Why should you invest in a High Performance Workspace

Posted on April 5, 2011


Why should we invest in a High Performance Workspace (HPW)?  This is the most important question you will need to answer, if you are going to  invest time and money in building a new space.  This is no different from any other project or initiative.  You must have a solid business case to justify  moving forward.  Luckily, many others have laid the foundation for that business case for you.

The first step in building a business case is to identify the business need.  This should be simple.  Most companies have a standing goal of increasing the productivity of their people by a certain percentage per year.  This kind of sweeping goal has become more common due to the recent economic downturn.  The goal that my employer set, was a flat 5% increase in productivity for all of IT.  This is a very clear business need that few executives would shrug their shoulders at.

To show how a HPW can fulfill our business need, we need to validate the basic premise that the cost of facilities and furniture pale in comparison to the cost of our people.  This premise is supported by a recent study done by the National Institute of Building Sciences, in their Whole Building Design Guide.  In this study they stated, “Interestingly, the life-cycle cost distribution for a typical service organization is about 3 to 4 percent for the facility, 4 percent for operations, 1 percent for furniture, and 90 to 91 percent for salaries.”  The study goes on to promote leveraging the 3 to 4 percent spent on facilities to increase the productivity of the largest investment, people.  Now, with our validated premise, we have a low-cost target for achieving our productivity goals; facilities and furniture.  However, we still need to understand what gains are attainable by manipulating facilities and furniture to create a HPW.

There have been many studies done to prove increases in productivity when facilities and furniture are adapted to support collocation.  One such scientific study, Rapid Software Development through Team Collocation, conducted at a leading Fortune 100 company, showed the following results when collocated:

  • Productivity increased by a minimum of 65.6% in 95+% of the population
  • Pilot teams went from 14.18 FP/Staff Month to 29.49 FP/Staff Month with a SD of 7.88
  • Subsequent teams saw an increase to 49.28 FP/Staff Month with a SD of 18.52

These results are astounding and yet very common across every study I have seen.  The smallest increase in productivity that I have seen has been 40%.  These numbers leave the door wide open when we begin to create a budget for creating a HPW, especially when considering the basic premise we started with.

The fact is, properly configured collocated spaces become High Performance Workspaces by their very nature.  They promote collaboration and free-flowing communication while minimizing non-value add distractions.  In turn, sizable increases in productivity are achieved.  The Agile Manifesto and the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto promote the use of these spaces for that very reason; “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”  These things are known to be good.  If you can proceed on that premise alone, do so.  If not, use the data collected above to build a business case and get your teams what they need to be successful.