Changing trends in both the workforce and the needs of the federal government are making traditional consultants rethink their real estate — mobile workers and more collaborative projects have big names ditching the corporate offices for open conference rooms, whiteboards, and colorful open space.
Greg Pellegrino, who has been a partner at Deloitte Consulting for 17 years, said the real estate approach was much different when he first joined the company.
“You would have offices on either side of the corridors, half the doors would be closed with a partner sitting in the office working —not a lot of space for interaction,” Pellegrino told me.
But when I visited Deloitte’s Arlington offices recently, the 18th-floor digital studio looked vastly different than what you might expect: There were colorful Post-It notes on walls, the space was open, and closed offices were nonexistent.
It was not much different from the experience I had when I visited Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.’s (NYSE: BAH) first-floor “Innovation Center” in Washington.
Federal consultants are becoming more digital-focused. Government agencies are looking for new ways to engage citizens, whether that’s through their websites, their apps or the overall experience. Being a 21st century government consulting company requires a knowledge of these shifts and, most importantly, the talent.
And that’s where the biggest challenges lie for these companies. It’s also where real estate can be a differentiator to bring in the software developers, the engineers and the creative millennial workforce types that are going to help companies get in front of this shift.
In the digital, technology and cyber industries, consulting firms are “really finding it difficult to find that talent because that’s the part of this industry that’s growing considerably,” said Ryan Miller, a vice president at the commercial real estate services firm CBRE Group Inc. (NYSE: CBG).
A big part of this shift involves the move to agile development. In agile software development, software developers sit side by side with their government customers to build applications in real time. That’s in contrast to the waterfall approach of building to requirements over several months, a process that oftentimes has vendors delivering software to government customers that’s failed to keep up with the rapid pace of technology.
“That requires a very collaborative and communicative environment because government customers are forcing them to innovate at a much faster pace, so that translates to the space itself,” Miller said.
Building this type of environment, “comes down to something as simple as, where’s the kitchen located in the space?” he added.
This war for talent is a big reason why MorganFranklin Consulting, a commercial and government consulting firm, moved into a 28,500-square-foot space in Tysons.
“Companies need to compete on every possible level and we need to remove every barrier that we can remove to help employees choose us over another employer,” said Ashley Baquié, vice president and chief human resources officer at MorganFranklin.
MorganFranklin’s new office, which the company moved into on Dec. 7, 2015, has a large kitchen area and two conference rooms with glass folding walls so they can be opened up or separated from the rest of the office space as needed. The space is more open and collaborative. There are diner booths and whiteboard tables.
It’s something that’s happening across the industry.
“I think it’s space meets business strategy,” Deloitte’s Pellegrino said. “The same digital shift that our clients are going through, we’re going through.”
Tim Young, another principal at Deloitte says it goes even beyond just the real estate.
“It’s much deeper — it’s culture,” Young said. “Space has a big impact on your culture.”
About MorganFranklin Consulting
MorganFranklin Consulting (www.morganfranklin.com) is a global management and technology consulting firm that works with leading businesses and government. The firm helps organizations solve their most pressing challenges and address critical finance, technology, and business objectives. MorganFranklin is headquartered in the Washington D.C. area with regional offices in Atlanta and San Francisco, and supports clients across the globe.
MorganFranklin Consulting is the brand name referring to the global organization of MorganFranklin, Inc. and its subsidiary MorganFranklin Consulting, LLC.