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    Strategy, analytics, and the
    smart workplace

    In this exclusive interview, Stephen Higgins talks about the importance of aligning real estate strategy with

    business strategy, the power of real estate analytics, and what role technology is likely to play in the future of the workplace.

    Real estate strategy and business strategy
    The power of real estate analytics in the workplace

    Aligning real estate strategy with business strategy

    Business lines often have little understanding of the real estate market and how it connects to the total business strategy. Real estate is usually considered a part of finance, so when a business group wants to open an office, you have to do a business case to justify the overall financial investment, capital expenditure, and return on investment. There is a definite disconnect between the value of real estate on the bottom line and good business sense.

     

    We struggle to work more closely with human resources and other functions within the business. I hear this all the time from other real estate organizations: connecting with IT and human resources is not seamless. HR supports people within the business, but they don’t always agree that a great working environment and a great workplace strategy will increase productivity or retain people. IT, on the other hand, is predominantly concerned with providing tools and equipment while keeping the environment secure. They tend to be much less interested in future technology, and don’t really want to showcase smart technology in the workplace because of the risks.

    Aligning real estate strategy with business strategy

       

    Access to data will absolutely change how
    we plan offices in the very near future."

     

    - Stephen Higgins

    Director of Worldwide Real Estate, Lenovo

    The power of real estate analytics

    I believe that measurable statistics empower businesses to build better cases for change.

    For real estate analytics, the cost of utilization through attendance is more important than the cost per office or the cost per person. Historical usage data is therefore important and valuable to positioning future real estate needs.

    Unfortunately, the lines of business do not necessarily see the value of analytics. They say that it doesn’t matter if people come in every day because they’re paying for the office anyway. Well, it does matter, because of the environmental impact. If people they don’t come in every day, then you can reduce the number of desks or switch from desks to a collaborative space when people are there.

    We are keen to measure occupancy, how many people are assigned to an office or allocated a desk. I actually prefer to call this “real attendance”: the true attendance figure on any given day against the capacity of that office. If occupancy is 100% but the attendance 50%, the real metric is how many people turn up in the office, not the allocated space. My key driver now is how many people are actually in the office today, what time they come in and leave, how the working day is split up, desk v. meeting rooms v. lounge.

    Work patterns have changed—it’s very much a different working day now. Middle management may feel that people need to be at their desks all the time and working long hours to make them productive. Our real estate organization thinks differently. We feel that bursts of intense activity are good—fifty minutes at the desk, then move around the office, move to a different workspace. By the time you return to your desk, you’re ready for another fifty-minute burst of intense, productive work. 
    About the author
    Stephen Higgins, Director of Worldwide Real Estate, Lenovo

    Stephen Higgins

    Director of Worldwide Real

    Estate, Lenovo

    Technology and the future
    smart workplace


    I would love for people to ask me for intuitive technology in the office—for example, speaking poles, like those that people are starting to use at home. The pressure to make this happen will come once one smart company says, “Our whole office control is via voice recognition and it is all wireless.” I think the change will happen very quickly, like the adoption of the smart phone.

    Technology has overtaken every aspect of the old workplace. We are on the cusp of revolutionary changes in working practice, comparable to the changes at airports, where you can handle ticketing and check-ins through your smartphone and there are barely any people involved. In workplaces, you will be able to check in and book a desk with a smartphone app. You’ll only use that desk for an hour, and then you’ll move elsewhere. You can stay connected with e-mail, text, social media, and even voice calls almost anywhere now, so you don’t need to be sitting at the same physical desk all day. It doesn’t matter what your job is unless you’re building something at a workstation.

    Access to data will absolutely change how we plan offices in the very near future. The more successful real estate organizations will be those that convince the business that data-driven analytics is the way forward.

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