Whether you are a CRE executive managing a diverse portfolio of office properties, or a business manager looking to optimize an individual workspace, data is the big new driver of efficiency and effectiveness. Here’s a quick look at what “data-driven” means in an office context, and how it’s transforming the contemporary workplace.
Where does all this office data come from?
Meaningful information for office management dashboards can come from a multitude of sources, and managers are wise to consider and integrate a wide range of inputs. The Internet of things, and machine-to-machine communication, gets the most attention in this regard; one simple, office-related example is utility and equipment monitors relaying everything from energy use to supply levels. Passive human-to-machine input is also growing in importance, such as facial recognition, which can help track employee attendance and location, as well as improve security. And active human-to-digital contributions are providing new levels of nuance to the data available for analysis, as the output of collaboration suites and employee feedback portals enters the data stream, giving it a quality and character that is much more than just by-the-numbers.
What can data really do?
What multiple studies now show is that data — effectively used — provides competitive advantage and drives growth. In fact, one recent report found that 66% of executives say that their use of data drives competitive advantage, while another study showed that companies which gather, analyze and integrate insights across the organization are growing as much as 30 percent annually. When it comes to office-centric businesses, three main factors share in the credit:
1. Data drives office costs down
Facility owners and managers are forever searching for innovative solutions to make offices more cost- and energy-efficient, and also more comfortable and employee-friendly. Monitors have long been able to tell them how much energy is being expended where and when to adjust on a pre-programmed basis. But now, via more thorough and creative integration of data sources, managers can know who is using that energy and even, to a great degree, why. With that information, their smart systems can adjust HVAC and lighting use according to real-time need, rather than pre-set schedules, reducing expense without inhibiting productivity or employee satisfaction.
Energy, however, isn’t the only area in which data is driving savings. Improvements in space planning and office utilization can drive down the required square footage of an office building and its associated construction, rental and operational expenses. With data used to understand, create and manage flexible workspaces, employee headcounts can exceed traditional capacities, with some facilities now boasting the ability to accommodate as much as 120 percent occupancy.
2. Data drives office productivity up
Flexible workplaces can and should feature data-driven design that is less fixed, but also more enjoyable, engaging, collaborative and productive. One large financial corporation gave up traditional design, with assigned offices, in favor of an agile open office approach, informed by data on actual use patterns, productivity and employee engagement. In the new office, workers are able to use smart devices to check in and reserve spaces as necessary; co-workers can find them using the same touchscreens; and the organization is able to continually iterate its approach to office life and space based on the resulting data stream. Within five years, this company was able to reduce its real estate footprint by 54%, while also improving productivity 10%.
3. Data drives confidence in decision-making
Data, of course, does not make the tough executive decisions; it does, however, make those decisions easier, and more assured. Executives no longer have to rely solely on experience and generic industry best practice; they can gather organization-specific evidence to point in the right direction and predict likely outcomes.
But the value of data shouldn’t be defined by the traditional role of metrics. Metrics simply measure. Data, properly challenged, analyzed, and cross-pollinated should inform and inspire decisions. One leader of data science at General Electric notes that, “Data-driven companies are led by open-minded, creative executives…with the curiosity to dig into the data and glean insights from it that can be of use for the business.”
The expert quoted above goes on to say how few corporate leaders have that mindset. Do you? And are you investing in the technology, training — and shift in corporate culture — required to succeed?
The future in commercial real estate will be data-driven, and now is the time for all leaders and managers to put themselves in the driver’s seat.
Prokarma: Data-Driven Solutions for Efficient, Comfortable Buildings
Workdesign: Data-Driven Design
MCS: Data-Driven Decision Making
IBM: The Real Impact of Big Data on Commercial Real Estate
TDWI: Five Characteristics of a Data-Driven Company