Spark is a New Zealand superpower in the telecommunications and digital services industry. This fast-paced, ever-changing environment is hard to keep up with on the outside so one can only imagine what happens behind closed doors. Love Your Workspace got the inside scoop on what Spark has been up to and where it sees the future from an office occupier perspective.
How long have you been with Spark and what roles have you had within the business?
I left the law firm, Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, about three years ago to join Spark as Senior Legal Counsel of Property. That was the first time Spark had a dedicated inhouse lawyer for property, infrastructure and construction so it was a fantastic opportunity to build a practice in a unique area of Spark’s business. I took up the Chapter Lead of Property role when the business flipped to Agile last year.
What does the Spark property portfolio cover and what are the key challenges?
Spark’s portfolio crosses most property sectors, including corporate, retail, industrial, data centres, exchanges, and infrastructure like pay phones and mobile cell sites. The key challenges are aligning our property strategy to an incredibly fast-paced progressive organisation and planning for developing and future technology.
The Spark business has just been through massive change in the past 12 months going all Agile. How would you describe what Spark has done and how this has transformed the business?
There are various ‘flavours’ of Agile. In the Spark context, Agile isn’t just a new process or a team structure, it’s a culture and mindset. We rapidly shifted the entire organisation to Agile, transforming the way we work right across the business.
What were you looking to achieve by moving to Agile?
We were looking to enhance three areas of our business model: customer centricity, employee engagement, and speed to market. By putting the customer at the centre of everything we do, and empowering our people to make the right decisions at the right time, we’ve improved the speed that we develop new ideas and capabilities.
How have you been measuring the output to ensure the move has been a success?
In my squads, success is showing up in faster and more efficient project delivery, and new creative thinking around automation and process to simplify the way we work. There’s a greater level of transparency so the squads are aligned on objectives and key results (OKRs) which keeps us focused on priority work, and new employee empowerment is resulting in higher levels of engagement.
What has been the biggest internal challenge with Agile?
Mindset. Change isn’t always easy but it feels like we are now fully engaged and Agile is part of our DNA.
From an office occupier perspective how do you see workplace evolving to keep up with this new way of doing things?
If you’re ‘boots-and-all’ Agile like us, your workplace will include less meeting rooms and more collaborative and project areas, large squad benches, stand up spaces, interactive technology on the floors to help solve team geographical challenges, software that tracks targets, break out areas and squad lounges, as well as large spaces to hold ‘town halls’. With a focus on collaboration, we are seeing more activity around our buildings and social interaction.
Has Spark rolled this out across the country?
Yes. There are some areas of the business that are Agile Heavy, like Property, and some that are Agile Light, like contact centres and stores whose day to day work revolves around customer interaction.
How has the Property team employed Agile?
There was no rule book on how to flip a Property team to Agile so we’ve had a bit of fun writing one! We predominately run Kanban boards, hold daily stand-ups, implement workstreams via sprints, and measure targets via software solutions. We’ve made a few mistakes along the way but that’s okay - we now know what works and what doesn’t in our space.
Where do you see the future of office space in Auckland?
The trend of co-working will accelerate in the CBD, and corporates will look to consolidate and reduce their footprint via these spaces as well as suburban satellite hubs. I’m interested to see whether the co-working model builds momentum at a community level. Ngahere Communities in Manukau is a great working example of how a grass roots initiative can connect local entrepreneurs to help develop a South Auckland innovation ecosystem.
How is the Internet of Things (IoT) going to shape the offices of the future?
Managing and monitoring the likes of energy, equipment, environment quality, and spaces via IoT is a game changer for our industry and it’s incredibly exciting being front and centre of emerging prop-tech at Spark. The obvious wins are cost out, increased FM and asset management efficiencies, and real time data that shapes premises utilisation via relatively inexpensive technology.
How is Spark employing IoT at present?
There are a number of initiatives underway, including asset tracking, power meters, smart sensing, smart cities, and we’re partnering with the likes of Parkable, which is a win from a property management perspective.
Do you have any exciting office projects that you would you like to tell us about?
‘Spark Square’, our new Christchurch HQ, is Spark Property’s most exciting project this year. We’re bringing all our Spark people together under one roof for the first time in nine years and we are 100% committed to getting it right. We site selected in Cathedral Square to help foster business confidence and promote growth and are heavily invested in delivering a community-friendly development.
You are clearly a busy lady; how do you balance a hectic business life and your personal life?
Some days not very well! Balance is a challenge but this year I’ve committed to allocating my work time more wisely, and consciously setting aside more free time, primarily because I’d like my teams to do the same.
People reading this publication have a keen interest in commercial real estate and workplace design. Is there any particular message you’d like to get across?
With an increasing focus on AI and automation, a property team or development’s success hinges on being able to curate positive human experiences in technology heavy environments. Our success with rapidly delivering large scale property initiatives is attributable to Spark Property keeping our people and customers at the heart of our decisions, and we’re immensely proud of that. Maintaining human connection is critical to the wellness of the business and its people.
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