The Agile Workplace Blog

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It seems many businesses aren't thinking sanely. I read Deloitte Consulting's new report: What's Next? Cost improvement practices and trends in the Fortune 1000, and it seems many businesses are failing the insanity test.

Two recent articles have caught my attention. Both show the extent to which the leadership at the US General Services Administration is leveraging data to improve facility and workplace performance.

Designing a new workplace to be more cost-effective and still be productive, whether it's the building or the desks or conference room check-in devices or the new policies, is difficult to succeed at, which typically comes down to people.

You have to put in technology to manage reservations and measure utilization, but even when you buy from the right vendor and do the training right, it will still fail if the changes aren't handled well and the effort to participate is too great.

Everyone loves a great story about slaying the beast with skill and a magical weapon, especially when we envision ourselves as the hero or heroine. The good news for our federal government management is that you have this opportunity in real life!

In this story the ferocious, five-headed mandate monster facing every government agency includes the Telework Enhancement Act, the Executive Order on Real Estate Reduction, the Federal Mandate and Legislation on Continuity of Operations and Sustainability, and the Human Capital initiatives for Workplace Flexibility.

In a recent blog post by Larry Simpson, Executive Vice President of Sustainability Roundtable highlights that benchmarking is essential to create a real estate strategy that ultimately drives sustainability excellence. As he says, "to get where you want to go, you have to know where you are starting from."

AgilQuest CEO John Vivadelli added his comments:

The November 2 elections confirmed it, the people want to control spending and cut governmental waste. But even before the elections, the US Federal Government's General Services Administration had plans in place to take a significant chunk out of the government's real estate budget.

CXO's, especially CFO's, care about those things they can manage, measure and control to drive corporate performance and return to stockholders. If it isn't measured, it can't be managed and therefore doesn't make it into the CFO's field of vision. Heretofore, workplace performance hasn't been measured, and therefore not fodder for a CXO discussion - that is until now.

Knowing how people use real estate, measuring it systematically, continuously and consistently over time - AgilQuest's Usage Information Model (UIM) and Platform - gives CFO's the data to measure their portfolio's performance, and allows them to compare it to their competitors.

The UIM provides space planners with the two key workforce and workplace measurements that they need in the planning process:

  1. how much space does each individual actually use, and
  2. how often is each workspace actually used.

Corporate executives can then decide to implement or expand an agile workplace where underutilized workspaces are eliminated and their assigned workers instead reserving a workspace from a shared pool of workspaces.

Traditionally space planners base their needs on departmental requests for space and by using manual methods for determining if people are actually using their workspace. These short-term, visual checks, referred to as "bed checks" usually take place over a short period of time and measure only a sample of the workplace rather than the entire workplace.

The AgilQuest UIM is an operational model that uses data collected for any building or across the entire corporate real estate portfolio on a continual basis. The model integrates with building infrastructure systems, such as security systems, telephony systems, and room reservation systems which recognize when people enter the building and use their assigned or scheduled workspace.

The UIM formalizes two levels of data that need to be considered in the planning process. They are the Scheduled or Assigned Use of each workspace, and the Actual Use of each workspace. The UIM uses the four layers of space planning data (inventory, allocation, scheduled use, and actual use) to create the business intelligence needed for corporate planners to make real estate decisions based on actual use.

AgilQuest's UIM acts very much like an organization's financial system, tracking daily workplace transactions and then rolling them up over time to give management a picture of the performance of their second largest expense and largest balance sheet item – real estate and related workplace assets. The UIM provides corporate executives with the confidence that they are making real estate decisions based on 'actual' use of space rather than the more traditional 'planned' use of space.

For example one of our clients uses their UIM to produce a graph that shows, over time, the number of employees assigned to a facility, the number of workspaces provided at the facility, the number of assigned and reserved workspaces, and the number of spaces actually used. This client can easily see its return on investment (the difference between employees assigned and workplaces provided) and can also easily see if it can reduce total spaces and increase their ROI even further.

 

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It's not enough to just manage space by reserving a hoteling desk and automatically re-routing a mobile worker's phone; an effective space management solution must support workplace managers as well. That means delivering detailed reports to supervisors and managers who support day to day operations. AgilQuest's new OnBoard Reports product delivers these reports in a flexible and powerful way.

Flexible/Mobile/Alternative/Agile/New workplace strategies (pick your name) don't inherently reduce carbon footprint or energy consumption. To do this, one must match the physical infrastructure to the way it is used. Current vacancies (space not leased) in many real estate markets are estimated at 17%. This does not include "shadow space", estimated by real estate brokerages at 1 to 5%. Anyone that actually talks to real estate executives will know that shadow space could easily account for 20% of all rented/owned real estate in the US. That puts vacancy at closer to 35% to 40%. Add to this vacancy the fact that the ACTUAL occupancy of the space that IS allocated to individuals might reach 50% on any given day, one starts to comprehend the waste, unnecessary energy consumption and CO2 production represented by commercial office space in the US.

In a question posted by the LinkedIn group, Occupiers Journal: discussing performance with the Property Occupier, one member asks, "Which elements of Property & Workplace performance actually get reported, and discussed, at Executive Committee (or 'Group Board') level in corporations?"

Here is AgilQuest CEO John Vivadelli's response:

In a report released on April 5, 2010 by the real estate research firm Reis Inc., the U.S. office vacancy rate in the first quarter has reached its highest level in 16 years. The U.S. office vacancy rate rose to 17.2 percent, a level unseen since 1994, as the market lost about 11.6 million net square feet of occupied space during the first quarter.

Here is what AgilQuest CEO John Vivadelli had to say in response to this report:

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