EDITORS CHOICE 07.02.19

Case Study: Origin Energy, Australia

Origin Energy 1
Main boardroom at Origin Energy office in Barangaroo Sydney, Australia

When Origin Energy moved office, it decided to evaluate and upgrade its AV systems. Hurrairah bin Sohail examines how the transformation occurred.

Enacting change corporate environments is hard. Disrupting everyday work schedules to upgrade meeting rooms or trial new AV systems is also difficult to sell. So, when Origin Energy decided to relocate its office to a central location in Sydney’s Barangaroo area it was the perfect time to implement an AV change.

Daniel Valente, service delivery manager for AV and VC at Origin Energy, says: “We took the relocation as an opportunity to move from a very old way of working, which was static desks and technology that hadn’t been invested in or evaluated for a while, to a modern way of working. The move allowed us to really look at our AV systems and critically evaluate what worked and what didn’t.”

Valente took a holistic approach to the whole project: “We didn’t know what we wanted at the start. What we knew was that we didn’t want what we had. We worked with the property team and the IT team to deliver amalgamation of what I had seen on the promise of the new ideas we wanted to implement.”

Getting the conversation started early across internal departments and teams was a key to the success of the project. Valente says: “What Origin Energy had done in the past was that the property group built the buildings or refurbished the buildings. The IT department would then be tasked with outfitting the spaces with tech. This was the first time we sat down with the property team and put the tech around what was being built. So, we had conversations around things like what kind of furniture will the space have, will it be high furniture, low furniture or even barstools? What we realised was that for these agile spaces all aspects of the space have to work hand in hand or else they don’t function as well.”

Common sense and experience guided Valente’s design of the AV systems to be deployed. He details: “My strategy was an amalgamation of what I had seen in other places and what worked. It was simple common sense that dictated our direction. Obviously open spaces did not require videoconferencing because the space would be too noisy and it would annoy people, so we just looked at collaboration. If the room is closed, then we would put videoconferencing in there. Over time, the vision organically grew, and we started to make firm decisions when we were putting money down.”

The end result of the design phase was a template that Origin Energy could follow for its corporate spaces. Valente explains: “We ended up deciding on six standard designs that we could scale up and down as required. My job was to organise and catalogue these rooms into some kind of repeatable format that we can then deploy at other Origin Energy sites when the need arises. Of course, we still have our bespoke spaces that cannot be standardised and have to be looked at as they come along. These include spaces like boardrooms, training rooms and soon.”

The next step was to select the correct AV systems. Valente details how these decisions were made: “My approach to projects is based around three pillars. The first pillar is to identify the platform you will be using. For us this decision had already been made, we were going to use Skype for Business. The next pillar is to decide the mix of technology that will work for you. This was Polycom, Crestron and Samsung for Origin Energy. Making this decision was not as easy as I just made it sound. The third pillar is to develop the user interface.”

The multi-function space at Origin Energy serves as an example of this philosophy being put into action. Valente describes the space: “We have three multi-function rooms and the walls can be moved out to convert the rooms into one large space. Once it is opened up it is a really versatile space. But what that meant was that you needed to pay special attention to how the AV systems were deployed. We had to really think about how these rooms and spaces were going to be used.”

Audio is captured by Shure MXA ceiling array microphones and sound is provided by Crestron pendant speakers.

A range of Samsung screens have been deployed to provide visuals. Video transmission is done over IP with the help of Crestron NVX encoders and decoders along with Cisco network switches.

The selection of Crestron for video transmission was not an easy one. Valente says: “We are using AMX at one of our other facilities where we needed switching on a large scale. But for a corporate deployment, I found the Crestron panels were just more user friendly.”

The ‘user friendliness’ or user experience was a key consideration for Valente. He talks about the effort put into streamlining the UX: “The user experience was at the heart of the strategy I presented to Origin Energy’s board at the start of the project. I had a simple goal. Our old meeting rooms, every single one of them, was different, from the equipment they were using to the steps required to hop onto a meeting. We had to employ full time concierge services because executives could not figure out how to use the meeting rooms since they were all different. No one had thought about implementing a coherent videoconferencing strategy for the business.”

He continues: “For the changes I wanted to enact, I took the Apple user experience as a model. No one downloads the instruction manual for Apple devices. I certainly have never done that. Why? Because I don’t need to. The technology is intuitive, and you want to use it, touch it and work it out. From here we decided that all our touch points for videoconferencing were going to have three buttons. When I push a button, the menus might change, and you might get new options but it would still be three buttons. This user experience was standardised across all of Origin Energy’s meeting rooms.”

Origin Energy’s premises also feature a range of meeting spaces. The largest, the executive board- room, features a circular table with Samsung screens, Shure ceiling microphones and Crestron pendant microphones along with relevant Polycom videoconferencing. The AV systems in other meeting rooms depend on the size of the space. But a common feature across the meeting rooms is the provision of Crestron Air Media.

Valente says: “Approximately 95% of the time, at Origin Energy, the meetings are just using Skype for Business. But the Air Media in collaboration areas gives people a quick, short, sharp way of throwing content up on the screen without having to book a meeting room while they are in a Skype meeting. Since we wanted the user experience to be standardised, we also included the Air Media in the meeting rooms.”

Room booking and monitoring is provided with the help of a Crestron Fusion server. Valente says: “We currently have Crestron room booking running on a Fusion server, interfacing with Microsoft Office 365. The Fusion server is on premises right now. Our next project is to move this server to the cloud. Right now, there is a bit of lag because the server has to go to the data centre, then out to Office 365, back to the data centre and then back to the touch panel. This amounts to 10 seconds to 15 seconds of wait time for the user and we hope to eliminate this within the year.”

For the Sydney office project, Origin Energy engaged specialist AV consulting services from Innova-Tech Consulting. Matthew Loupis, managing director of Innova-Tech Consulting, took the lead on producing integration and coordinating documents for interiors and services, which allowed the building works to keep moving in parallel whilst Pro AV Solutions completed the final system integration design.

The integrator handled the deployment and commissioning of the AV systems. Jeff Lloyd, national account manager for Pro AV Solutions, talks about the integrator’s experience: “There were definitely some challenges on this project for us. At the start, as Origin Energy undertook the decisions to standardise its AV systems, there were changes in the design and the direction of the project. But we actually had the chance to sit with the client and be a part of these discussions. Even if the design was fluid, it was better than not hearing from the client at all. Exposure to the client is invaluable and their feedback was great.”

Lloyd also details how the integrator was able to foresee issues that Origin Energy might have missed and rectify them: “There are a large number of screens at Origin Energy and the architect and interior designer have not always accounted for them in their plans. On our side, we tackled this with custom brackets that we designed ourselves. These allow the display panels to be raised, not fully dismounted, so that we can access the components of the AV system which are sitting right behind. The custom brackets make it extremely easy for any repairs to be done.”

Looking towards the future, Valente identifies a similar change of approach: “This project has shown what can be accomplished with cross- function collaboration. I think the next step is to get involved in the conversation with architects. If I could change something for this project, it would be the approach architects take when they design a building because sometimes there is not enough consideration given to the tech.”