Office? What Office? The Cloud Lets Companies Re-Think Traditional Office Space
There still exists the assumption across some businesses that for a company to succeed, it must have physical offices throughout a region. Whilst this may have once been the case, this is no longer true. Businesses can easily spend more than £15,000 per month to rent an office that frequently has fewer than ten people in it. That money could be better spent building esprit de corps for a growing team, or on other startup needs.
With cloud technology companies have the freedom to go office-less, or at least office light, strategically placing offices only where it makes sense to do so. That’s what we’re doing at Coupa as we expand to Europe and Asia. For internationally growing companies such as ours, to lease and provision offices in every country would be prohibitively expensive. With the cloud, it’s not necessary. We’re finding we can not only grow headcount and develop a very strong, cohesive culture, without growing infrastructure and overheads.
Office as a Service
Just as the cloud provides capacity on demand, companies can use registered virtual offices, which provide a fixed business address with office space on demand. Teams can meet there on a regular basis and rent conference rooms as needed. Meetings can be held on customer sites, in airports and, of course, coffee shops, letting Starbucks pay for changing the light bulbs, sweeping the floors, and taking out the rubbish.
CRM system, company intranet, storage, email and shared files can all be put in the cloud. Off-the-shelf PCs and Macs can be bought to allow for BYOD. Employee credentials for full access can be emailed to them on their start date allowing them to get to work straight away. Businesses don't need an IT person in their market – unless you count the Genius Bar.
The cloud is about elasticity – scaling up and down as needed. It’s about shared infrastructure. It enables mobility, letting people work wherever and whenever they want to. It’s fast to deploy and staff members can get up and running quickly. And it integrates with everything allowing information to be shared quickly across multiple platforms.
A New Way of Working
In turn, this infrastructure enables a different way to work, and in my experience, the culture that has emerged mirrors cloud principles: Lean, mobile, agile, efficient – and optimised for collaboration.
In any central location where you might put an office, most people would have to spend an hour or so commuting each way. Eliminating that commute is one reason a lean team can achieve as much work as a much larger organisation. There’s not a lot of overhead involved in getting down to business.
Communication is more efficient too, tending more toward frequent, short texts, chats and emails than long group meetings.
This kind of culture doesn’t work for everybody. You have to be able to handle the pace, because without a lot of meetings and cycles spent on decision making, there’s very little standing between you and execution.
You also have to be organized and disciplined. You can’t sit around in your knickers all day watching Cricket on the telly. Everybody has to pull their weight, or the rest of the team will feel it very quickly.
And, though it sounds counterintuitive, you have to be highly collaborative. You might be working alone at home on your own schedule, but you still have to be fully engaged with the team and the work day in and day out. We may be spread out, but we’re actually very connected – just like the cloud.
Questioning the Status Quo
The beauty of the cloud is that it frees up organisations to focus on what's critical. Now that businesses don’t have to build out their own IT infrastructure, you may not even need physical offices anymore. Businesses need a core accounting system and certain elements of infrastructure but beyond that, the cloud lets you question the status quo.
There was a time when companies used to generate their own electricity and pump their own water, striving for full vertical integration. Times have clearly changed, and this is no longer recognised as a sensible strategy.
As companies evolve, at some point their structures may change. As they grow they need to constantly monitor and fine-tune ways of working to make sure they stay competitive and optimised. So far, I haven’t heard anyone say, “When are we going to get an office?”