Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Internet Revolution

I wonder if in years to come the period of 2010 to 2020 will be seen as the heart if the " Internet Revolution"
We all know of the industrial revolution and the impact it had on society. We spent hours at school learning about it.
When I consider what is happening to society at present across the globe and the pace of change the majority is driven by technology and the Internet.
We have been given the opportunity to re think everything we do and how we do it. Our high street is changing and will never be the same again. Shopping habits are changing with a greater emphasis on leisure.
There is a growing adoption of flexible working. Many people no longer work from offices and spend more time in coffee shops.
In construction our biggest challenges have been coordination and communication. Advances in technology and software along with the improvement in internet infrastructure have allowed us to make huge progress over the past couple of years. I only see this increasing in the future with increasing change and innovation.
My big prediction for 2013 will be the revolution in the traditional television. I think the TV as we know it will disappear. If I was a gambling man I would put a bet on apple bringing such a device to market.
It won't be a TV more a single device which will link to the Internet for shared viewing. I think it will be the hub for the home and will be the wireless centre.With AirPlay it will allow integration between all devices.It is also likely we will see further development of the smart TV control.
As the younger generations mature the adoption of these types if technologies will increase exponentially. The use of wireless devices will be second nature.Society will undoubtably change because if this and the challenge is to predict this change and to keep ahead if it.
Companies such as comet and HMV have continued to do what they have always done and the world has changed around them.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Evolve or Die?

This week I have had to encounter one of my least favourite days of the year. As part of my contribution to the family Christmas preparations I always have a day Christmas shopping with Mrs C. It’s never much fun and I would far rather be at work!
However I can always find an angle. What I was interested in this year was how retailers were fairing in a changing market. Retail has been hard hit. Not only has it had to cope with a downturn it has had to adapt to new shopping habits. The internet has had a huge impact on the high street.

I was looking out for retailers who were trying hard and innovating. My first shop of note was Lush. A soap shop! It was new and energetic and the staff were all individual covered in tattoos and piercing. Really current.
Then there was “sweat shop” selling everything for the runner. A strong brand and a great environment. A real commitment to customer service.

Curry’s is a long standing business on the high street. However rather than standing still like Comet it has reconsidered its offer and completely redesigned the retail environment. No longer rows of TVs and HI fi.

We were in the metro centre and the Marks and Spencer store there is fantastic. I know they are struggling to maintain market share but they are certainly trying hard and are innovating. They produce good products are and they are not standing still. I’m sure they will be ok.

Then you look at those not doing so well. HMV for instance.  Still trying to sell CDs and DVD. They have made an effort to sell gadgets but I feels too little too late. I don’t believe it is a complete strategic rethink rather a desperate last throw of the dice. I think their live music strategy was far better! They are getting support from their suppliers as they also want to supply product and want to allow access to back catalogue on the high street. This is not a long term model however and is more nice market and cannot support the store sizes or location.
I believe for retailers to survive they can’t be generalist. They must find a specialist area and excel at it. If they are to be more general they must align this with a complimentary on line strategy.

When I look at the construction industry there are subtle parallels. Construction has been fortunate in that it hasn’t needed to develop or invest for the last few decades. There has been plenty work to allow a whole generation to just keep doing the same things. Shareholders have made millions during this time.
Now however we need talent in the industry and investment. Fortunately there is talent in the industry and we are seeing the younger generations pushing their way through. Investment levels are still woefully low because the models is project based.

The professions are also struggling with leadership and direction.
I believe for example the architectural profession needs to change. At present architects are trained as general practitioners. The high street equivalent of a general dealer. There is a market for this but it is generally regional and for projects p to a value of £2million.

The rest of the market requires specialists. This may be delivered in one organisation but I believe the profession should become more specialist.

For example the UK has some of the best design talent in the world. There is the potential for an executive architect function to specialise in the technical delivery of these buildings. New buildings are becoming increasing technically complex with growing legislation and energy targets.

There is a stigma to the role of the executive in the industry but for me this is an essential role. Not everyone can achieve the heights of Lord Foster earning millions per year but there are opportunities for unsung heroes.

We also have the growth of BIM and the potential this brings in relation to the coordination of the design and delivery process. There is the opportunity for lifecycle experts who can accurately demonstrate how clients can maximise the value of their investment.

What I do know is we are in the middle of a revolution and there is no going back. We are seeing many companies going out of business.

Obviously the market conditions are partly driving this but we can’t just keep doing what we have always done and wait for the market to return. It won’t. We need to respond to the market as an industry and adapt. If we don’t evolve we will die!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Asset Light Business

A few things have come together for me over the last couple of months to shape how i think business will be done in the future.

Space have dipped their toe into the office rental market over the last few months. We had some spare space in our Newcastle office as we reduced some of our teams. The idea of an asset not working can keep me awake at night. We had put the space in the hands of agents for a while but we had little interest. We decided to change the offer and market a more flexible solution ourselfes.

 We have been overwhelmed by the success. In just over 6 months we have filled all of the space and have a waiting list for future suites.This success cannot just be down to Debbie's cappuccino in the cafe.

In September I contributed to a white paper by Mitel looking ar business communication. This focussed on flexible working and home working.

At the same time we are hearing more and more about cloud computing and the move away from hardware solutions. iPad devices are selling like hot cakes.

This all points towards a different way of doing business.


Companies no longer want onerous leases for extended periods. They want space which can be flexible to suit the markets they are in.

They don't want to invest in hardware which will go out of date or tie upprecious capital.

This will effect the property market as fewer organisations are willing to committ to a traditional lease. This in turn will effect the ability to raise funds.

The serviced office does conjure a picture of a soleless environment. The new asset light solution however will be a vibrant community of businesses supporting each other. (Just like spaceworks!)


Friday, 7 December 2012

There is no recession

I trained as an architect in Newcastle in the 90s. When I reflect on the companies who were around then and were Waring and Netts competition it is frightening how many no longer are around. Long established companies such as Mckellar, Browne smith Baker,
Just checking back its been a while since I wrote a blog. This is not due to lack of interest. The last few months have been incredibly busy. When I reflect I think this is due to the current market conditions which may seem strange.Our business has diversified considerably and we are now working across a far wider geography than we have ever done before.

20 years ago we would have been able to work within our locality and focus on a single role. Our business now has a strong technology base and we are using this to work across the industry.

We still provide traditional architectural services but are using technology to add value and deliver more efficiently. We cant compete on price as we will never win the fight.

We are using our skills now in different ways. With BIM technologies we are using our skills across a wider platform. BIMstore exploits the Internet.Our VOLULA manufactured building business is using technology to deliver quicker and better.

We now travel the UK every week going where the opportunities are,taking our offices with us.

Space group grew out of Waring and Netts Partnership which was established in 1957. The world was very different then. At the time the business was on a retainer with certain clients.

The architect was top of the tree looking down on everyone else. ( I'm sure some will say nothing has changed) We re branded to become _space in 2007, 50 years after we were founded. The reason we changed the name was to allow us to be more flexible in our offer and give us the opportunity to explore new opportunities.Dewjoc and Taylor Tulip Hunter have all ceased trading in the last couple of years.

Believe it or not I am a nostalgic person.I find it sad these companies and importantly many of the people are no longer active in the industry.

I suspect the reason for the demise is the changing market and approach.

In _space we no longer mention recession. This is a government term and we need to get used to the now. I don't believe things will go back to how they were in 2007. This is how we will continue to do business. Focusing on a recession encourages you to believe we will go back to how it was before. I'm afraid this is it. There will be no going back.

The pace of change will continue to increase. Markets will continue to become more competitive. What we have to do is find the answers to business in this environment. What I know is, it needs some great thinking and lots and lots of energy.

Business is tough and we all have to focused and fit for the challenge!