I'd say the bridge looked very modular and reconfigurable from the get-go, with all those wall panels promising to reveal interesting functions, or sockets for such, if opened. The Helm and Ops stations also appear "loose" (just as in reality), as they are seen changing location between the pilot and the regular eps. The changes for ST:GEN thus don't surprise me at all.
What function they might serve, though... The back stations during the show were not used all that much, really. Perhaps the ship was prepared to take onboard a visiting party of researchers who would work directly under the watchful eyes of Picard?