User adoption case study: N-vest at UBM


In the last issue of AV News, we set out the principles and techniques of User Adoption (UA) measurement and monitoring. This month, we report on the experience of an end-user using the techniques of UA to plan and implement a new workforce collaboration solution When international media and events business UBM planned its move to a new London HQ packed with digital technologies to enable a new agile working practice – N-vest joined the team to design and deliver an effective User Adoption strategy.

Early in 2015, UBM, a global PLC active in publishing, B2B communications and events, moved its London operation to the top nine floors of a new smart building near the Thames – 240 Blackfriars.

This was more than just relocation. UBM seized the opportunity to adopt a new agile way of working, designed to give its workforce choice, autonomy and flexibility, as well as to attract and retain the best talent, specifically millennials, the term given to the generation reaching young adulthood around 2000 (see boxout).

UBM’s agile working method is highly collaborative. It also relies on its 400 staff’s use of a range of new technologies, including personal smartcards, room booking and room control systems, interactive touch screens and videoconferencing systems – ten times the AV of its previous premises.


Agile working


Staff would no longer sit in hierarchical teams but select where and how to work each day. Using their personal smartcard, they select a desk using the touch screens and book meeting or space using the room booking system.

Once workspace is booked, the workstation automatically powers up ready for use and powers down when they leave. Their personal smartcard also powers up the meeting space from the lights and climate control to the AV, so it is ready for use when they arrive at the booked time.

“Being faced with a new building, a new way of working and a ton of new technology all in one go is a scary prospect for anyone – let alone anyone who’s change resistant, unfamiliar with AV technology or nervous of it,” explains Pip Thomas, MD of N-vest.

“When you’re changing how 400 staff work overnight, the challenge is huge. It was essential all UBM staff understood the technology from day one – what’s available and how to use it – or they would struggle to get any work done. It could have been the ultimate nightmare scenario – frustrated staff, an IT support team snowed under by high demand, damaged productivity and low morale,” Thomas adds.

The move was meticulously planned to avoid this, with a 12 month change management process in the run up to the move in February 2015.

Project manager for UBM at the time, Tom Holden explains: “UBM’s move to 240 Blackfriars was a huge change for its staff. The previous location had a typical 1-2-1 desk environment with a small number of meeting rooms, poorly-equipped with technology.

“Over a single weekend their working lives were transformed by the new hot-desking environment and the huge number of agile working spaces, nearly all equipped with technology.

“There were two specific training challenges: a workforce more familiar with piles of paper and pens than HDMI cables and whiteboards and an incredibly varied technology estate across differing agile working spaces.”

N-vest, brought in by AV contractor Vanti, both designed the training programme but also developed a strategy to drive User Adoption. This meant focusing on putting the people not the technology at the heart of the training process.

“Our brief was short and simple,” explains Thomas, “to make sure staff had the confidence to explore and engage with the technology in the meeting spaces, including the room booking system, interactive collaborative meeting technology and video conferencing.”


N-vest’s first move was the discovery process, assessing the myriad meeting spaces and the specific technology within them. The N-vest team ensured they understood the new agile collaborative working culture and how UBM expected to benefit. Most importantly, they identified who would be using the new solutions – their age, job functions and responsibilities and level of experience with appropriate technologies before engaging with individuals to understand what the staff needed and wanted.

The resulting training prepared staff for the massive change in way they work, ensuring they understood the agile working spaces available to them – and the technology within them, feeling confident, competent and motivated to do so.

N-vest mirrored the non-hierarchical approach of the new culture and its emphasis on choice and autonomy in the structure of the programme. Courses were optional and made available to mixed ages, levels of seniority and job function. Sessions were highly interactive with staff learning actively – by doing, not listening.

A team of four trainers delivered three courses on multiple occasions in the weeks before the move: a snappy AV introduction gave an overview of the exciting new technology and spaces to give a taster and build confidence. Two further in-depth courses covered videoconferencing and digital whiteboarding – technology new to the UBM team.

All courses were held in the new offices, and were highly interactive and hands-on with attendees not trainers pressing the buttons after the first few minutes.

Engagement and motivation

“None of the courses were mandatory, adds Holden, “and attendance increased rapidly once people returned to the old office with their personal feedback, requiring additional rounds of training.”

“Sessions were open to all staff, irrelevant of position and no specific groups trained on their own. This really helped to increase the number of ‘I could use this space to…’ ideas being thrown around in the training sessions.”

“Training was delivered to executives, alongside junior administrators, legal experts and software developers. The level of technical expertise and confidence varied wildly, from individual to individual, from position to position – something N-vest trainers handled incredibly well, leveraging the more confident and competent candidates to help those who found everything just too new.”

The N-vest programme also provided practical support in the first days after the move. A series of drop-in days with trainers available in meeting spaces to help and advise, as well as floor-walking to step in proactively and to provide advice, assistance and trouble shooting.

 Measurement and evaluation

The majority of UBM staff attended the AV Introduction course with N-vest interacting with approaching 95% of UBM staff members over the programme’s duration.

“The final result was delivered on the Monday of move-in,” explains Holden. “As you walked around the building you could see almost every space occupied and the technology being used. People were exploring the functions of the rooms, experimenting in unexpected ways.”

“The N-vest programme efficiently delivered what was required – confidence with staff engaging with the sizeable capital investment on a daily basis, without additional burden on the IT support team.”

“We’d expected a huge uplift in IT support given the increased AV estate and a near ten-fold increase in technology equipped rooms,” Holden adds, “but it simply did not happen. The minor rise quickly stabilised to the previous usual level.”

“All too often organisations assume that if they buy technology, it will be used,” says Thomas, “but this is a dangerous assumption, particularly when that technology is designed to create such major change as at UBM.”

“UBM not only had a clear vision for their organisation, they and their contractors also embraced the idea that user adoption was absolutely fundamental to realising that vision. As a result it has been not just a successful deployment of new technology, but the start of a new, exciting way to work for the people who together are UBM.”

UBM meeting technology uncovered

A range of meeting spaces provide brainstorming, collaboration, video conferencing and meeting facilities, which are booked using the AMX Modero meeting room booking panels or the Manhattan room booking software.

Power switches on automatically just before the meeting starts, providing appropriate lighting climate and ready-to-use audio visual systems.

Meeting rooms for 4 to 6:

  • 40-inch NEC flat-panel display with auto-source selection enabled
  • Logitech USB webcam
  • AMX Hydraport containing HDMI, VGA+, USB and power connections

Meeting rooms for 6 to 8

  • 55-inch NEC flat-panel display
  • AMX touch panel
  • Polycom Spider phone
  • AMX Hydraport containing HDMI, VGA+, USB and power connections


Meeting rooms for 10 to 12

  • 2x 55-inch NEC flat-panel display
  • AMX touch panel
  • Crestron AirMedia AM-100 for wireless presentation from any mobile device
  • Polycom Spider phone


Telepresence Lite rooms

  • 65-inch NEC flat-panel display
  • AMX touch panel
  • Polycom RealPresence Group 500 video conferencing with Polycom EagleEye III HD camera
  • Gooseneck microphones

Project rooms

  • 84-inch interactive flat-panel display with whiteboarding capabilities
  • AMX touch panel
  • Skype/Lync conferencing facility
  • Ceiling microphones

Breakout areas

  • 65-inch NEC flat-panel display
  • AMX button panel
  • Crestron AirMedia AM-100 for wireless presentation from any mobile device


Millennials, technology and the workplace

The generation now entering the workplace, dubbed millennials or Gen Y, are the fastest growing group. Millennials are those who hit young adulthood around 2000 and have different attitudes to the current dominant group – the baby boomers of Gen X, born from the 1960s to 80s – and the other three or four generations now working together in many organisations.

Millennials are skilled in technology and digital communications, have a strong need for social interaction and like working in teams. They have lots of energy, are self confident and work-life balance is important to them. They have high expectations of their career and look for flexibility, choice and continual feedback.

240 Blackfriars provided UBM with ten times the meeting space of its previous premises, with a myriad of spaces for different types of meetings, project team gatherings and brainstorming sessions.

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