds of employees, the 2014 acquisition involved complex data centers, server labs, supply chain, and the new Data Center Group headquarters staff. The task was daunting—and then Lenovo added another acquisition in the form of Motorola Mobility Group, and Buzzetto knew she’d have a much larger job on her hands.
“We’ve been working and consolidating over the years, so we don’t have more than one location in a city or even a country. As we looked at our utilization sitting between 50 and 60 percent, we needed to look into how we could utilize our space more effectively,” Buzzetto says. She found that Lenovo’s global infrastructure might be the reason for the inefficient use of space, granting her an opportunity to rethink usage in its new offices.
Lenovo, in fact, decided—once the acquisition was in place—to next consolidate from two Raleigh campuses to one. That decision hinged clearly on adjustability. “We’re a flexible company,” Buzzetto says. As the workplace transformation process began, Buzzetto and her team worked with companies such as sustainability consultants Altanova to build the smartest workplace possible that could adapt to the needs of Lenovo employees. One major part of that process is getting ahead of the curve when it comes to utilization, which Lenovo now tracks on an ongoing basis with the help of Rifiniti. For Lenovo employees, that means working in a new, flexible workspace and not having a dedicated permanent seat. This allows employees to find the spaces that are best for them, which can be collaborative spaces, huddle rooms, phone booths, or height-adjustable workstations.
Buzzetto herself knows the reality of being a mobile worker and frequently traveling as a Lenovo employee. “I sit in New York, but we don’t have an office in New York. So I’m a mobile employee, and I probably am at home two weeks out of the month and traveling the rest of the time,” she says, adding that her team is spread around the world, from Australia to Scotland to Singapore to Malaysia. The key to leading her team under those circumstances, Buzzetto notes, comes in the form of communication, which has led to most of the team working together for upward of a decade.
Additionally, the new headquarters are organized by “neighborhood,” giving teams and departments general areas where they typically congregate—though employees are encouraged to find other spaces that might suit them, depending on the day and the projects they’re working on. “If you’re going to have meetings with procurement, maybe you want to sit near the procurement team,” Buzzetto says. These neighborhoods may incorporate phone booth–style spaces for quiet work, small café spaces with picnic tables for group work, and window benches for more relaxed options. “We wanted to provide the environment that would be best for whatever tasks those employees are doing for that day,” she says.
“We decided from there that we could make the move to consolidate our Raleigh locations, moving a thousand people into our main US campus,” Buzzetto explains. “We’re starting to utilize more and more flexible work space so that if we learn an employee needs a space in Madrid, [our partner] OfficeNetwork will go out to all the providers and be our broker for us and get this space.” Under this plan, 20 percent of Lenovo’s space is flexible workspace—and Buzzetto envisions that number growing. “That gets you up and running very quickly, and you have greater flexibility,” she says. “You’re not locked into a long-term lease.”
But even then, related factors like parking and continued improvements to comfort and accessibility became the next hurdle. As Raleigh’s public transit system is still in its budding stages, the need for parking is a massive concern for Buzzetto’s team, and a new parking structure was built. Next came redesigning the space to incorporate height-adjustable desks and add quiet spaces as well as soft furniture and improved acoustics. Buzzetto’s team planned the development of buildings on the campus based on who would be working out of them. “One building, which is Platinum LEED-certified, is dedicated to key inside sales, which is about 80 percent millennials, so we built that space with that demographic in mind,” she says.
Once spaces were built, the team had to work out educational materials to show the thousands of employees the benefits of their new space and what could still be improved. “We engaged in a workplace transformation program, which started with interviews with the senior leaders, then middle management, and then roundtables with employees,” Buzzetto says. “The final move will be people from our other campus into this location.”
And as Lenovo makes these big changes, Buzzetto has found that leadership is growing more and more excited—and employees are more and more involved with the administration. “We’re remodeling our workspaces around the world, and these flexible offices are getting people up and moving as well as actually interacting more with executives,” she says. “We’re seeing so much more interaction and collaboration. There’s just a buzz around, and this isn’t the environment that we’d had before.”
“Deidre is one of the most forward-thinking executives in the world of corporate real estate,” says Brian Dice, CEO of OfficeNetwork, a company that specializes in providing nontraditional workplace solutions and has worked with Lenovo in the past. “She clearly understands how to harness the power of the flexible workplace and has led Lenovo to change its global real estate strategy to one that matches the company’s need for workplace agility.”
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