3 Austin tech companies share their recipes for building a collaborative office

by Kelly O'Halloran
December 20, 2016

The design work behind an Austin tech office can include an inviting lounge or break area, a game room with shuffleboard or a ping pong table, and an open floor plan without much in terms of closed-door offices.

But there's definitely a method behind the madness. Companies use their office spaces to streamline for collaboration, create a natural buzz of energy and boost overall team happiness. We caught up with three area tech companies to hear how their office is organized and the effect it has on culture and productivity. 

 

Responses via Alison Kwong, PR manager

How is your office organized?

Bazaarvoice moved into our current headquarters last December. In our old building, employees had tall cubicle walls, and we didn’t utilize the different floors very effectively. As a result, departments became siloed, there was little in-person interaction, and it felt very dark and isolating. 
 
We designed our new workspace to be open and flexible with plenty of natural light. The departments that work together most often are stationed on the same floors. 
 
We also wanted to encourage more impromptu and informal in-person meetings. In addition to large conference rooms that employees reserve for meetings, we incorporated several small and medium-sized rooms that can be used on a first-come, first-serve basis. Our workspace also includes several collaborative spaces with sofas, comfy chairs and white boards that are often utilized organically.

What strategies were used when assigning departments near other departments?

When we moved into our new office, we assigned the marketing, sales and client success departments on the same floor to ensure more cross-functional collaboration between these teams. But as an organization, client-centricity is one of our major focus areas, so we further evolved our arrangement into sales pods, which position employees from both sales and client success together with the marketing function close by. 
 
Since all of our employees have modular, uniform workspaces, it’s easy for employees to move or re-orient their desks with minimal impact on productivity. When we reorganized into these new sales pods, 150 employees were able to roll their desks, filing cabinets, and chairs to their new locations in a short amount of time.

Why is it important to consider where teams are placed?

It’s important for companies to position teams in a way that maximizes communication, collaboration and productivity. Since we grouped departments that work on shared clients and cross-functional projects closer together, we’ve seen many more spontaneous meetings, brainstorms and hallway conversations taking place.
 
Additionally, when we host clients or new recruits at our headquarters, they see our employees working together in a bright, lively, collaborative environment. When you invite somebody to your office and have a professional facility that flows well, it enhances their experience and reinforces our commitment to creating a vibrant place to work for our employees.
 
 
 

Responses via Tara Stewart, director of corporate communication

How is your office organized?

We have an interactive, open office space. Everyone — from senior leaders to our tech support — sits out in the open in a collaborative setting. So, you’ll only find open desks and cubes in this space. The offices were intentionally converted from offices to collaborative team rooms. Now, everyone can utilize the shared spaces as needed for team discussions or private calls.  

What strategies were used when assigning departments near other departments?

Departments with complimentary work flows are seated next to each other. We’ve strived to ensure individuals are seated near those they will collaborate with the most. Our departments are grouped to allow for more facetime and greater synergy.

Why is it important to consider where teams are placed?

At Blackbaud, it is imperative that we have fluid collaboration. From our engineering to customer success teams, we believe that our customers are served best when we do not operate in silos. Some of our greatest innovations have happened when our great minds are focused on the same outcome.
 
For this reason, we’ve also provided instant messaging, video chat, and state of the art web conferencing technology across all of our locations. With our solutions providing services to philanthropic organizations, we understand the power in accelerating good in the world. To that end, we’ll continue to break down walls and build upon our shared goals. When our customers provide greater impact, everyone wins.
 
 
 
Responses via Chuck Gordon, CEO

How is the SpareFoot office organized?

Open workspaces organized by department.

What strategies were used when assigning departments near other departments?

Our growth over the past couple of years means we no longer sit together on one floor. However, we have purposefully sat design, marketing, product, analytics and engineering functions together to foster that collaborative spirit and promote an ease of working together. We take "open door" to mean no door, with our leadership team out in the open and sitting with the teams referenced above. 

Why is it important to consider where teams are placed?  

As an entrepreneurial organization, being agile and nimble is essential to scaling our business. Being able to sit next to each other means that we are able to quickly access one another for guidance or a point of view and often even seem to absorb information by osmosis just by being in the environment. 
 
 
 
Images provided by featured companies.

Got a cool workspace? Let us know here or tweet us@BuiltInAustin

 

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