Challenged to reimagine the flow and layout of Microsoft’s global research and development (R&D) centre to support its agile software development process, M Moser transformed the technology company’s legacy space in Raleigh, North Carolina from silos of private offices into a new, dynamic, open environment. The space encourages team building, transdisciplinary collaboration, employee wellness, and the easy exchange of ideas.
The design—which embodies the “One Microsoft” vision of a family of individuals united by a single shared mission—accommodates the varying needs of the company’s R&D team, industry-leading cloud division, and customer-focused sales personnel. A variety of easily reconfigured work areas support activities ranging from heads-down work to group meetings.
Understanding that Microsoft required a cultural change to achieve their goals, M Moser helped foster a change alignment process. A team of “champions” was established to generate excitement about the new office and M Moser worked closely with this “Work Implementation Team” (WIT) to determine current and aspirational ways of working and use of the space.
Additionally, the M Moser team identified the resistance against the new office layout and developed an inspirational plan to encourage staff to feel positive about their new workplace. This process played a prominent role in alleviating concerns about changes in leadership and management structure.
M Moser engaged a team of technologists, designers, and change and cultural experts in dialogue with Microsoft to connect future work behaviours with aspirational goals and create a cohesive space that informs a new way of working.
VR and AR elements were utilised —including Microsoft’s own HoloLens—to present proposed designs and collaboratively develop the layout and look-and-feel of the space. This approach which helped promote understanding and collect feedback prior to implementaton, was key to achieving buy-in of the final design.
Embracing agility and collaboration
In the agile software development method, ongoing feedback informs changes that can be made in real-time and therefore people work in highly focused teams or “neighbourhoods”. For Microsoft, these “neighbourhoods” needed to be flexible to accommodate up to 15 multidisciplinary members, at any one time.
The destination neighbourhood concept provides each team with meeting space, open workstations, heads down / focus settings, collaboration areas, and amenity space they previously lacked. The workplace motivates cross-pollination and facilitates transparency.
By activating the circulation space between neighbourhoods, the design encourages casual collisions and meeting opportunities. This, combined with a series of breakout spaces featuring semi-private booths, promotes knowledge sharing.
Moveable walls and furniture provide further flexibility, allowing the space to be continually transformed when needed. The central café area exists as a congregation space for all-hands and town hall meetings, while simultaneously providing a setting for more casual interaction.
Creating a “sensory experience”
Focused on crafting a 360-degree “sensory experience”, the space connects its location in Raleigh, North Carolina to the Microsoft brand. Taking inspiration from the Great Smoky Mountains, the workplace embraces nature with warm, locally sourced materials and graphic typography representative of the local mountain range silhouette.
Nine Appalachian mountain ridges were selected to define the nine “neighbourhoods” in the space. A series of beautiful, panoramic landscape shots were translated through a data algorithm into unique, abstract landscape visuals. The result is a fitting juxtaposition between digital elements and nature that also works within Microsoft’s design guidelines.
The space provides a strong creative connection to Microsoft’s internal art program by displaying and rotating the work of regional artists. Lush greenery, raw metals, strong copper and champagne shades, combine with white wood and warm terracotta to bring a casual, clean and fresh feel to the workplace.
Developing a digital environment
To support Microsoft’s need for client engagement areas and training facilities, M Moser integrated technology into multi-purpose rooms that serve as both breakout workspaces and client-focused sales areas. Each “neighbourhood” is fully mobile and has flexible, future-proofed workstations. Teams are able to to reconfigure the space at will while providing ample room for expansion. MEP and data connections are placed in each neighbourhood to allow for six different pre-design options, enabling hundreds of configurations without the need for additional construction.
Additional technology includes mobile whiteboards, video conferencing and virtual touch screens to encourage collaboration and enhance engagement. Several troubleshooting “Code Box” spaces provide a silent environment for focused coding work. Through human connection and digital interfacing, the new work environment implements an experiential journey for both employees and clients.
- Status Completed
- Area 40,000 sq-ft
- Completion date 2017
- Location Raleigh, NC
- Photographer Eric Laignel