When you’re looking at commercial space planning software, you may be asking, “How easy will it be to upload and convert floor plan files? Is it more user-friendly than AutoCAD?” Important questions, sure, but first you need to take a look at what we call the “three pillars of space planning.” The most useful software will feature all three.
Pillar 1: Gathering Data
An incredible amount of data goes into corporate space planning—way more than just merging HR’s head counts with Real Estate’s desk assignments. At minimum, you need to collect actual usage data for the different rooms and spaces of your buildings. To be more effective, you can collect data from the devices employees are using, network or cloud usage, and from your building systems and utilities (lighting, HVAC, etc.).
With the latest technology, especially Internet of Things (IoT), businesses have access to more data about their offices and workforce than ever before, but it’s meaningless if they’re not able to collect and use it. If your space planning software isn’t able to bring all the data together in one platform, you won’t be able to make the most informed decisions.
Pillar 2: Analyzing Data
Corporate real estate teams used to manually organize and analyze the available data, which could be a simple, but time-consuming process. Now, even for small businesses, there’s simply too much information to consider, especially when you’re trying to keep up with all of the available data inputs and make smart decisions and projections. The best space planning software needs to use data science and machine learning to find links and patterns. It also needs to compare the real-time incoming information with historical data.
The analysis from your space planning software should be automated and ongoing so anyone in the company can access needed information at any time—examples include, a manager who wants an activity report on just her team, or the facilities manager checking on the usage of conference rooms while planning upgrades.
Pillar 3: Taking Action
Once you have the data and it has been organized and analyzed, you’re in a position to make informed business decisions. You can now see more clearly how moving the sales team would allow for easier collaboration with the marketing team. Perhaps desks you thought were full are rarely used, and you can consolidate those workstations to create a new meeting space. If your lease is coming up for renewal, through data analysis, you would be able to determine whether or not it’s best to grow or shrink your footprint in the building.
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The final step in space planning is to actually plan the space in a way that increases worker well-being, job satisfaction, and ultimately, productivity. You should look for space planning software that allows you to easily experiment with different office layouts and configurations, estimate the costs and ROI of making your workplace more activity-based, and use your space more effectively.
Why Do I Need Special Space Planning Software for This?
There are two main reasons: one, because often, the data is stored with different departments. HR has head counts, IT has device and asset information, and Real Estate keeps tabs on building usage and systems. But all of that data should be considered with space planning and it needs to be integrated within a single platform.
The other reason is that the sheer volume of data large companies can get now makes it infeasible for people to manually collect and do anything with it. Space planning software can use algorithms and machine learning to identify patterns and links between data that most people would miss.
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Adjusting for the Real World
Algorithms aren’t 100% perfect. Your space planning software isn’t going to broadly make decisions for you. You’ll still be using your experience and judgement to do that—but you’ll be making data driven decisions. A proposal with the analysis from your space planning software will carry more weight than one with observations and self-reported data.
But you can still look at that analysis and know what’s possible for your company. You can—and should—take into account individual personalities and preferences when making changes.
Ultimately, corporate space planning software is a tool that helps improve the ROI of your real estate portfolio and other assets. But if your software doesn’t incorporate all three of the pillars above, you won’t be making the most of your investment.