Integrated facilities management has always been critical to overall organizational success because of how it impacts key performance metrics like growth, productivity, and the bottom line. But as the landscape has changed, so has the process of identifying facility management goals and objectives.
By Ian Morley
Chief Product Officer
There are many short-term questions for company owners to consider as they reopen for business and welcome employees back to the workplace. Do I have enough space to bring back my entire workforce? Will employees feel safe returning? Do I have too much space and what should I do with it?
The bigger picture is more complicated. There is no crystal ball to say what will happen in two, five, or 10 years. With such an unclear future, businesses must plan for as many scenarios as possible. This “future-proofing” takes data and technologies to analyze it in ways that shed light on how to best plan for all possible scenarios.
During a recent webinar, Ibrahim Yates, Industry Analyst with Verdantix, and I discussed the important roles data and workplace technology play in both making plans to return to the office and long-term planning.
Painting a Workplace Picture
Workplace data provides leaders the insight necessary to truly understand their people. Whether the focus be on productivity, space upgrades, or future-proofing. Data is essential to minimize damage, and unnecessary expenditures.
When data paints the picture, businesses are free to move past the phase of situational analysis. Qualified and quantified information enables better decision-making based on how the workplace functions. Leaders can then prioritize and plan for transitioning employees from home to office.
With a steadfast plan and the initial return underway, the value of workplace technology becomes two-fold. It serves as a means of communication and data collection. The communication component builds employee confidence to return in a safe and effective manner. Data gathering and analysis empowers workplace managers to proactively address issues, forecast impending changes, and plan how to improve processes and interactions down the road. That is future-proofing.
Hoteling as a Strategy
During our discussion on future-proofing, Ibrahim and I immediately thought of hoteling as a key component of an agile workplace. Hoteling provides employees with an easy and intuitive way to reserve space when and where they need it. By collecting usage data, workplace managers can see if additional hotel desks are needed and who is using them. A clearer utilization picture allows for more accurate and impactful planning as workforce levels fluctuate and a company grows.
At a time when health and safety are in the forefront of everyone’s mind, the monitoring feature of hoteling applications creates a solid foundation for contact tracing. “Even when the pandemic comes to a close, people will still care about the health and safety of their workplace,” Ibrahim said.
Contact tracing systems provide concise data through real-time utilization of spaces. Once technology of this caliber is in play, business leaders can move to the last phase of future-proofing by utilizing the tools to monitor and adjust based on data reports from areas such as space demand, employee needs, and safety.
Data to Determine Office Demand
So, are you ready to bring your entire workforce back in office? Before answering this question, you first need to understand the space you have to work with. Are there enough collaborative spaces? Is the office well equipped for social distancing and safety guidelines? Above all, is the workplace environment able to cater to the demand of the people who work there?
Throughout our discussion, Ibrahim stressed the important role quality data plays in ensuring business continuity and building resiliency. Business leaders need data and analytics to prepare for the next crisis or company growth initiative. Data makes the difference between adapting quickly and merely surviving.
The data made available via tools like hoteling take the guess work out of return-to-work planning. The communicative properties within such applications reveal employee behavior like how content they are working from home, who is anxious to return to a physical office, and what scheduling structures they believe best suit their work styles.
Are You Future-proof Ready?
As much as we all may want a crystal ball during these uncertain times, workplace technologies are grounded in reality. A crystal ball shows what the future would look like. Workplace technology culls information from the past and present to help predict future needs.
Before you jump into a new workplace strategy, there are questions you should consider:
- What is our new definition of “work”? – It is important to ask why your company works the way it does and how leaders, employees, and external sources can best work together. A great starting point is evaluating what you learned about your business during the COVID pandemic.
- How can I make the office important to employees? – The past year proved people can work from anywhere. But a physical workplace offers employees elements they may not get in a home office. According to a McKinsey report, offices provide collaboration, social interaction, connection, and creativity options. Your goal should be to design a workplace that accommodates those needs and more.
- Should I embrace a hybrid work model? – A Forrester Research report showed 60% of companies are moving toward hybrid schedules where employees work partly from home. COVID gave many people a taste of remote work they never had. A 2020 survey published by Forbes revealed 97% of people don’t want to return to the office full-time. New workplace designs should support more activity-based structures where employees can easily choose or reserve areas to gather and work while in the office.
- How do I get employees involved in future planning? – One of the best ways to gauge effectiveness of future-proofing is through measuring employee sentiment. How? Listen and communicate often. Use surveys to determine how hybrid schedules are working and whether activity-based designs are efficient. Make extra effort to include remote employees in all communications and act on their requests/suggestions to the same level as on-site staff.
- Do I have the right technology to future-proof my workplace? – Employee needs are the primary drivers behind how and why you manage a “next normal” workplace. Anticipating and adapting to those expectations takes smart technologies like WiFi sensors, mobile apps, reservation systems, and badging data to quickly adjust to new demands and create spaces that allow people to do their best work.
With companies across the world mapping their path back to the workplace. The technology and data tools available today can encourage employee engagement and a sense of safety. As important is the simultaneous reporting insights necessary for company leaders to move from a position of reactive tactics to proactive, future-proofed strategies.
For more information on how workplace technology can help future-proof your workspaces, visit request a demo.
Keep reading: Hybrid Workplaces are the Future of Work
By Pat Clark
Chief Financial Officer
Many states have begun loosening restrictions as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes. Employers are now grappling with the decision of what the future of their offices will look like – and how much it will cost to adapt to a new business normal.
In the past year, companies observed how remote work impacted their internal operations, employee productivity, and overall business performance. Now, when paired with a practical cost/benefit plan, these observations can help companies determine the best path forward: bring all employees back, go with an all-remote workforce, or create a hybrid of the two.
Understanding employees’ workplace needs
Our employees’ well-being has always been a priority, regardless of the pandemic. As we look at transition plans, understanding employee needs and maximizing their engagement is at the forefront of our decision-making. For some SpaceIQ employees, a work-from-home setup is a dream. Others are counting down the days until they can return to a physical office. Many fall somewhere in between – hoping for flexible options to alternate working remotely and in a physical office space.
Managing expectations for a return-to-work plan should be No. 1 for companies seeking to ensure the safety of their employees. Globally, employees have shown that remote work is viable and even preferable for productivity and engagement. Of the estimated 48 million full-time employees in the U.S. who hold a remote-work-compatible job, 82 percent say they would like to work remotely at least weekly. The challenge lies in developing a budget-appropriate plan that offers opportunities to work remotely while resuming uninterrupted operations in a physical office.
Five hidden costs of remote work
Companies often overlook the hidden costs of remote work that should be addressed when considering a work-from-home or hybrid environment. Additionally, these costs can increase with the fiscal requirements of maintaining a physical location.
1. Developing a centralized network infrastructure
Beyond the use of laptops, cables, and monitors, office technology harbors additional costs for communication. Using platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams has become more critical than ever for businesses that have reduced face-to-face interactions. Companies that continue to leverage these platforms need to consider the maintenance and security of their network infrastructure.
2. Understanding the soft and hard costs
Nurturing an internal culture with remote workers is critical for employee engagement. The hard costs of remote work are easily calculable, but soft costs surrounding employee connection, team-building activities, or all-hands meetings may be more challenging to pinpoint. Remote work will require additional effort to keep employees connected. For example, our Human Resources and Marketing teams collaborated and coordinated a global gift distribution for employees in Q4 2020. SpaceIQ CMO Nai Kanell led the effort and explained, “It was no small feat and expensive, but it was worth every penny. We want people to know personally, ‘Hey, we’re one team working together regardless of location. We care about you.’”
3. Maintaining data integrity and security after turnover
Data integrity is a critical issue for virtually every company. One data loss survey conducted by TechRepublic indicated that 95% of the participating organizations say they suffered data loss in 2020. Remote work has led to an increased reliance on email, which increases the potential of unintentional sharing of sensitive information. Moreover, 60% of survey participants reported working in a shared home office or communal spaces where distractions are unavoidable. In addition to confidentiality concerns, distracted employees are more likely to make errors that result in the loss of sensitive company and/or customer data. Increasing employees’ focus on the criticality of maintaining data security through on-going communication and training is critical.
Additionally, companies need to plan well in advance regarding how they will protect their confidential data when employees leave the company. When an employee leaves an organization, companies should take immediate action to collect equipment and protect sensitive information. Many companies choose centralized system control to enable immediate termination of employees’ access to confidential information and company applications, reducing the likelihood of data loss.
4. Budgeting for the costs associated with relocating employees
Many employees chose to relocate during the pandemic. It is critical that employers know where employees are moving to ensure that the company is not unknowingly becoming liable for income taxes, property taxes, and employment taxes in new states. Also, where employees choose to live could impact their tax bill if it is somewhere other than where they were working before the pandemic. Employers and employees should expect that depleted state budgets might prompt states to go on the offensive when it comes to collecting tax revenue from employers and their employees working remotely, even if it is only temporary. Generally, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are not required to reimburse employees for work-related expenses incurred working remotely. Even if your state does not require your company to foot the bill for remote work expenses, companies may want to offer reimbursement for the cost of internet, ergonomic equipment, or technology purchases. These can be marketed as company perks but will add to the bottom-line impact of supporting remote work.
5. Adapting operations for geography
For managers with teams now in multiple time zones, shuffling meeting times and juggling schedules is part of the reality of a geographically dispersed team. The amount of time it takes to coordinate moments for team collaboration can place an additional strain on managers who are already struggling to meet day-to-day demands, develop team culture, and adhere to company-wide policies. Organizations that rely on managers to balance these different facets of remote work should be aware of burnout and turnover that may affect their leadership teams.
Remote work options also is pushing many employees to relocate to new cities and countries. A 2020 DSJ Global survey revealed 69% of those polled would move to a different location for a better job. This choice can create complex issues for employers. Business registration in multiple states or countries can be costly and time-consuming. Local tax and labor laws aren’t consistent across borders. Unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance coverage typically is governed by the state where the employee works, not where the company is headquartered. If your business covers relocation expenses, plan to spend upward of $97,000 for current employees and $72,000 for new hires.
Additionally, recruitment is another element that may require additional investment. Kanell says, “We are spending a lot more money on recruiting than we did in the past. We also need to be more flexible in terms of where people can work from. This flexibility entails business registration in the multiple states where we have found top talent to join our team.” Going through the registration process requires administrative costs and time, along with gaining an understanding of the local pay rates for that talent.
Remote work and the agile office
Regardless of the framework businesses choose, remote work has evolved from a loose trend to commonly sought benefit by employees. The post-COVID workplace will be focused on longer term, agile workplace development. Last year has shown us that more companies are going to be embracing a hybrid structure versus the “normal” office that so many of us have grown accustomed to. There is no “normal.”
The benefits of having a remote structure and the need for recognizing the potential additional costs are clearly present, but we also have to remember: It’s not all or nothing. Employers are considering the productivity benefits of staying remote while also understanding the need to keep employees safe in a collaborative, in-person environment.
Companies can embrace better workplace agility by understanding both the financial costs and the employee productivity and job satisfaction implications of remote work.
Keep reading: Boost Team Collaboration with 10 Remote Working Tools
By Dave Clifton
As digital twins take their place in smart offices, at the center of the IoT and other networked systems, they’re becoming a source of truth for facility insights. Their ability to contextualize data within a physical model makes digital twin analytics a new standard for decision-making about how to coordinate and operate the workplace.
The chief obstacle companies have with digital twins is establishing them—building them out to create context for IoT data. Instead, many companies are only beginning to explore IoT and currently operate a growing network of sensors and beacons that stream data to various places. An IWMS takes them one step closer to wrangling and using that data, but it’s not until they develop a digital twin does it gain context. Only a digital twin can give data the context it needs to provide analytical insight into potential workplace optimizations.
Here’s a look at why digital twins are so central and important to smart offices—and how to create them within the context of these environments.
What is the digital twin concept?
Digital twin software offers a virtual representation of a physical asset—in this case, the workplace. The purpose of a digital twin is to pair quantifiable information within the context of the physical parameters of the workplace, usually through information sources like user input, IoT sensors, and other intelligent systems.
Digital twin concepts provide insight where it’s not immediately apparent. For example, you might know that a conference room accommodates five people. A motion sensor in this room generates a constant stream of on/off data to determine whether it’s occupied. Moreover, a room booking system provides booking data. All these sources of data feed into the digital twin where they’re juxtaposed and contextualized into actionable insights.
This example is just a small glimpse into the practicality and power of a digital twin. Its power is amplified even more by the fact that digital twin analytics provide insight over time. More than a snapshot of the workplace, digital twins allow you to observe it as an ecosystem.
Where does digital twin data come from?
As mentioned, most digital twins are slow to form because companies are still exploring their foundation: the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT sensors and beacons, and the data they provide, are a primary source of data truth for digital twins. But they’re not the only sources of data. Digital twins benefit from numerous inputs, including:
- IoT sensors and beacons that stream data 24/7
- Manual inputs by facility managers and other stakeholders
- Integrations with other software, which share data with the twin
- Static lookup information that provides context for insights
The more sources of data available to the digital twin, the more context it has in generating its own analytics. Digital twin data itself comes from processing these many sources of data into trends. Typically, that data manifests in a dashboard where it’s more easily understood—such as within an IWMS. Along the way, the digital twin cleans, organizes, and contextualizes data to make it relevant, actionable, and useful.
How digital twin and analytics improve operations
Without digital insights about a workplace, all you see is all there is—meaning you can’t understand when, how, or why people use the workplace fully. Digital twins process raw data about the workplace ecosystem into easy-to-understand insights. They bridge the gap between the parameters you know and the variables you don’t know.
For example, you might know that a conference room’s occupancy is five people, and you might see people in there frequently, which leads you to believe it’s a well-used space. But a digital twin might tell you otherwise. Via aggregated data, it might tell you that it’s most often used by groups of three or fewer. Of the eight hours a day the room is available, it might only achieve a 56% utilization rate—a lower utilization rate than similar spaces in different areas of the building.
These contextual analytics make it possible for facilities managers to improve the workplace based on evidence, rather than intuition. There’s more to workplace operations than meets the eye. Digital twins and the information that contributes to them help you gain a clearer understanding of everything you might be missing. Acting on that information can take the workplace in a new, more efficient, more productive direction, one change at a time.
Apply the insights of a digital twin
Having data and using data are two very different things. A well-orchestrated digital twin is important; using the insights it provides is essential in optimizing the workplace. Companies need to first focus on tying their growing IoT network into a digital twin foundation. Then, they need to deploy an IWMS to glean trend data and insights. From there, it’s a matter of planning and taking action.
Because a digital twin quantifies the physical workplace, it’s instrumental in helping facility managers work backward from a problem. Digital twin analytics provide this same value over time: they show trends and interactions within a static environment. Capitalizing on these insights is the key to making smarter decisions in a smarter workplace—one that is always in flux.
Keep reading: Digital Twins: A Revolution in Workplace Management
By Dave Clifton
Building intelligence has grown at a rapid pace over the past few years. Beyond the aftermarket sensors and beacons of an ever-expanding IoT, more and more buildings are built smart, bridging the gap between physical and digital. It’s easy to see why. The benefits of smart buildings are numerous, and companies are quickly learning how to harness smart tech into better insights and decision-making for facility operations.
For companies new to the idea of smart buildings or building out a small IoT network of devices, it’s worth understanding the scope of opportunity affiliated with smart buildings. Intelligent technologies enable insights that are becoming increasingly important for companies governing agile workspaces, a flexible workforce, and increasing demands for space versatility.
What is a smart building?
A smart building is one that generates data about itself and how it’s used. Typically, this occurs via the Internet of Things (IoT). Networked IoT sensors turn physical workplace action into digital data, which facility managers can use to make accurate insights about the physical workplace. As a simple example, a pressure sensor in the floor of a conference room can show when that room is occupied. This generates data for real-time insights as well as information about how often it’s used, for how long, and whether the ROI of the space makes sense.
Smart buildings operate on a scale. Sometimes, it’s just a few sensors that provide targeted facility data. Other times, it’s a wide web of IoT devices that paint a complete digital picture of facilities. Regardless of size, the purpose of a smart building is to provide digital data about the physical application of a building and everything that happens within it.
Eight major benefits of smart buildings
The benefits of smart buildings come from the data-generating systems that power them. It’s much easier to understand facilities when there’s data to inform how people use them. Moreover, this works in reverse—it’s easier to manage facilities when you understand them. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of smart buildings and why they’re so important:
- Automation opportunities. The more links there are between the physical workplace and digital management systems, the broader the opportunities for automation. Motion sensitive lights. Floor sensors for occupancy. Beacons to gauge workspace utilization. The IoT triggers powerful automations for a wide assortment of applications.
- Quantifiable building insights. Each data point generated by the IoT is a quantifiable part of the tangible workplace. That means understanding more about how the workplace functions—who’s using it, how they’re using it, and when they’re using it. Data points add up to trends, which add up to actionable insights.
- Predictive maintenance. Through digital twins and similar technologies, buildings and workplaces become managed assets. It’s possible to engage in proactive maintenance and asset upkeep to ensure maximum ROI from these investments. Preventive maintenance becomes a core function of facility upkeep, powered by insights from the IoT.
- Better resource utilization. Consider the resources of the workplace. Space. Manpower. Technology. Smart buildings take these resources and quantify them within the context of broader facilities. The result is a better understanding of how people use those resources and information about how to make them more accessible or available.
- Reduced energy consumption. A product of automation and quantifiable building insights, green initiatives become simpler through smart buildings. Whether it’s motion-sensitive lighting or better HVAC management through a sensor-controlled system, lower energy costs benefit businesses and the environment.
- Real-time building insights. In workspaces with agile desking concepts, real-time insights are paramount. Good governance of these spaces relies on data to see what’s occupied vs. open and what the current status of a workspace is. Smart buildings offer the power to see the workplace as it is in a given moment. It goes beyond workspace occupancy, too. Real time insights extend to every digital representation of the physical building.
- Reduced operational costs. Why make the investment in the IoT? For most companies, it’s about ROI. The insights generated by a smart building need to add up to cost savings through better decision-making. If you can use data from X to make Y conclusion that save $Z, there’s power in leveraging smart building technologies.
- New workplace opportunities. In the new age of evolving work styles, change in the workplace is unavoidable. As flex work and agile workspaces become the new norm, there’s demand for systems to help manage them. This oversight is much easier by smart networks and systems that generate data to support the new workplace and its utilization.
The key takeaway here is data. Data about previously unquantified systems that sheds light on how the physical workplace operates. These insights lead to more meaningful management, both in terms of space and operations. Smart buildings and the IoT have opened the door to better use of buildings, no matter the purpose.
The office: the final corporate data frontier
The benefits of implementing a smart building plan are virtually boundless. There are as many opportunities to benefit as there are avenues to integrate software, processes, workflows, and reporting systems, and to use the information a smart building provides. This information is imperative in adapting the workplace to real-time demands.
As buildings get smarter, they open the door to better workplace agility. Whether your facilities are inherently smart or you’ve augmented them with a growing IoT network, harnessing the power of facilities information leads to better decision-making and more streamlined operations. Every data point counts, and every data point is useful.
Keep reading: The Top Challenges for Creating Smart Buildings
By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
The age of smart buildings is creating a data boom for facilities managers. Now, there’s more data available than many companies know what to do with, and the single biggest hurdle in understanding that data is getting a handle on it. Workplace data management is quickly becoming paramount, and it presents a new challenge for companies. How, exactly, do they coordinate and manage data at-scale?
Identify and define data sources
The first and most essential step in managing data is identifying it. This means looking at all the IoT devices active within the workplace, as well as other smart building components that generate data. Next comes employee input data—things like support tickets, room reservations, and log data. Don’t forget about integrated software, either. This task in and of itself can be cumbersome, but it’s necessary to identify data before you can use it.
Consider tracing vital business operations backward. Where do you get the data to do X, Y, and Z? Identify the primary sources responsible for creating data and define their purpose. This will make the next step in data management simpler.
De-silo and aggregate data
Organizational data is, by definition, siloed. But it shouldn’t be. To make data shareable across the organization and promote better utilization of it, companies need to adopt data lakes and warehouses.
A data lake is a simple repository where unsorted, raw data is collected. Warehouses are where it goes to be sorted and stored, until it’s accessed by applications and people who need it. These systems are part of the broader business cloud—cloud connectivity is key in allowing data to flow freely from its input sources, no matter where they are in the organization.
Clean, organize and store data
Data without context is useless. What is a workplace data management strategy without markers and identifiers that validate the data? From warehousing, data needs to be cleaned, organized, and accessible:
- Cleaning data means turning it into a source of truth: removing duplicate or antiquated entries, formatting it uniformly, bringing together like-kind data, etc.
- Organizing data involves giving it labels, qualifiers, quantifiers, and structure that’s consistent with how people and systems will access it.
- Making data accessible means putting it into a warehouse repository that’s accessible and stable, with automations and integrations built-in to keep data fresh.
This stage requires the most technical expertise—data experts who understand Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) data operations or who can configure software like an iPaaS to improve data fluidity.
Develop architecture and deploy data
By this stage of a digital data management process, the architecture largely exists. Each stage of the process has started to take shape based on the infrastructure needed to handle data:
- Raw data feeds into data lakes
- Data is cleaned and sorted into data warehouses
- iPaaS and integrations make warehoused data widely available
For larger companies with more robust data resources or applications, there are other parts and pieces of infrastructure that may or may not become necessary:
- Data catalogs that pre-format data for quick accessibility
- Data automations that handle data without human intervention
- Machine learning that orchestrates and reports insights
The result in most cases is a strong infrastructure that brings data to the forefront of different applications used for decision-making—Computer-Aided Facility Management (CAFM), Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), and Integrated Facilities Management Systems (IWMS). Most people won’t see the hamster spinning on the wheel to bring them data—they’ll just get the insights they need.
Protect and secure data
No conversation about digital data management would be complete without heavy emphasis on cybersecurity. The more transactions data has between collection and application, the more opportunities there are for malicious action. Companies need to protect their data from all angles:
- At the point of collection (ex. IoT cybersecurity)
- At the point of transmission (ex. SSL connections)
- At the point of storage (ex. Network security)
- At the point of access (ex. Employee credentials)
- In the peripheral (ex. Integrations and connections)
Cybersecurity starts with cognitive efforts to protect data. Use software that defends against cyberattacks. Educate employees about cybersecurity best practices. Create auditing processes for your data management system. Good habits and mindfulness, coupled with some common sense, ensure data remains secure.
Every company is a data company
Every company generates data. As they learn more about how to use workplace data effectively, they also need to recognize the importance of data management. That means building out a strong data management infrastructure and protecting it from all angles. The easier and safer it is for data to travel across your organization, from one important touchpoint to the next, the more valuable that data becomes in decision-making at every level.
Keep reading: The Top Challenges for Creating Smart Buildings
By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing
There’s no succinct point in time when digital technology became an integrated part of the workplace. Some argue it’s when the first Lyons Electronic Office (LEO) I computer booted up in 1951. Others consider it to be 1971, when Ray Tomlinson sent the first-ever email. Regardless of when the digital workplace revolution began, it’s led us to where we are today. The modern office is rife with digital workplace technology.
To understand how we got here—and where we’re going—we need to look back. How did the Apple I evolve into the modern laptops we use for telecommuting? What pushed the Internet from a simple relay network into a behemoth of cloud storage and applications? Most importantly, where is all this digital technology going to take us next?
Here’s a look at a brief history of workplace technology. Though we could arguably go back to the 1950s and 60s, we’re starting in the 70s, with the introduction of the personal computer. Truly, this is the best place to understand the workplace of the future, from its humble beginnings.
1970s and 80s: Computers enter the workplace
What is workplace technology without the personal computer? The laptops and workstations we enjoy today had much more modest roots—early Apple computers and IBM personal workstations.
The Apple I hit the market in 1976 to minimal fanfare. Amazing? Sure. Practical? Not a chance. It was the first of its breed, but a necessary commercial failure to pave the way for the Apple II just a year later. Laughable by today’s standards, it boasted a 6502-processor running at 1 MHz, with an 8-bit microprocessor chip and 48 kilobytes of RAM. But, in 1977, this was a truly viable computer—part of the “1977 Trinity” alongside the Commodore PET 2001 and the TRS-80, both of which had similar specs.
In 1982, International Business Machines (IBM) upped the ante, taking business computers from 8-bit to 16-bit. The first IBM PC nearly quintupled the speed of the Apple II, and boasted an 8088-processor running at 4.77 MHz. Apple responded with the Apple III and thus began the personal computer arms race. It was the start of computing in the workplace and the earliest inroad to digitizing work.
1990s: The Internet connects us all
By the 1990s, business computers had made their mark and every major enterprise had them. The next step in digitizing the workplace came in the form of creating the digital landscape. Thus, the Internet was born.
While the concept of the Internet was actually dreamt up and tested as far back as the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the World Wide Web as we know it didn’t hit businesses until the 1990s. Computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee created the concept of digital “destinations,” what we know today as websites. Businesses could finally host and share information, and even communicate digitally via email.
Internet adoption took off in a flash—perhaps too fast, judging by the Dot-Com Bubble of the late 1990s. It was a time when the ingenuity of business met the infinite possibilities of the Internet. The 1990s paved the way for everything from email to ecommerce, giving us a whole new way to interact with digital technology in the workplace.
2000s: The introduction of the cloud and big data
In the mid-to-late 2000s, workplace technology trends pivoted quickly to the cloud. Businesses realized that the more data they were able to collect, the more it informed their actions. As if overnight, major businesses started to digitize their data. Away went the file cabinets and dossiers, in favor of file archives and spreadsheets.
This is also the time when the physical workplace began to see change. With everything digitized and available in the cloud, employees didn’t need to always work on-site. The world began to shrink, in a sense. Jim could work on his project at the office, save it to the cloud, then pick up work at home, across town, across the country, or anywhere in the world!
Accessibility from anywhere fueled tangible tech. Smartphones and tablets became commonplace and extremely useful business tools, which led to another technological arms race. Today, competition is still astounding among smartphone and tablet makers, as well as cloud solutions providers.
2010s: Rise of the Internet of Things (IoT)
Coming off a decade of technologies designed to help employees work outside the traditional workplace, this most recent decade was equally as cathartic for those who prefer to work in an office. Workplace technology solutions of the 2010s came in the form of IoT devices. Beyond connecting laptops, tablets, and smartphones to the cloud, we’ve now connected anything and everything!
The workplace IoT exploded in recent years, giving way to better workplace data collection, automation, and an improved relationship between employees and their environment. Entire workplaces benefit from webs of sensors and beacons designed to simplify work, add convenience, and improve workplace governance.
From occupancy and motion sensors, to hardware and software integrations that enable complex workflows, the modern workplace is equal parts digital and physical.
2020s: The workplace of future
It all brings us to today: the year 2020. We’re on the cusp of concepts like quantum computing and edge computing, and we work in environments that blend the realities of digital tech and the physical world. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are exciting possibilities, as well—applications we’re likely to see in the coming decade.
Whatever digital technologies we experience in the next 10 years, they’re ultimately the culmination of the last 50 years. From the introduction of personal business computers to the rise of the IoT, the way we work has evolved significantly. It’s still changing today.
Keep Reading: How Remote Working Tech Transformed the Way we Work.
By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer
Who would have thought, only a few years ago, that workplace managers would have to worry about battling cyberattacks and corporate sabotage. Data is now integral to every facet of your business, which means there’s more of it to protect, in more places, than ever before. It’s imperative to protect your systems and data against malicious hackers, information theft, and even accidental leaks. To mitigate this risk, business leaders must implement best practices for data security and evaluate third-party vendors for privacy compliance.
How Vulnerable is Your Workplace Data?
While the financial and healthcare sectors are often primary targets for hackers, the information that can be gained from corporate and customer data is astonishing. Businesses of any size and industry are tempting targets because they collect and analyze vast quantities of data that can be used for monetary gain.
Because data touches virtually every corner of your operations, addressing data security goes well beyond email. Even your IoT-enabled building equipment, such as smart thermostats, IP security cameras, and automation software, is at risk. Legacy systems, as well as the latest generation of apps, require layers of data protection. Otherwise, these digital tools can be turned into an attack vector that hackers exploit for system access.
Once inside, cybercriminals can mine your data for trade secrets, commit identity theft, or leak information to competitors. Sensitive information that is susceptible to attacks includes:
- Workforce: Head count, payroll, and staffing forecasts are prime targets. Even access to an employee directory can be tempting to headhunters looking to poach your talent or for even less scrupulous actors trying to “spear phish” or use social engineering against your employees.
- Financial: Operational costs, leases, growth projections, loans, transactions, customer lists, sales numbers, and vendor contracts are vulnerable data sets. Imagine what a competitor could do after peeking at how much your customers pay you or your pricing models.
- Privacy: Records containing birthdates, compensation, Social Security numbers, home addresses, cell phone numbers, and dependent info are always at risk as they can be used to conduct identity theft or financial fraud. And don’t forget bank account numbers used for direct deposit.
- Location: Because workplace violence takes many forms, data generated from badging, WiFi, conference room or desk reservations, seating charts, and other sensor data should be protected.
The good news is that your IT security managers have vast resources at their disposal to safeguard data. For example, data loss prevention (DLP) tools can flag a potential breach from an insider threat, cyberattack, or negligent exposure. A virtual private network (VPN) can protect your remote or traveling employees internet usage from prying eyes.
Such measures should stem from a comprehensive data security governance framework (DSGF) that assesses risk and ensures proposed controls will satisfy business objectives. DSGF is listed by Gartner®, a research and advisory firm, as one of the top security and risk management trends for 2019.
Take extra precaution to ensure your DSGF extends to all cloud-based software and third-party applications. With the proliferation of software as a service (SaaS), businesses are externally sharing a wider range of sensitive data. It’s critical to hold vendors accountable for data security.
Privacy Compliance and External Vendors
Before engaging vendors, you should ask new and existing third-party software providers one question: “How will you handle and protect our data?” You wouldn’t hire a building management company without asking about their service policies—extend this same due diligence to any digital vendors. Here are best practices to protect your workplace data and vet data processors for security governance:
- Limit Access: Don’t give an external vendor carte blanche access to your data. Take a minimalistic approach and only provide access to what is necessary for them to deliver expected outcomes. For example, SpaceIQ needs a person’s name, email, title, and department, but we don’t need to know Social Security numbers or birthdates for them to use our platform. While this information is housed in the same HR system, we need access to just a small portion of an employee’s profile. Work with your vendors to pull only the data that is fundamentally integral to executing their processes.
- Request SOC or GDPR: Industry audits, reports, and certificates are a great way to evaluate the safety and security of a vendor. Voluntary third-party verification programs such as SOC 2, Privacy Shield, or ISO 27001, help evaluate the trustworthiness of a company. While these are optional, GDPR and California’s Consumer’s Privacy Act are laws that may apply to you and your vendors. If a software provider carries any of the aforementioned certifications, ask to review their documentation and note any expiration dates.
- Include a DPA: A data processing agreement (DPA) is a legal obligation that specifies what a vendor is allowed to do with your data. More importantly, it can also stipulate what they are not allowed to do. A DPA ensures that the data processor guarantees it will protect your records and what its contractual responsibilities are in the event of a breach.
Whenever you share data outside your organization, it’s necessary to balance convenience with security. The key to finding equilibrium is to ask: “How do I minimize the risk of allowing a vendor to access my data without sacrificing the rewards and benefits their services offer?” Controlling not only who has permission to use your data but how much they can access is the first step.
By Kane Hochster
Chief Sales Officer
Every business collects data of some kind. Small companies may keep customer records in spreadsheets while global organizations use multiple systems to manage everything from HR data, sales, assets and workplace management.
But having data doesn’t automatically mean the reports gleaned from that information are accurate and actionable. You know the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out”? Businesses may be great at collecting data, but is it the right data? Is it being used to meet objectives?
“Inaccurate data means you’re basing decisions on bad information, which may mean building a workplace that doesn’t meet employees’ needs or drains facility management budgets,” said Kimberly Castle, account director with Buildingi, an IWMS/BIM consulting firm and Archibus partner. “You may also be leasing too much space because bad data shows that 15% of your workforce doesn’t work in the physical office anymore – when the true figure is much higher.”
Many businesses are learning a hard lesson as they navigate their ongoing responses to COVID-19. The constant flux of COVID safety mandates puts greater emphasis on the need for real-time data to create processes to meet those standards. Companies must rely on accurate reports to make decisions on everything from maximum allowable occupancy for conference rooms to workstation spacing to where to position contactless circulation pathways. As work from home policies persist, most firms will seek to adjust their portfolios and add flexibility to promote workplace choice. That’s where a robust data governance system comes in.
For clarity, data governance is not the same as data management. CIO Magazine defines data governance as: “A system for defining who within an organization has authority and control over data assets and how those data assets may be used. It encompasses the people, processes, and technologies required to manage and protect data assets.” Data management is the logistics of collecting and storing information – a must for data governance to work.
Bob Sits Where?
Fellow Buildingi account director Amber Miller once helped a client combine an integrated workplace management system (IWMS) with an HR system. This common integration is designed to make it easier for users to update where they sat, so the HR platform was populated with a list of room numbers.
“But then we started noticing anomalies, like people being assigned to a bathroom or hallway. We had to go back and have the client apply data governance rules to limit which types of seats and rooms were approved for the data feed,” she said.
Then there’s the issue of corporate tech systems not speaking the same language. Castle was helping a large life insurance company integrate data from multiple systems.
“There were all these terms that had a different meaning in every system. For example, the definition of ‘full-time employee’ or ‘headcount’ wasn’t the same across the board,” she said. “And that was a problem because data reports would get sent to the CEO with glaring discrepancies.”
Think of it this way: One person may collect and store information (data management), but a large number may access it, run reports, and use those details to make strategic decisions. If one person alters or uploads inaccurate data, the change effects everyone downstream. That can cause big problems if your job is reporting compliance levels to regulatory agencies or preparing a company’s tax returns.
“It’s one thing to collect and track data, but if there’s no data integrity, you’ll simply get ‘garbage-in and garbage-out,’” Castle said. “Technology allows us to automatically flag where things don’t match; a tight and consistent data governance program is key to getting everyone on the same page.”
Data Governance and COVID-19
The ups and downs of COVID-19 is creating a new urgency for companies to collect data on and analyze employee movement in the workplace. Data on occupancy, furniture arrangements, and desk reservations is a starting point for health and safety measure implementation. But without rigorous data governance, employee movement and contact tracing information are unreliable.
Floor-to-ceiling elevation is one metric that’s been impacted by COVID because it impacts air quality and flow, Miller said. Before the coronavirus forced everyone to think about ventilation in new ways, space planners didn’t have cause to look across a floor layout. Now, data that was once used almost exclusively by facilities is being analyzed and acted upon by executive management, HR, and other departments.
COVID-19 has put greater emphasis on why data governance is the foundation for quality workplace data management. Companies are asking questions of data sets that weren’t in the original parameters, searching for answers that will ultimately keep businesses open and employees safe. As organizations look beyond the pandemic, better data governance is critical for making confident and productive strategic decisions about workplace management now and into the future.
Keep reading: Workplace Management Solutions For Your Business