By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer

Visual interpretations of data are almost always easier to understand than pure numbers. Graphics provide context for variables better than reading them line-by-line. That’s often the reason facility managers use stack planning software to visually coordinate facilities and plan workplaces.

Stack planning is a useful tool in understanding the cumulative workspace based on its makeup. It’s often a quick and easy way for facility managers to understand and experiment with different workplace changes. Stack planning is key for scenario planning, whether you’re adding a few desks or completely rearranging a floor.

What is stack planning?

A stack plan is a visual representation of the workplace. It shows total square footage, with occupied and unoccupied areas. Occupied segments are further broken into individual business units that show how much space a given department takes up. Stack planning is usually represented as a bar graph, pie chart, or blocks.

Stacks themselves represent chunks of data. Usually, a stack shows one floor of a building and the different space allocations within it. Companies occupying several floors will layer stacks to see space distribution and utilization across levels. For larger companies, stacks may also represent locations. A stack generally corresponds to the scale of the data being investigated.

Stack planning can represent space allocation in many different ways. Most often, it’s by department or business segment. However, stack planning may also show a floor plan’s workstation makeup or the number of employees by grouping. The theme is always the same: the sum of the parts totals the whole.

What’s the purpose of stack planning?

Stack planning—also called stack scenario planning—helps facility managers understand the workplace at a glance for better decision-making and improvements. Rather than deciphering space allocations in a complex spreadsheet, facility managers get visual context of floor plans. For example, it’s easy to see that Sales occupies double the space of Accounting, or that collaborative workspaces take up a third of your available space.

In essence, stack planning is a macro tool. It’s the big picture of your facilities—how they’re allocated, organized, and utilized. By understanding the cumulative, facility managers can dig deeper into areas that require improvements, change, or a complete rework, and understand how those decisions affect the whole.

Problems solved by stack planning

With a stack plan in hand, facility managers can progress to scenario planning. Visual data, conceptualizes adjustments that, ultimately, benefit the entire workplace. Stack plans show how to:

  • Consolidate departments scattered across multiple floors
  • Determine optimal space utilization
  • Reduce total lease cost by consolidating stacks
  • Create strategic, synergistic department alignments (ex. Sales and Marketing)

Scenario planning is a lot like solving a logic puzzle. The bigger the company, the more variables. It boils down to understanding how to best configure the parts to make a more complete whole. Here’s an example:

  • 1st Floor: 80% occupancy—Sales (60%) and Human Resources (20%)
  • 2nd Floor: 60% occupancy—Sales (30%), Marketing (20%), Conference Rooms (10%)
  • 3rd Floor: 40% occupancy—Marketing (10%), Accounting (20%). Executive (10%)

Let’s say the goal is to reduce lease costs by consolidating departments:

  • 1st Floor: 100% occupancy—Sales (60%) + Sales (30%) & Conference Rooms (10%) from the 2nd floor
  • and Human Resources (20%)
  • 2nd Floor: 60% occupancy—Marketing (20%) + Marketing (10%) + Accounting (20%) + Executive (10%) from the 3rd floor
  • 3rd Floor: Vacant

In this example, the company is able to vacate an entire floor, with space to spare on the second floor. Synergy is achieved by grouping once-disparate departments—Sales and Marketing—on the same floors. That creates cohesion across the business, with room to grow.

Stack planning and digital facilities management

Used alongside other digital facility management tools, stack planning provides important insights into facility utilization. How much space is dedicated to different departments? What’s the cost of housing these departments? What types of workstations are present on each floor? These insights inform better decision-making for facility configurations and space utilization. The stack plan provides a visual understanding of space. From there, it’s the responsibility of a facility manager to optimize and streamline it.

Keep reading: Make every space count with space Management software.