IKEA

Prototyping the future workplace

Case movie

 

 

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IKEA is known to man, woman and child as the world's largest furniture retailer. We were asked to investigate new digital possibilities for their IKEA World of Working Office. Our work resulted in several digital prototypes that will improve the everyday life of IKEA co-workers.

 
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The Hubhult office is activity based. It is created to support future needs and Growing IKEA Together – 2020.
 

The problem and our approach

IKEA recently began implementing a new way of working based on Activity Based Working (ABW), hoping this will help them become more productive, more space efficient and a more enjoyable workplace. As we all know, big changes bring big worries: would ABW actually help productivity? Would it become harder to find each other? Would the social life at work suffer? These are just some of the challenges we set out to solve.

 
 
 

Big changes bring big worries: would ABW actually help productivity pr would it just become harder to find each other?

 
 
 

One of the biggest challenges was that the scope was more or less endless. Millions of different activities and functions go on in IKEA offices in a day, so mapping and studying them could have kept us busy for years! Therefore we started the project with two weeks of research. We interviewed, observed and workshopped with IKEA co-workers. We quickly narrowed down to a list of prioritised areas, including visualizing activity in the office, finding co-workers and quiet places and making meetings better.

 
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Millions of different activities and functions go on in IKEA offices in a day, so mapping and studying them could have kept us busy for years! 

 
 
 

We started the project with two weeks of research. We interviewed, observed and workshopped with IKEA co-workers. This resulted in a list of prioritised areas, a mix of problems and desired effects. 

 
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Design sprints

In the second phase we divided our time into "sprints". We based it on Google Ventures' design sprint, a 5 day process where you answer critical questions through designing, prototyping and testing ideas with customers. We repeated the prototype and testing stage of the process, extending the sprint to 10 days. Because the prioritised areas were so broad, this allowed us to look into many different variations. 

 
 
 

At the end of the sprint everyone in the test group could leave anonymous feedback. This feedback helped us decide what to focus on in the following design sprint.

 
 
 

Each sprint focused on one area on our list of priorities. Concepts we believed had the most potential were tested and refined. We created a wide range of material for these tests, from storyboards and mockups to movies and functional prototypes. At the end of the sprint everyone in the test group could leave anonymous feedback. This feedback helped us decide what to focus on in the following design sprint.

 
 
In the second phase we divided our time into "sprints". We based it on Google Ventures' design sprint, a 5 day process where you answer critical questions through designing, prototyping and testing ideas with customers.
 
 
 

From idea to reality

Building something new is never easy. Even if initial concepts proved to have promising effects, it didn’t guarantee the product was viable to build. 

To curb this risk we were constantly building and iterating on prototypes. Clickable prototypes built with invision and Simulape (our own prototype tool) helped us gain insights, but sometimes it was hard for the IKEA co-workers to give feedback when we couldn’t replicate the functionality we needed to test. To support the prototypes, we created supporting storyboards or movies that could better express how the product could be used, in the right context. 

 
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A early concept with the working title IKEA Meetup, a movie and a prototype were prepared to test the idea. 
 
 
 

From prototype to product

As the project progressed we made the prototypes more “functional” by using real data and user input. With these prototypes we could learn about technical aspects, like if the data quality would affect the product value, and how different frameworks could create new possibilities. It also meant users could test the products on their own without an interviewer guiding them. A small group of IKEA co-workers used the prototypes in the activity based office for a couple of weeks. The data and feedback we collected helped us further improve the user experience. 

 
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Building something new is never easy. Even if initial concepts proved to have promising effects, it didn’t guarantee the product was viable to build. 

 
 
 

Honouring an icon

Throughout the design process, we wanted to pay homage to the strong brand IKEA have built over the years: a Scandi-rooted identity that is simple and functional while keeping a human, humorous touch. Looking to the future, our design extended beyond screens to incorporate IOT (Internet Of Things) elements like smart lamps and spaces. 

 
 
 
 

Built to scale

To future-proof the products, we built them on top of what we like to call a mediating layer. With this solution we could disconnect the adapters, business logic and rest APIs from the clients, and build a scalable solution that enhanced and optimised the user experience.

 
 
 

This allowed us to prototype on multiple touch points and find the best solutions on the best platform for the job.

 
 
 

The mediating layer also makes it possible to build an ecosystem of products integrated into the IKEA IT infrastructure. The products were all built on IKEA's new Office 365 and the Cisco Wifi plattform. These platforms had new capabilities which the products could be build upon. 

 
 
With this solution we could disconnect the adapters, business logic and rest APIs from the clients, and build a scalable solution that enhanced and optimised the user experience. 
 
 
 

The result

After working with these questions one thing was clear: tools we use in the workplace today will still work tomorrow, but in an activity based office they need to work even better, and be more flexible. Co-workers on the go needed the freedom to transition between devices that were best for each context.  

An activity based way of working also increases the need for information, as co-workers being able to work wherever they like makes it harder to find each other and keep in touch. New types of tools such as IKEA Activity and IKEA Visibility have been proposed as solutions for this.

 
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See the full story about the work we did for IKEA in this case film (3 min)
 
 

By merging data sources that have previously  been kept separate, and also incorporating new data sources, IKEA can create a flexible ecosystem with a suite of tools that helps IKEA co-workers to choose when, where and how to work.  As a result, working life becomes simpler and more productive. Which also means more fun.

 
 
 

As a result, working life becomes simpler and more productive. Which also means more fun.

 
 
 
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Tools we use in the workplace today will still work tomorrow, but in an activity based office they need to work even better, and be more flexible.

 
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