Slaughter McTone Regis' troubleshooter takes a break from BritBreak and has a taste of Nanoware's medicine as he samples life in Basingstoke.
I began my two month secondment with the team overhauling Nanoware UK this week. It's a very different operation to my principal assignment, BritBreak. Nanoware has a magnificent new building near Basingstoke, a cross between a shopping centre and a Toblerone bar. The car park seems to have been dreamed up by someone under the influence of illegal substances.
Not only is the visitors' section so laughably small that it's full all day, the rest of the parking, elegantly arranged in sinuous bays, has a serious flaw. There is no way to walk from your car to the main entrance without ploughing through flowerbeds or risking death in the middle of the road.
Reception is a cathedral of glass and chrome. Access to the interior of the building is via electronically controlled doors. Visitors aren't allowed through without a minder, making sure that they don't stray were they shouldn't. Given this, it's a shame that there aren't any toilets accessible from reception (I suppose it would be a bit embarrassing with all that glass), so any visitor who needs the loo before being met is allowed to wander freely into the building, invalidating the elegant security.
I was given a tour before a positioning session with the UK managing director. I'm told that the parent company has true open plan offices, but Nanoware UK, with typical British originality, manages to so pervert the concept that it has neither the advantages of open plan nor those of traditional offices. Each individual is cocooned by furniture so tall that it is quite impossible to see anyone else around. The opportunity to share information directly with your neighbours (or throw something at them) is entirely wasted. Yet despite killing the sight lines, these barriers do nothing for sound proofing, making the place a nightmare of noise. I could feel some recommendations coming on before I'd even talked to anyone.
After lunch in the impressive canteen, I met Irena Gretasdotter, the managing director. I was looking forward to seeing the famous Irena at last. The IT press frequently hints that it wasn't her brains that got her the job (while splashing her photograph across their pages). I found her to be charming, rather shy and extremely savvy. It was also refreshing to find a manager in Nanoware who wasn't a clone of the boyish, floppy-haired, Nanoware supremo, Jim Toren. She doesn't even wear glasses.
I waited through the opening formalities to spring my serious question.
As I went round Nanoware, I couldn't really see what the 300 staff who work there actually do. Publicity and marketing is handled by the PR company.
Support is farmed out to a third party agency. All development is done in the US. So what was Nanoware UK for? The answer will have to wait, as Irena had to fly off to Oregon for an emergency meeting with Toren five minutes after our session started.
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