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September 07, 2006

The Office of the Future

You've probably heard of the Home of the Future, but I've decided to build the Office of the Future.  Only it isn't going to be a fake room in a lab, it is going to be Gold Systems.  And not just my office - everyone's office.  Yes, everyone has an office at Gold Systems except for Lori, who has her own skylight.  Joel Spolsky aka Joel On Software just wrote about why he thinks offices are important, so I'll resist the urge to drag out THAT soapbox.

So what does this mean?  I'm asking for your help and your ideas.  I figure the Office of the Future will be a lot like the office of today, which means we don't have an unlimited budget to just buy a bunch of shiny things for show.  And unless someone brought something in from home, there is nothing here made of Mahogany.

I would expect that communications would be better in the future, and since Gold Systems's 100 year purpose is "To build a great institution that helps people communicate", we're going to start there.  We've actually made a lot of progress already but I'll write about that another time.  My day-to-day communications is already much better than it was six months ago.

I expect this will be a year-long project as we upgrade equipment, install new software and generally figure out how to make everything work well together.  Like most companies, we have equipment and software from a lot of different sources and I don't expect that to change.  If your company would like to be a part of this, feel free to email me and I'll tell you where to ship the loaner/free equipment and/or software if it fits with our plans.  (I'm not kidding - a nice contribution to the effort was just made this afternoon) If you contribute equipment or just ideas, and they work well, I'll make sure people hear about it and you'll get an invitation to our next screening of Office Space.  One lucky contributor will even get to drive the Car of the Future.  :-)

Please leave a comment below with your ideas.  Thanks --terry

September 7, 2006 in Office of the Future | Permalink

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Comments

From a developer's perspective the office of the future should allow for seclusion when needed (as simple as shutting the door) plus the office should allow ample meeting room without the developer having to leave his desk. Meeting space is usually included in manager's offices but not in developers' although they need the space too.

The desk should have the fastest computer available with at least dual 19" LCD monitors (I could argue for 3 or 4 monitors). The PC should have as much memory as possible and it would take advantage of virtual PC technology.

Meetings and interruptions should be kept to the beginning or end of a time period (i.e. just before or after lunch) Good developers employ a mix of art and science. When they get into the groove they don't need interruptions because it takes time to "just pick up where they left off" after an interruption. I can't count the times I've been debugging something which requires a tree of logical steps/thinking on my part and then get interrupted. When I get back to the problem at hand I have lost the train of thought and often have to start over.


We won't go into flexible hours in this discussion. :-)

Posted by: Marshall Harrison "the gotspeech guy" | Sep 8, 2006 7:42:54 AM

As part of my job as your assistant, I typically remind you of your next meeting and often times have to run around the office to locate you. My idea for “the office of the future” is to have a GPS tracking devise on you at all times that would enable me to pull up a map online and find your precise location. I believe it was just the other day I was attempting to determine if you were at home for lunch, or closer to the office for a 1:00p appointment.

Posted by: Angela Watson | Sep 8, 2006 11:34:07 AM

Terry - great idea! As a long time partner of yours, I'm wondering if you can't more formerly incorporate this idea with some of your partners. This type of creativity can drive all kinds of innovative ideas in your products and services. There may be an opportunity here to facilitate participation by some of your big partners, creating together new solutions for business productivity.

Posted by: Ted Bray | Sep 10, 2006 3:44:38 PM

A few years ago I attended a tour you gave of Gold System's offices. You mentioned a few ideas that stuck with me, including the logic of having real offices with doors (as opposed to cube farms) and the reason behind the little "in the flow" signs. You also showed off some of the offices that employees had painted artwork in themselves. And now that I'm jogging my memory, I remember you also talked about the need to fire unsavory employees who damaged the culture of Gold Systems, regardless of how productive they might be.

So first thing... don't change any of that.

For new ideas (this might be a little mundane), I think the office of the future should have more adjustable temperature zones. In the places I've worked, the temperature inside the office tends to be the #1 complaint. People are all geared to different temperatures and it would be very cool if offices were so flexible as to have individual worker level controls.

p.s. Angela's thought for tracking individuals is a cool idea, though I wouldn't personally want to be tracked.

Posted by: Osman | Sep 11, 2006 11:47:22 PM

How far in the future do you want to go? The obvious ideas (nicer, more well-integrated computers and comms) are mostly possible today, and in use in a lot of places already.

The fun comes when you get to the non-obvious ideas like, uh, getting rid of the office altogether. Microsoft has this thing called Workspace21 (or something like that) that tries to rethink why people need to be in the same place to get work done and they have anthropologists pontificating about the need for humans to see vegetation, running water, etc. etc. Are you going to go that far?

Posted by: Richard Sprague | Sep 14, 2006 3:47:38 PM

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