Jive Software

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We’re going to start at the end of our tour of the new Jive Software UK HQ. We’re in Thames Valley Park, Reading, and we’ve thanked our hosts, said our goodbyes and headed back out into the cold. Normally, we’d be on our phones looking for a local taxi firm, but not this evening. Instead, we simply stroll across to the bus stop, where a free service will take us straight back to Reading railway station. We do like free!

Some two hours earlier we were alighting our taxi (we didn’t know about the free bus back then!) and making our way through a smart shared reception area before heading into the new Jive Software home. Before we go any further (forward or backwards) we should say that Jive Software is a leading software company specialising in social platforms for business communication and collaboration.

The company’s Office Manager EMEA, Debbie Howard, and Office Principles’ Head of Design, Stuart Jefferson, are on hand to meet us, and take us through to the impressive new boardroom and a very welcome cup of coffee.

‘We’d like to think what we’ve created here is ‘affordable wow’…’

‘We’d like to think what we’ve created here is ‘affordable wow’,’ Stuart grins. ‘How are we going to deliver something that still looks design-led but is completely affordable? The client said ‘We’ll have some of that!’’

0916_JIVE_102‘We started by looking at nine design firms,’ Debbie reveals. ‘Once they found out what we were doing we were fairly aggressively marketed to. If I’m honest it was quite a long and drawn-out process. Our global headquarters is in Palo Alto, California, and we had an acting Head of Facilities who was based out there. He had started the process and whittled an original five companies down to three.

‘Unfortunately he was taken ill and had to abdicate from the process. By this time I had joined the company and it was decided that it was only fair for me to go to see the five companies again – but because I was also being inundated with phone calls at this point because work was out as to what we were doing – I decided to meet with a further four companies who had phoned me.

‘It was a competitive tender process, with each of the final companies submitting their ideas and designs to us over the space of a day and half – and there was a very clear winner in our eyes.

‘The visuals from Office Principles were fantastic – and we were astounded that, when we first moved in, the space looked so much like those visuals. I was amazed by the end product.’

‘We started with a quirky, unique reception space,’ Stuart tells us. ‘Only for Debbie to tell us, just as we were about to come in and pitch, that they’d changed their requirements and didn’t really need a reception as such!

‘Thankfully, the first part of my design for the space was based around this quirky bubble façade to a desk – so it didn’t really look like a reception space. Instead it is a flexible, multi-functional meeting space.’

Heading back in time once again, we ask Debbie to tell us a little about Jive Software’s UK history. ‘We started in very small, slightly airless serviced office – it had two desks. This was 2009 and it grew quite rapidly, expanding into a suite of serviced offices. By the time I joined the company in 2012 it had outgrown that space and I quickly realised that we need more and more space as we continued to grow. That summer, for example, we practically doubled in size once again!

‘Even while we were talking about the design and development of this space it was a constantly evolving beast because of this growth. This is a really fun, quirky company that was started by two guys in California who were fresh out of college – and it has retained that young, funky vibe even though we’re over 700 people worldwide now.

‘It was very much part of the brief to capture that sense of fun. One of the company’s key values is that it is the people that make the place. We recruit very carefully and we want to provide fantastic environments. We needed a space that could attract people – but also a space that had its own identity. No two Jive spaces look the same – and everyone wanted this to look like the British office, to have its own personality.

‘We wanted to go down the design and build route, which is different from the States, where it is more formal. Having had some background in this area it was easy for me to decide that this was the way we were going to go.’

0916_JIVE_012Although Jive is clearly now at home here in Thames Valley Park, we discover that this wasn’t an automatic choice for the company. ‘I looked at around 40 spaces, across a very wide catchment area,’ Debbie explains. ‘We attract staff from a very wide geographical area, so we wanted somewhere with great services – we had to be particularly accessible to road and rail for example. It also had to have the right feel – and nothing felt quite right. Something prevented us from doing exactly what we wanted to do with a space.

‘Then the first time I came to this site, to this park, I knew it was the one – and things quickly moved forward from there.’

‘Not only do the logistics and the travel routes make sense here, it’s also about the ambience and the views,’ Stuart tells us.

‘Furthermore, this had just been totally refurbished, so it had brand new M&E and if we did have any problems we knew they would be sorted very quickly,’ Debbie adds.

‘What I love about this space is that people’s eyes are naturally drawn to the Jive space from the main reception – you can see that something different, something exciting is going on through there,’ Stuart grins as we begin our full tour of the facility. What there is here is a smart blend of warm timber and glass – which is decorated with large-scale graphics of people, giving a real sense of vibrancy and life. Then there is the extraordinary centerpiece; the Think Tank Bubble Counter. Literally brilliant.

Moving through to the main office space we find a series of clever, open acoustic meeting and quiet spaces, followed by smart open plan office space to one side (featuring sleek white Mobili systems and eye-catching seating from Orangebox) and a cool breakout zone to the other. Again, we see examples of Stuart and the Office Principles team’s vision, with dynamic splashes of colour and large-scale graphics adding plenty of interest throughout.

‘Then the first time I came to this site, to this park, I knew it was the one – and things quickly moved forward from there.’

And then we reach the bar. This is no ordinary bar, by the way. We find lovely views out over water (an idyllic summer spot for staff to enjoy a bit of the great outdoors) and the real piece de resistance: a draught beer pump, complete with tasty ale from a local micro brewery (which, our hosts inform us, is a nod to the Jive office in Oakland, where they have worked in the same way with their own local breweries).

Debbie kindly offers us a pint. We’re just about to tell her that, unfortunately, we’re driving…and then we remember the free bus. And they call this working!