Yarra Valley Water eyes activity-based working

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Yarra Valley Water eyes activity-based working

New building to launch with thin clients, laptops.

Victorian utility Yarra Valley Water will look to replace some 650 Dell desktops with a mix of thin clients and laptops as it moves towards “activity-based working” next month.

The move will kick off with the launch of a new building at the utility’s headquarters in Mitcham, Victoria – its first major revamp in more than 30 years.

According to Yarra Valley Water chief information officer Leigh Berrell, the company began considering activity-based working as a means to improve employee engagement in 2008.

The new model will be deployed in stages across the five buildings in Yarra Valley Water’s headquarters, with the project expected to conclude in 2014.

Under activity-based working models at the Commonwealth Bank and Macquarie Group, staff have no assigned desks, and choose to work in meeting rooms, cafe-style booths, or along benches in an open-plan office each day.

Yarra Valley Water will adopt a watered-down version of the model, offering modern collaborative spaces, private areas, as well as the traditional assigned desk.

Only half its staff will receive Dell laptops running Windows 7 natively. Others will access virtual desktops via Citrix thin client devices, which will be installed at certain desks and meeting rooms.

In total, more than 700 laptops and thin clients will be deployed for Yarra Valley Water’s 650 office-workers.

Berrell said staff would receive the new hardware as their Dell desktops reached the end of a three-year lifecycle.

He said the utility would continually assess new hardware on the market, predicting the eventual adoption of tablet devices with “docks” that allowed them to function like laptops.

Yarra Valley Water currently hosts 220 iPad devices on its network – only 60 of which were purchased by the organisation for work purposes.

Berrell said he was also evaluating Samsung Galaxy tablets.

Lining up technology ducks

Speaking at the CIO Strategy summit in Melbourne this week, Berrell said the project hinged on issues of mobility, paper, noise, communication and knowledge management.

He presented photos of “typical examples” of Yarra Valley Water workspaces with multiple boxes of paper beside each desk.

“We’ve got a lot of hoarders in the organisation; no one can ever find anything [in the clutter] but it’s like a security blanket,” he said.

To prepare for the new activity-based workplace, Yarra Valley Water engaged Canon to scan its paper records into a digital form that was stored in Sharepoint.

Some 60 percent of the paper was discarded; the rest was moved to an off-site archive.

Although Berrell said that activity-based working was not intended as a cost- or space-saving initiative for Yarra Valley Water, he expected staff to require only ten to 15 square metres each under the new model, instead of 15 to 20 square metres traditionally.

The utility has worked with business consultancy DEGW on change management for the past year, educating staff with posters and weekly videos featuring Yarra Valley Water executives.

IT integration work was done by an in-house team.

Berrell said the project was “not very capital-intensive”, describing the hardware refresh as “cost-neutral” because it was timed to coincide with the retirement of existing devices.

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