NCR campus to foster innovation and collaboration
An integrated real estate partnership with JLL helps NCR Serbia build and manage a dynamic landmark campus
One of the first LEED Platinum developments of this scale in Serbia
Inside NCR’s new technology campus in Belgrade, Serbia, thousands of NCR employees support customers around the world. Rising 10 storeys high in the Belgrade cityscape, the gleaming LEED Platinum complex aptly symbolizes NCR’s growing presence in Serbia from only 150 employees in 2011 to approximately 5,000 today.
From its origins as National Cash Register, founded in 1881, NCR has grown to become the world’s leading enterprise provider of software, hardware and services for banks, retailers, restaurants, small business, telecommunications and technology companies. While it once focused on cash registers, the company now creates point-of-sale software, digital payment systems, ATM software and much more.
As NCR has expanded its business, a real estate partnership with JLL has helped NCR acquire and manage its workplaces around the world to foster collaboration and innovation.
“JLL has supported NCR through a decade of significant growth and knows our business and leadership very well,” says Mark Tredo, Vice President, Global Real Estate, for NCR.
Creating a new technology campus in Belgrade
NCR leadership turned to JLL in 2008 to support the company’s growing footprint as it began offering solutions for the digital world and expanding operations globally. When the company wanted to expand into Serbia in 2011, JLL helped the company open its first call center in the country.
That small foothold in Serbia rapidly grew to encompass six buildings, 13 leases and a local headcount approaching 5,000. When NCR began to consider consolidating its facilities and creating an environment for innovation, it turned to JLL to prepare a business case for a single build-to-suit campus for all of NCR’s operations in Belgrade.
As NCR’s partner for facility management, lease transactions, and project management, JLL already had a deep understanding of NCR’s Serbia footprint and business organization. With a compelling business case for the development, NCR enlisted JLL to manage the construction of the new significant campus.
Campus development challenges
The new campus required stable, highly reliable technology infrastructure for NCR to meet its customers’ service level agreements. Yet, few buildings in Serbia require redundant, uninterruptible power and telecommunications connections, making it difficult to find local contractors with experience building technically challenging projects of this magnitude.
To ensure that the project was constructed to specifications, on time and on budget, JLL assigned a full-time employee to provide onsite supervision during construction. In addition, the project team retained a consulting engineer to peer-review the building systems.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, creating supply chain snarls further exacerbated by Serbia’s land-locked position. Given the materials shortages and construction schedule, the project management team had to quickly find alternative sources for supplies.
The pandemic also created complications for occupancy planning—on top of frequent design changes needed to make room for NCR’s rapidly growing employee base. As NCR was looking to exit its other leases in Serbia, it also became clear that employees could be productive while working from home. The introduction of hybrid working brought growing complexity to occupancy planning for the 100 different business units that would be using the new facility.
Meanwhile, NCR was planning to exit its other facility leases while continuing to add to its headcount as the new space was being built. With JLL’s support, NCR was able to find ways to house new personnel—as well the 35 ATMs used for testing solutions.
“As the project gained traction, the scope evolved and we were constantly confirming the budget and whether we would be able to achieve our goals,” recalls Tredo. “JLL helped us articulate the budget and schedule implications to leadership as additional personnel were being added to our Serbia operations. As a result, we were aligned with leadership on the project goals and able to proceed.”
Transitioning to the global service center
As construction progressed, the facilities team began to plan the transition to the new facility. A new problem arose: No moving companies in Serbia had ever undertaken a move of this magnitude.
Through JLL’s supplier network, the facilities team was able to secure four international moving companies. With careful coordination, NCR executed a seamless, phased move with minimal business interruption.
“As the critical link between the NCR global leadership team, project team and the local business and operating leadership, JLL was able to provide all of the core services as a trusted partner,” notes Tredo. “That allowed us to carefully manage risk associated with consolidating the critical global services from five sites into this one facility.”
In transitioning people and equipment from six buildings into the new Global Service Center, the facilities team collaborated with the business units to provide small-group orientation sessions to help employees make the most of their new building. Essential procedures included everything from using security badges to how to book a desk or a meeting room.
Return to the office—safely
Long before the campus was completed, NCR recognized that move-in should focus on health and wellbeing as the pandemic continued. The facilities and occupancy planning team spent countless hours calculating how to optimize occupancy while keeping employees six-feet apart and procuring personal protection equipment.
In addition, the facilities team collaborated with NCR’s corporate marketing team to create standard signage and communications to guide employees and visitors into and around the building safely.
Since NCR Serbia was the first NCR location to return to the office, the procedures it established were later adopted by every NCR location around the world.
Challenges of a small commercial real estate marketplace
Given Serbia’s relatively small commercial real estate marketplace, facilities management (FM) is not well-established profession in Serbia. As a result, the FM team invested time in NCR’s early years in Serbia in educating new hires, business unit leaders and landlords about the FM role.
“We’ve formed a lasting and trusted partnership over the past three years,” says Tredo. “JLL’s expertise, professionalism and persistence allow me to be fairly hands-off with the day-to-day requirements, as JLL works seamlessly with our Belgrade leadership team to operate the building.”
A high-quality employee experience was a top objective for the building. As Tredo notes, providing an enjoyable environment in which employees can collaborate, while supported by rich amenities, is a driver in talent recruitment and retention.
With employee experience in mind, finding a food service provider for the 8,000-square-foot onsite café required a new level of effort—few catering companies in Serbia had experience in operating a corporate canteen for 5,000 people. The FM team established key performance indicators to help ensure that food quality and service would always meet expectations.
Celebrating a new Serbian landmark
Today, the NCR Global Service Center in Serbia is the company’s largest European campus and a testament to the lasting power of NCR’s partnership with JLL. NCR not only saved a substantial amount over its original construction budget for the project, but also became one of the first LEED Platinum developments of this scale in Serbia.
Following its grand opening—attended by a host of luminaries, including Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic—occupancy at the new campus eventually rose to 100% as pandemic restrictions eased. The FM team plays an important role in welcoming new employees at their Day 1 experience orientation, and employees regularly enjoy happy hours, wellness challenges, blood drives, dance parties and other social events to build camaraderie.
NCR’s Global Service Center has become a Belgrade landmark and a physical reminder of how a real estate partnership can accomplish great things. In fact, NCR and JLL are now applying the lessons learned from the success of the Belgrade campus to other global initiatives, deepening the partnership to achieve significant goals.
“As a trusted partner, JLL was able to work extraordinarily well with our NCR country leader and other key stakeholders through the full lifecycle of this campus development, and most important, handle this complex consolidation during the pandemic,” said Tredo. “This would not have been possible without JLL’s strong regional leadership and the local Serbian team.”