Medibank upgrades IT for activity-based working

Medibank's new headquarters in Docklands, Melbourne, is being fitted out for activity-based working

Private health insurance provider Medibank is set to upgrade its standard desktop environment from Windows XP to Windows 7 as it prepares for the shift to its new Docklands headquarters late next year.

Other new and upgraded software, including Microsoft's Lync UC software and Office 2010, will also be deployed at Medibank as it prepares for a shift to activity-based working (ABW) at the Docklands HQ. Currently, the health insurer has seven offices in Victoria, which will be consolidated into the new building.

‘Frictionless’ collaboration with activity-based working
Leadership key to Medibank's activity-based working transformation

Desk phones for staff will be replaced with softphones using Lync and employees will be equipped with a standard-issue laptop to use in the ABW environment

Building completion is due in the middle of July, and staff will start moving at the end of that month, with the end of the transition due in October, said David Goldsworthy, the program director for the health company's ABW transition.

ABW does away with fixed desks, allowing employees and teams to roam through an office, occupying different spaces depending on the task and co-workers with which they are collaborating. Lockers, activated using an ID card, will allow Medibank employees to store personal effects; team storage lockers will also be available.

Key drivers for Medibank's shift to ABW the promotion of collaboration and innovation, as well as promoting a healthy work environment for employees, Goldsworthy said.

"We did a study tour to the Netherlands who have pioneered ABW and had a look at a number of organisations over there and spoke to them about the benefits they've got out of it," Goldsworthy said.

Medibank also looked at the experience of Australian organisations, including Macquarie Bank and the Commonwealth Bank, that have already shifted to ABW, as well as a number of smaller organisations.

The transition will mean a change to the delivery of IT support to Medibank staff. Instead of a helpdesk that people can call up to get a technician despatched to their desk, they can visit an Apple Store-style helpdesk that will troubleshoot problems.

Using Microsoft's System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, helpdesk technicians will be able to replace a faulty laptop with a new one that will have the suite of applications and access permissions associated with an employee.

Goldsworthy said that Medibank will also be deploying software tools to help employees locate each other in the new headquarters, based on wireless or Ethernet network connections.

Goldsworthy said the headquarters shift and the ABW transition had three streams: Preparing the building itself, deploying the technology underpinnings for ABW, and a change management component – or "people" stream, as Goldsworthy put it.

"The people stream is where we're going to spend a fair bit of our time and energy," Goldsworthy said. "Testing technology and testing a building are quite straightforward. But we're changing hearts and minds here and we're changing some deep-seated work practices and ambitions that people have had in terms of their office and some of the symbols of success."

"We've got teams moving to a more flexible environment in a halfway stage in the existing building, preparing themselves for [ABW and] understanding how it impacts their business processes," Goldsworthy said. Medibank set up a prototype area in one of its current offices to help familiarise people with an ABW environment.

"We were able to take people around that and probably bust a few of the myths that emerge – it's not such a radically different work environment that it's totally foreign to them. They can see it, touch it, and talk to people who are experiencing it and get a real appreciation of how it works and what it can do for you."

Leadership training is a key part of the preparations for the shift to ABW. One of the key adjustments "is managing by outcomes rather than managing by line of sight", Goldsworthy said. "It's a shift that is good for an organisation anyway, whether you're going to ABW or not… It just becomes a bit more necessary in an ABW environment

"The things that flow from that are the empowerment and trust and clarity of objectives. There are benefits for the employees, but there are benefits for management as well, so they can utilise their time better focussing on the strategic items that we want to do as an organisation."

Contact Rohan Pearce at rohan_pearce at idg.com.au or follow him on Twitter: @rohan_p

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