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Recognizing the growing interest in available data sources for space utilization analytics, the Smart Workplace Council hosted its quarterly webinar on November 20th, 2014 with a discussion on the topic, “Leveraging Existing Data for Workplace Optimization.”

Companies have tried every technique they know to analyze office space utilization. These range from bed checks and hiring consultants for a ‘study,’ to costly installation of sensors and obtrusive RFID tags. Before following suit, real estate executives should reconsider the essential, untapped resource at their fingertips: badge data. The potential value of this readily available resource was the focus of our webinar.

Presenting case studies on best practices were Dan Johnson (Workplace Innovation Lead, Accenture), Adrienne Rowe (Director, Project Manager, Fidelity), and Paul Fitzgerald (Global Real Estate and Senior Director North American Facilities, EMC).

The following key takeaways stemmed from the lively discussion:

  1. Attendance is NOT Space Utilization

Equating attendance with utilization leads to overestimating results by 20-30% on average. Dan Johnson shared, “it’s not important for [us at Accenture] the number of people accommodated over the course of the day, it’s important how well our facilities are used at a point in time throughout the day.” Once companies have analytics on office space utilization, business decisions can be made with a more accurate, quantitative information, which increases both uptake of best practices and the resulting savings and efficiency.

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Most CRE executives and their consultants are only able to calculate attendance results when using badge data. A much better metric for the effective use of office space is actual space utilization. While attendance records the total number of unique people who show up on a given day, utilization is a metric based on how long people are present in the building. Failure to measure utilization is due to the use of spreadsheets and unsophisticated statistical methods instead of a robust software platform to collect and manipulate attendance data.

  1. The Importance of Data Quality

 The speakers acknowledged that improving the quality of existing data analytics for workplace optimization is critical to obtaining credible results. Once executives see value of using existing data, it incentivizes them to improve data quality. Paul Fitzgerald cited the importance of having physical security systems and processes that are consistent in order to close data gaps. Participants agreed that getting richer data through automating their processes and getting integrated data sets is very important to their perspective companies. Through continually improving the quality of data, companies can generate more robust utilization reports, which in turn increases acceptance of the (sometimes surprising) results by internal customers.

  1. Reinvesting Savings in Higher Quality Workplaces

The participants agreed that while a major share of the significant savings from reducing real estate costs should go directly to the company’s bottom line, reinvesting some of the savings in higher quality, healthier, and more collaborate workplaces is key to creating value for the organization. Paul Fitzgerald described how “reallocating savings from reduced space to high-quality space helps boost employee satisfaction and productivity.” After analyzing which spaces are being used and by how many people on average, companies can make informed decisions about rightsizing their portfolios by rebalancing the sizes and ratios between meeting spaces, private offices, and open workstations.

Conclusion

Badge data can mined for insight into actual utilization, not mere attendance, by implementation of sophisticated techniques. For executives looking to capitalize on such data, investing in consistent systems to collect and process it is a must. Companies with imperfect data and inconsistent processes discover that data quality improvement is an ongoing process best started earlier rather than later. Better data quality results in more actionable business cases, which increases savings. Savings improve the bottom line and free up resources for workplace quality improvement, which improves productivity and employee retention.

If you were unable to attend the webinar and learn more about best practices for leveraging existing data analytics for workplace optimization, please request to join the Smart Workplace Council and join our LinkedIn group. Contact us at info@smartwork.place