A peek inside Avanade's new wireless Seattle headquarters

Find out about a new wireless deployment that's improving productivity at the Seattle HQ for Avanade.

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One of the cornerstones of Avanade is running its business the way it advises clients to operate theirs. With that in mind, when Avanade was moving to new headquarters last September, it included a new wireless deployment to bring in modern workplace features that would improve productivity and give employees a 100% wireless environment.

"We really wanted to embrace as much as possible what we felt was going to be the technology that would allow our workers to really live that modern workplace ideal that a lot of companies, including us, are trying to strive for," said Joseph Paradi, senior director of ITS Infrastructure for Avanade, which is a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft.

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The new headquarters has an open floor plan with collaborative work spaces in a wireless environment that maximizes productivity.

"One of the things that we thought was really important was to really make a statement about wireless as the only way that you connect. We're a very flexible workplace environment, so there's no assigned desks. There's no assigned offices. Everything is touchdown or reserve as you need spaces. We've got more work spaces where there's a monitor, and we have touchdown spaces which you might be sitting side-by-side like you would at a Starbucks," Paradi said.

This is the first fully wireless Avanade office.

"We don't even have wired connections available at the desks. We made that sort of a bold statement. We're going to bet on 100% wireless because the reality is for most of us in our home lives, we already did that a couple years ago. I don't remember the last time I plugged in anything in my house. And so, that was kind of the background of what we wanted to build. And so, we made the call to say, 'Hey, let's make this office 100% wireless.' We partnered with Aruba on doing that, and it's been a great success," Paradi said.

Offering unstructured interactions with colleagues is an essential component of the collaborative work environment of the office.

"Seeing somebody in the office and saying, 'Oh, hey, I think you're working on something similar, or I might be able to leverage some stuff that you have been doing,' and just walk over to maybe a high-top table, a little collaboration room, or even sit down in the café a chat about something that you can share knowledge and experience between two people or two groups of people. In order to do that effectively, a lot of the times, you're going to be bringing something up on your laptop. You're going to be showing them a prototype. You're going to be showing them a design, right? And so, I can have my laptop, or anybody can have their laptop, and simply walk around the office, get great connectivity wherever they are, be able to work with any colleague, and that really gives us that flexibility and fluidity of the interactions between individuals and between groups that we're looking for."

"That's really been a game changer. One of the things that both we, and I think other companies, are looking for is: How do you make it easy, make it really low friction for those interactions that are unplanned that can be really valuable?"

There's also a mobile app that allows wayfinding for those not familiar with the building, whether they're new employees or employees from another location. Employees can book an office in advance, and as they approach the building, the mobile app is location aware on their phones and it will automatically check them into the reserved office so that they don't lose their seat, even if they're five or ten minutes late.

This allows for maximum flexibility with work spaces, and the app can even show employees which desks are open if they have a few hours in between meetings.


Employees in open seating workspaces at Avanade.

Image: Avanade

There's also Adaptive Radio Management (ARM), so that multiple mobile devices for each employee can go online.

"With ARM, what that allowed us to do is to get out of the business of trying to manually manage the radio frequency within a building, so we have pretty high-density coverage with access points. But in the past, your network team would traditionally have to manage it, tune channels in different areas, watch for hotspots. What ARM does is it really kind of takes that and leverages it to automatically optimize the use of the radio spectrum within the building on each part of each floor to give every single person the best possible experience. That's super critical when you rely upon wireless as the only way that people are going to connect," Paradi said.

Giving employees a more mobile environment has increased productivity and saved costs. For productivity, employees don't have to worry about finding a place to get connected to start working. People can literally just work anywhere from the cafe to soft seating touchdown spaces to conference rooms and more. And then by not running physical wiring to different desks, there was immense savings for the wiring costs.

The wireless environment helps create a collaborative workspace. Many meetings are done over Skype or Teams, and no one has to scramble to find an HDMI cable on the conference room table if they want to connect. The workspace is clean and looks uncluttered, which gives a sense of professionalism, Paradi said.

Aruba ClearPass is being used for guest access. "What [Aruba] ClearPass has done for us is make it really easy for us to have an employee note that a guest is going to be arriving. We have a custom-built visitor application, so I can pre-register that a visitor's going to be there. Visitor comes up, checks in at our front desk, enters their email address. It prints them out a badge and sends them their Wi-Fi credentials, so now, they're fully enabled when they're within our office. That Wi-Fi network of guests is going to give them access to the public internet, but it's going to be segmented off from our corporate network in case somebody has a rogue device that they bring in."

One of Paradi's favorite features is that the office operates on ArubaOS 8 and uses the Live Upgrades features for seamless connections.

"What Aruba did with OS 8 in their new design, which we put in place, was that they implemented a technique whereby you don't go down when the upgrades happen. It upgrades in an intelligent way. You don't have to orchestrate it. It orchestrates itself, and we could have 35 or 40 APs [access points] within an office. It'll upgrade one of the controllers, and it'll start to upgrade each AP individually. It will move all the users onto a functioning AP while it does the upgrade and then move them back, and so what it does is it allows us to do upgrades in a more flexible way. We don't have to have people working the weekend and then trying to test by walking around the office," Paradi said.

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The new Avanade HQ in Seattle.

Image: Avanade