Cisco recently held its WebexOne event. One of the aspects of events like this that I like is the opportunity to hear from customers about how they are using technology to transform their organization. At the event, Vivek Menon, director of product management for Cisco Spaces (formerly known as DNA Spaces), and Chris Palermo, Cisco’s global collaboration specialist, conducted a fireside chat with Alex Pop, senior vice president of voice and video collaboration at M&T Bank, to discuss how to build intelligent spaces for hybrid work.
Hybrid work is a reality. My research shows that 75% of workers will work from home at least one day a week. At WebexOne, Cisco cited research that, moving forward, 98% of meetings will have at least one remote participant. Businesses have embraced hybrid work as it offers many benefits, including flexibility, cost savings, and employee satisfaction. But there are challenges, such as security and the efficiency of the buildings, but the physical spaces need to adapt to how people work today.
Vivek Menon started by talking about a massive market inflection point. “We all call it different things,” he said. “Some of us call it ‘hybrid work.’ Some of us call it ‘return to work.’ I think one of the things that we can all agree on is how we work has changed forever since the pandemic.”
Menon said that many stakeholders in workplaces, including IT, real estate, and facility teams, worry about tech, space utilization, and leases. And, of course, there are employees who, in Cisco parlance, want the office to be a magnet and not a mandate.
Enabling intelligent spaces
Cisco Spaces is a cloud-based location services platform that provides contextual information for a location. Sensors are the key to making Cisco Spaces work, with the ability to track a number of key statistics, including building and floor occupancy, the number of people in a room at any time, along with air quality, ambient noise, temperature, and humidity.
Chris Palermo of Cisco’s collaboration organization then spoke about how Cisco uses Spaces. “The challenge is with a hybrid office; you have to figure out how much open space I need versus closed door?” Palermo said. “How much ad-hoc versus reservable? What’s the balance of hot desk versus huddle room versus touchdown room versus innovation? How do you judge all the different types of use cases?”
Palermo said that most companies still measure office performance using badge data, which leaves a lot out. “So, what do you do?” he asked. “In New York at Penn One, we capture over 5,000 data points at any moment. And those data points are what we’re using to help us figure out the assumptions we made around hybrid work, around all the different allocations and open space versus closed door.”
From those data points, Cisco can figure out what’s working and what’s not working—with the aid of the collaboration devices throughout the office that have IoT sensors built-in.
Intelligent spaces technology in action
Alex Pop of M&T Bank joined the discussion to share how M&T, with about 22,000 employees and a thousand branches across 11 states, has stayed true to its roots as a community bank. Pop described how the bank’s tech hub, at Seneca One, in Buffalo, New York, occupies 12 stories in the building.
“We could have easily taken the whole building,” he said. “But intentionally, we want to create an ecosystem to invite new tech companies and startups to be a part of the innovation for a great city.” Pop then shared M&T’s journey.
“We had telephony on Cisco, and that naturally evolved us towards Webex,” he said. “And now we are migrating much of our telephony to Cisco voice on multi-tenant. At the end of July, we implemented Slido, which was a great success. It fit our company culture, and we adopted the whole line of Cisco headsets.”
The outcomes have been a revelation for M&T. For example, what to do about “ghosted rooms”—ones that look booked in Outlook but are unused. “That’s a challenge when we only have a few hundred rooms, but you have a thousand-plus people in the space,” he said. “So, first of all, we enabled a Cisco macro to go and say, ‘If you’re not there within a certain amount of time, we’re going to release the room for the next occupant.’ It was a great insight. The other one: we realized that there is a much bigger need for ‘we’ spaces versus ‘me’ spaces.”
Based on Pol's data from Cisco Spaces, M&T converted an entire floor into “we” spaces. They eliminated all the desks and standup tables on the 14th floor in Seneca One and placed about 20 video-enabled flexible, agile spaces that make that space much more usable.
“I truly believe that we are revolutionizing how the workforce looks at the workspace,” he said. “We are also deploying Webex Connect and eager to work with the Cisco Cinematics for larger spaces.”
Palermo said that he and Pol were chatting the previous day. “You shared a quote with me yesterday saying how Cisco spaces for M&T Bank used to be a nice-to-have.” Pol interjected: “Now it’s a need-to-have.”
This case study is a lesson for anyone talking about marketing tech. It isn’t about the gee-whiz factor. It’s about the problems you solve. And, in the case of Cisco Spaces, it’s not just about being able to meet and see each other—in person or remotely. It’s about gleaning important data points that can make a significant difference in the work environment for all employees—and keep them wanting to return to the office.
M&T is on the cutting edge of future workspaces, but you need a control point, like Cisco Spaces, to make it a reality.
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research.
Read his other Network Computing articles here.