ABCN STRATEGIC SUMMIT 2015: BIG IDEAS AND A NEW LANDSCAPE FOR THE FLEXIBLE WORKSPACE INDUSTRY
By Andrew Debenham, Global Account Manager at essensys
I had the great privilege of attending the ABCN Strategy Summit 2015 that recently took place in Washington D.C. – a highly inspiring location (incidentally ranked No. 1 on Forbes’ list of America’s Coolest Cities) that I was delighted to discover and perhaps explore in more depth than anticipated, as I got lost during my day one morning jog!
But back to the Summit… As always, impeccably organised by the ‘A’ team from Alliance Business Centers and compered by its Chairman and industry leader Frank Cottle, the Summit was a vibrant forum with sharp and punchy presentations and a rich spread of global business centre expertise. This was not your traditional conference! It felt more like a big family reunion, punctuated by fast-paced discussions where everybody in the audience participated.
Utopia or soon-coming reality?
What particularly resonated with me were Frank’s reflections on the key elements that will positively impact business centre revenues in the near future:
The best company valuation lies in the ability to provide Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and wholesale membership services that can serve clients anywhere.
Distil this down into business centre terminology and we are of course talking about the technology platforms that underpin business centres the world over, and the ability for centres to sell more than just sq ft.
The ability for clients to tap into a massive infrastructure that can deliver lots of services is a sure way of driving additional income for flexible workspace providers. We are all very much aware of the growing importance and even necessity of understanding and satisfying the requirements of the always-on modern consumer who wants fast, 24/7 access to a myriad of digital and IT services.
So the idea of offering such services to in-house tenants, exiting tenants and even those businesses who are on the other side of the world is becoming increasingly attractive to operators as they seek to ultimately improve the bottom line, whilst remaining relevant and competitive.
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Why sell only your own office space?
As Frank reiterated, you don’t have to just sell office space but also, you don’t have to sell just your own office space! We are part of a huge community of business centres (around 8,500 globally excluding Regus) and the industry must capitalise on this.
All ABCN members could club together, whilst of course keeping their own identity, to form one of the largest networks available for workers who not only travel but also scale up and down businesses and have evolving needs.
Let’s imagine for a moment the incredible level of flexibility and convenience this model could offer and the fantastic experience for business owners and employees worldwide, and of course the additional sales for operators.
Does that sound like a utopian world? Not really. To a certain degree, real estate brokers have done this for years, building their own, often large communities and bringing the industry together. Today, the Instant Offices team (who was also present at the Summit) take it one step further by handling big corporate office space requirements in different locations and on a global scale.
Software for self-service
Another key message from the conference was using software to promote self-service and enable end users to purchase, provision and monitor their own services, whether it be a telephony, bandwidth or virtual offices.
It’s an ideal win-win scenario that we all dream of. But in reality, how many operators can truly offer on-demand infrastructure and digital services that clients can self-manage at their own convenience?
Going forward, business centres have a wonderful opportunity to form a global community where clients can easily move around and consume services on tap within a constantly evolving ecosystem. Such pretensions are not idealistic but totally achievable, and technology will help us join the dots. We really are not far off.