Look Beyond IWMS Magic Quadrant for Better Space Planning

For corporate real estate professionals, Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for IWMS has been the go-to resource for facilities management software since the 90’s. So when you need to take control of CRE space planning to reduce costs and plan for the workplace of the future, you might automatically turn to the IWMS Magic Quadrant for guidance.

While this is a great place to start, forward-thinking organizations are looking for additional tools to augment the features and functionality of traditional integrated workplace management systems. When a strong IWMS is partnered with space utilization software, CRE leaders are better equipped to meet the demands of the modern workplace. 

The modern workplace requires more modern tools

The increasingly mobile workforce and the rise of the digital business are impacting the way companies manage and use office space. As a result, the market for facilities management applications is changing rapidly, especially for space management and strategic planning.

In fact, Gartner has acknowledged these new requirements in their 2016 Market Guide for Integrated Workplace Management Systems. In their report, Gartner recommends that CRE and FM executives must:

  • Manage facilities while providing for the needs of the digital business for “agility, mobility, collaboration and innovation”
  • Collaborate with IT and HR to “drive a more effective, agile digital workplace” that can improve the employee experience, engagement and productivity
  • Implement “collection and analytics of actual workplace utilization data… to effectively manage the digital workplace.”

Many traditional IWMS providers (especially those recognized as Magic Quadrant leaders) do a great job integrating your workplace data into one system. Although they weren’t necessarily designed to manage the digital workplace, they can work with other systems, like Serraview’s space planning and workplace optimization tools, that do.

Related article: The Myth of IWMS: Why One Solution Does Not Fit All

How Integrated Workplace Management Systems work with utilization software and workplace optimization systems to address space planning

Now that CRE leaders are focused on creating workplaces that foster those important qualities (“agility, mobility, collaboration and innovation”), they need to start taking a more active approach to the data brought together in their IWMS.

Support the collaborative culture and agile working

The traditional systems in the IWMS Magic Quadrant are built on the assumption of workplaces with assigned seating. So what happens when you want to implement a shared workspace model to engage your workforce and enable a collaborative culture?

To successfully make those kind of changes—and in turn, see more collaboration, employee engagement and productivity—you need a tool that captures accurate, real-time utilization data. For example, Serraview’s workplace optimization software receives activity data from badge swipes, sensors, beacons and other technologies. When you overlay that data with the floor plans and allocations in your IWMS, you can discover opportunities to shift your workplace model.

As these types of space utilization tracking technologies continue to advance and see wider adoption, CRE leaders who don’t supplement their IWMS with tools that can handle that data may face additional, unexpected challenges as they try to optimize their workplaces for a modern workforce.

And with as many as 60 to 70 percent of companies implementing agile working in at least part of their workplace portfolio, this becomes a serious deficiency. Luckily, youcan continue to reap the benefits of a product in the IWMS Magic Quadrant—lease management, asset tracking, energy management and more—and just layer agile workplace optimization software for proactive space and scenario planning. 

Enable the mobile workforce

In an agile environment, employees need additional tools to help them navigate the space. Collaborative working often means moving around quite a bit throughout the day and finding spaces for meetings or work sessions spontaneously. Wayfinding apps help them locate and reserve open workstations, book conference rooms or find colleagues. These tools can be used on desktop computers, but more often employees use mobile apps or kiosks that can be located throughout the workplace.

This is something that traditional IWMS systems aren’t designed to do—but they can provide the foundation for a workforce enablement tool that will.

Streamline decision-making

A decade ago, the idea of right-sizing a global portfolio or supporting non-assigned seating was rare. That’s why features like strategic scenario planning tools aren’t included in products in the IWMS Magic Quadrant.

Related article: Why Corporate Real Estate Leaders Must Pay Attention to Space Planning

But when coupled with workplace optimization software, CRE leaders can effectively serve today’s workforce—without sacrificing the valuable features and functionality their IWMS offers.

For example, products in the IWMS Magic Quadrant excel at lease management—reminding CRE leaders when it’s time to start reviewing their leases and considering whether they should make a move or adjust their footprint in their current space. Workplace optimization software speeds up the process of reviewing your current space usage and comparing different potential scenarios. 

Look to “IWMS 2.0” for integrated best-in-class applications

If you want a workplace that truly supports agility, collaboration, mobility and innovation, workplace optimization software excels at partnering with products in the IWMS Magic Quadrant to accomplish that.

Look for best-in-class space planning and workplace management tools that are designed from the ground up to support the modern workplace. You can get the space planning capabilities you need to drive CRE optimization, more reliable data, and better analytics to help you make better decisions. With both systems in place and working together, you get the best of both worlds. The IWMS assists with every aspect of facilities management, while the workplace optimization software improves your space planning.

This new workplace technology framework is possible because today’s standards make it much easier to integrate multiple cloud-based, best-in-class systems with a common database and process engine. That means you get better tools for a much lower cost—and once you start capturing real-time utilization data, you can take action and see results in a matter of months.

Think of products in the IWMS Magic Quadrant and workplace optimization software like salt and sugar while cooking: when you use both appropriately, you bring out the fullest and best flavors in the dish.

Here’s an informative resource that can help you focus your evaluation on the capabilities that will bring you the best return on your investment: 5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software.


IWMS 2.0 – Chief Characteristics

The following post was originally featured on Bell’s Blog and was authored by Michael Bell. Michael originally defined IWMS while at Gartner and is currently senior advisor to Visual Lease.

Advances in technology and changes in user behavior are driving significant transformation in Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) software architecture and delivery.

IWMS in the Cloud

Cloud-based delivery has the effect of disaggregating the functionality of IWMS solutions from multiple vendors. No longer must users choose one vendor to deliver all the functionality of an IWMS suite. Alternatively, users can choose best-in-breed solutions, and then integrate in the cloud with a common database, performance metrics, and process engines. The user client can join multiple best–in-breed solutions, realizing higher performance, while reducing the cost of configuring and installing the applications.

This approach avoids the “big bang” implementation of a major IWMS solution which can take years to implement and millions in cost. Cloud-based delivery can significantly reduce costs, by eliminating the need for server and storage hardware, data center staffing and facilities and energy costs. An ancillary benefit of moving to the cloud for IWMS delivery is to avoid the accounting effects of leasing hardware for premises-based delivery. In a few years all leases, including IT leases, will be capitalized and put on the balance sheet. Cloud-based delivery avoids this accounting impact.

Growth in User Mobility

IWMS 2.0 is influenced by a rapid growth in user mobility. Most corporate real estate staff, particularly construction, maintenance and real estate project staff, will access IWMS functionality via wireless devices. Lease data, maintenance orders, construction schedules, and other portfolio data will be readily entered and retrieved via mobile technology connected via the internet to cloud-based applications.  This trend greatly enhances the productivity of in-field professionals, by minimizing office time and increasing time in the field. It also shortens response time by closing the gap between data input and output. For example, leasing specialists have ready access to lease terms, notices, and other time sensitive data while on site at a company location.

Sharing Data Between Systems

Today, most modern cloud-based software systems (if not all) expose what is called an “API” that allow that system to seamlessly talk with other systems.  An API is, by definition, something that defines the way in which two entities communicate.

These APIs are completely invisible to Web-based software users; their job is to run silently in the background, providing a way for applications to work with each other to get the user the information or functionality he needs.  The important part of the API in this context is not so much what it is at a technical level, but what it does at a practical level. Simply stated, APIs are the glue that allows all of the great software you leverage today to share data.  This has become so commonplace in today’s world that if you use almost any website today, I am sure you have unknowingly been using APIs. APIs are the KEY to building seamless IWMS 2.0 solutions.  (More to come on APIs in future discussions.)


IWMS 2.0 represents the natural evolution from large, complex (and expensive) enterprise solutions to small, aggregated solutions that take advantage of cloud-based delivery. Many large companies will continue to acquire large multi-functional applications (and even these are moving to the cloud), but smaller organizations with relatively small to medium sized portfolios will opt for aggregated “best-in-breed” solutions, to achieve lower cost, faster implementation, and more rapid return on investment.

Download a guide to managing workplace utilization today.


IWMS – A Historical Perspective

The following post was originally featured on Bell’s Blog and was authored by Michael Bell. Michael originally defined IWMS while at Gartner and is currently senior advisor to Visual Lease.

As a Gartner analyst some years ago, I focused on the real estate/ facilities management software space. I had spent nearly thirty years in corporate real estate, and was perhaps the only analyst at Gartner who had a broad and varied background in corporate real estate. I wrote one of my first research notes in April of 2003 on the corporate real estate and facilities management space when I identified the key components of what I later named IWMS (Integrated Workplace Management Systems). These elements included:

  1. Real Estate Management
  2. Facilities Management (CAFM)
  3. Design and Space Management; and
  4. Maintenance Management (CMMS)

Subsequently, facilities environmental sustainability was added to the list of core functionality.

In November of 2004, I published the first Gartner Magic Quadrant on what I defined at the time as Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS). Initially I received “push back” from the corporate real estate community on the acronym. Many felt that the absence of “real estate” in the acronym diluted the prestige of their position and function.  Software vendors were particularly annoyed with the acronym, but several began to use it in their subsequent marketing. Within a year, the acronym became widely adopted.

I chose these words carefully since I truly believed that the power of these applications lay in the four dimensions. First, “Integrated:” data and processes from the full life cycle of facilities management would benefit from being tied together. Second, I chose the word “workplace” over real estate or facilities, since the nature of how and where people worked was undergoing transformation from places to a multiplicity of settings from home offices, shared work settings, and virtual offices. I viewed IWMS applications as the primary platform for workplace services. Third, I chose “management systems” to emphasize the enterprise nature of the suite of applications. Like ERP, HCM, and other enterprise class software, IWMS was truly in all its dimensions an enterprise level of functionality and data management.

Today, the IWMS market has matured greatly. The fact that major software vendors such as IBM, SAP, and Oracle have committed to IWMS with major acquisitions and product development testifies to its market maturity. Another dimension of its market growth is the global reach of its proliferation. The current Gartner magic quadrant (June, 2014) cited Manhattan and Planon as “Leaders” for their broad global presence, and multi-language, multi-currency functionality.

In a future blog we’ll explore the future of IWMS, what we call “IWMS 2.0.” The advent of cloud computing, combined with the rapid growth of mobile computing has redefined the meaning and nature of integrated systems.  No longer do we think that IWMS can only be achieved through a single massive (and expensive) premises based system. Best-in-breed solutions united in the cloud is now at hand, drastically reducing total cost of ownership, install time and rapid achievement of ROI.

Download a guide to managing workplace utilization.


Wayfinding Apps Help Employees Work Smarter & Faster

Don’t you hate searching for things? Lost keys, sunglasses, that report you know was lying on your desk just a little while ago… Looking for something that should be easy to locate is not only incredibly frustrating, but it wastes a great deal of time in the workplace.

According to a McKinsey report, workers spend more than an hour and a half each day searching for information they need to do their jobs. Wayfinding apps help you take back some of that lost time while providing a better employee experience at the same time.

Wayfinding apps increase productivity

How much time do you think the average employee spends looking for co-workers in a large facility, or searching for a conference room or other space for a meeting? Now multiply that by tens of thousands of employees for a large corporation. The lost productivity figure can be staggering.

What if people could find co-workers and places in your corporate facilities in a few seconds, using a wayfinding app on their smartphone or tablet?

Just imagine the time that could be saved in each of these situations:

  • Finding a co-worker in an unfamiliar part of the building (a minute or less with wayfinding apps vs. 20 minutes of walking the floor)
  • Locating an open conference room for an impromptu team work session (a minute or less with wayfinding vs. half an hour searching the room booking calendar, then getting there and finding the room in use and having to start all over again!)
  • Finding a meeting room with the right technology such as video conferencing (a minute or less with wayfinding vs. 30 minutes searching a booked-solid calendar, then walking around to find that the room you want is open after all.
  • Navigating a different building or facility (find where you’re going in a minute with wayfinding apps on your phone or a kiosk, vs. time getting directions in advance or walking around lost on arrival!)

Having wayfinding apps for your employees is like having Google Maps just for your company’s workspaces. It makes it simple for everyone to find places and people throughout your facility.

Wayfinding tools enable agile working environments

Are you considering moving to a modern agile work environment, where assigned desks are replaced with task-oriented work spaces that workers choose each day?

These new types of workplaces can save millions in property costs while also promoting a collaborative culture within an organization. But they can create complications for employees if the right tools are not provided.

The last thing you want is for employees to have to waste time looking for the right workspace each day. Well-designed wayfinding apps allow workers to quickly find space based on the type of work they need to do, or to choose a space near people they need to work with. They might also choose to work in a particular area of the building due to comfort issues, such as proximity to amenities or a window. With the right tool, they can find the perfect space in seconds, right from their smartphone.

Implementing wayfinding apps can also be useful for reducing people’s anxiety about changing to a new style of working. Demonstrating these modern tools during the planning stages for a move to agile working is a way to increase comfort level, by showing how quick and easy it will be to find a space in the new environment.

Related article: What does the agile work environment look like?

Wayfinding apps: a secret weapon for CRE teams

Corporate real estate teams may have even more to gain from having modern wayfinding apps. These useful tools can provide the much-needed leverage to gain cooperation from business units about reporting their usage of space.

That’s because wayfinding apps are powered by data about your company’s space and up-to-the-minute data about how it’s being used. Property teams need the same data to handle space requests, manage moves, and work towards right-sizing the workplace to reduce real estate costs. However, getting business units to agree to provide or even validate data about their space usage can be a challenge.

Wayfinding apps can be an enticing carrot that motivates business units to comply with requests for data, since they gain a useful tool that uses the data they provide.

Features to look for in wayfinding apps

To get the most benefit from wayfinding apps, choose a reliable system with these essential features:

Ease of use. If it’s cumbersome or time-consuming to use, employees will be unhappy, putting your workplace transformation project at risk.

Multiple platforms. Don’t force people to use a wayfinding system that’s only available on their laptop. To be truly useful, wayfinding apps must be available on kiosks in convenient areas such as lobbies and elevator banks. Even better, give them access to the app on their mobile phones and tablets.

Powered by accurate data. Wayfinding apps are only as good as the data behind them. They must be powered by a workplace management system that tracks occupancy as well as near real-time utilization data from multiple sources such as badge readers, networks and sensor technology.

Learn more about the utilization tracking technology that powers wayfinding tools from this useful guide to Managing Workplace Utilization.


Why ABW is a Better Alternative to Open Office Design

Open office design plans that minimize private offices and eliminate walls and doors have been gaining traction since the idea was introduced in the mid-20th century. There’s a good reason why: the premise is that open office design floor plans tend to promote collaboration among workers, since the lack of barriers encourages more interaction.

Tech companies such as Facebook and Google are leading the movement to open office design, and the idea has become mainstream in Australia and the Netherlands: the Sydney Morning Herald reports that nine out of ten offices in Australia are open plan. In the US, open office design plans are used in about 70 percent of offices, according to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA).

At the same time, in recent years there has been a flurry of negative press about open office design, with critics now saying that it hinders productivity and worker attitudes.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the open plan office, and an emerging idea that can combine the best features of open design and private work spaces.

Open Office Design: The Upside

Here are some of the touted benefits of the open office design plan:

Increased collaboration. Particularly for functions such as sales and marketing where interaction is beneficial, open plan environments do tend to encourage employees to work together more than private office environments.

Creative thinking and innovation. When workers are able to easily get input from others without having to schedule a meeting, it can lead to better ideas.

Lower build and fit-out cost. Without the need to build so many walls (or even purchase cubicles), the costs of constructing a space with an open office design can be as much as 20 percent lower.

Energy savings. Having an open plan workplace also may reduce heating, cooling and electricity expenses thanks to improved flow of air and light.

Reduced office equipment expenses since the open office design plan makes it easier to share printers, copiers and other office supplies.

Easier layout changes. Open plan offices can more easily accommodate increases in headcount, or rearrangements of groups due to changes in company structure.

The Challenges of Open Office Design

Here are a few of the reasons behind the criticism of the open plan office:

Noise and distractions make it more difficult for employees to focus on their work and conduct business. Decreases in productivity can result, especially for work that requires concentration or privacy, such as finance, accounting or human resources.

Lack of privacy. This becomes a concern with open office design spaces, because computer screens are easily visible to those passing by. It’s also difficult to have a sensitive telephone conversations without being overheard. There is also the possibility of ethics issues arising from confidentiality issues, particularly for legal or HR staff. Plus, workers just don’t like feeling watched.

Implied lower status is another common complaint, especially from senior workers who felt they had earned their private office. The resulting worker dissatisfaction can also lower productivity and job performance.

The best of both worlds: Activity-based working (ABW)

Office design trends in some regions and industries (especially in Australia and the tech industry) are moving in a new direction: Activity-Based Working (ABW) environments, which provide a combination of open office design spaces with other task-oriented, private spaces. Especially when an ABW office design is combined with a non-assigned seating model (also known as “agile” or “flexible” working), many of the problems associated with open plan are eliminated.

In an agile office setting, workers don’t have an assigned desk, but instead choose where they want to work each day. Not only do agile environments greatly reduce real estate costs by maximizing space utilization and reducing footprint, but employees get to choose the space that’s best suited to their work.

That’s where the ABW plan is most beneficial. Someone who needs to make confidential phone calls can choose a private “phone booth.” A team brainstorming session can take place in a comfortable lounge that encourages creative thinking. Someone writing a legal brief can choose a small quiet space for thinking and concentration.

Harvard Business Review article supports this idea. According to the authors, “Our studies show that the most successful work environments provide a range of spaces—an ecosystem—that allow people to choose where and how they get their jobs done.”

Related article: What Does the Agile Work Environment Look Like?

The use of mobile office furniture is another useful design trend (especially in an ABW environment) that mitigates the problems of the open office design plan. Instead of traditional desks, moveable furniture can be rearranged to accommodate different activities. It can also be quickly and easily rearranged to meet a business need such as increased headcount or a business unit reorganization.

ANZ is a company that has reaped enormous benefits from adopting modern activity-based work spaces, to the tune of $33M in additional revenue and avoided costs. The company has implemented what they term a ‘Playbox’ of 14 different workspace designs and flexible furniture products to match the way people work.

Not only did ANZ reduce build costs by 30%, the move increased team engagement and even improved work performance. Decision making speed went from 4 days to 4 hours, and a new banking app was completed 6 months ahead of schedule.

Read more about ANZ’s successful ABW program: Bank offers flexible work pick’n’mix.

The company will also be presenting a case study about their ABW program at CoreNet Global in October.

Technology helps drive the right workplace design

So how does a company go about designing the right environment for their workers and their bottom line? The planning process starts with workplace management technology that can help you understand how your current space is being utilized.

That means gathering data about each building, floor, conference room and desk, and tracking who is using what. It also means implementing space utilization tracking technology, such as sensors and network tracking, to determine exactly when and how often spaces are used. That data can help determine the right mix of spaces and ratio of people to desks.

You can read more about the process in this article: 10 Steps That Drive Better Space Efficiency in the Workplace.

Insight from data-driven technology can help design workplaces that meet everyone’s needs. What’s more, that data can also power wayfinding tools that help employees find spaces and find people in an agile working environment.

Here are a couple of helpful resources that help you understand how to evaluate workplace management and utilization measurement technology:

5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software
Managing Workplace Utilization


Workforce Health: Is Your Workplace Helping or Hurting?

Why are companies making workforce health a priority?

A decade ago, “workforce health” was not a term that was on the radar for most corporations. Today, that’s changing rapidly. The fact is, a company’s employees are its most important asset, and more and more companies are recognizing that it pays to invest in taking care of them.

Beyond the human benefits of supporting and nurturing people and workforce health, it just makes good business sense to do everything you can to keep employees healthy. That’s because studies show time and time again that happy, healthy employees are more productive and innovative in their job performance. On the other hand, the costs of employees with poor health can be significant. These numbers were reported by the World Green Building Council:

  • In the US, the cost of missing work due to illness approaches $2500 per employee each year.
  • In Australia, absenteeism due to poor health costs companies $7 billion each year, while lost productivity due to illness (sometimes termed “presenteeism” or not functioning at full capacity at work) is estimated as high as $26 billion.

For the majority of companies, staffing is by far the largest business operating expense. In fact, according to a report by the World Green Building Council, staffing accounts for as much as 90 percent of operating costs. Since staffing is such a big ticket item, even a modest gain in productivity can have a large financial payoff for a company.

Here’s another reason companies are increasingly investing in workforce health and well-being initiatives: these programs help attract and retain talent. In many industries and parts of the world, there’s a critical shortage of labor and companies need to do everything they can to attract top job candidates. Millennials in particular are drawn to companies that demonstrate an interest in and commitment to their overall well-being.

How the workplace affects workforce health

It’s no secret that buildings and work environments can have a huge impact on workforce health. Those impacts come from a wide range of sources, including both the physical environment as well as working conditions. Here are a few notable examples.


It’s well established that sitting for prolonged periods increases the risk for many chronic health problems. There’s been a lot of buzz in the media about the phrase “sitting is the new smoking,” a phrased coined by Mark Hamilton, a leading researcher on inactivity physiology, to describe the detrimental affects of too much sitting. According to the Mayo Clinic, sitting too much at work is just as harmful as couch-potato behavior at home.

Global health and care company BUPA studied the impact of sedentary activities on both employee attitudes and health, by having people wear pedometer devices that could measure the amount of time sitting, standing or walking. Employees reported feeling happier and were also healthier (shown by blood pressure levels and other measurements) when they spent less time sitting. One way to reduce sitting is to provide sit-stand workstations.


The stress of working in a noisy environment can cause employee dissatisfaction at a minimum and even aggravate mental health conditions. Separating quiet areas and group workspaces can increase productivity as well as improve attitudes and health.


Many factors about the layout of an office can impact workforce health and well-being. For example, the density of workers packed into an office space, the availability of (or lack of) space to collaborate with others, social space and break areas all affect people’s ability to concentrate and be productive.


There’s a reason why everyone wants the office space with a window! Good lighting, and especially daylight, enhances mood and improves productivity. Experts are also saying that the positive impact from proximity to windows is even further enhanced by exposure to nature—when those windows provide a view of green space.


Good indoor air quality (IAQ) in a workplace means providing well designed and maintained ventilation that ensures low levels of carbon dioxide and pollutants. There is a great body of evidence linking poor IAQ to illness, even systemic problems such as Sick Building Syndrome. However, according to research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there is also evidence to suggest that improving IAQ can also lead to work performance and productivity gains in the range of 6 to 9 percent.

How modern workplaces can improve workforce health and productivity

With so many companies building modern workplaces featuring activity-based working environments, it’s the perfect opportunity to make changes to the workplace that can improve workforce health and well-being.

Encourage movement

Modern workplaces not only encourage collaboration, they also increase movement. Some companies, such as international property and infrastructure company Lendlease (a firm that has led the way in workforce health improvement and awareness), are providing alternative work spaces such as sit-to-stand desks and treadmill desks that cut down the time people spend sitting while doing office work. Lendlease estimates that their personal device initiative has reduced blood pressures by 20 percent, reduced waist measurements by 10 percent, and even increased sleep quality in their employees.

However, it’s important to think beyond the type of furniture to promote activity and workforce health. Emily Fielding of office furniture design firm Markant explains:

Encouraging movement throughout the day is about creating a dynamic working environment and educating employees on why this is important. When we sit for prolonged periods, our heart rate slows, inevitably slowing the rate at which we can provide required nutrients to our brain for optimal productivity.

To understand the brain’s need for activity, consider ‘three-thirty-itis’ (yes, it’s a thing). Our body’s energy at this time of the day is focused on digesting our lunch. We become tired, and immediately reach out for our afternoon coffee. What I find funny about this is that it’s not the coffee itself that wakes you up (in fact, caffeine restricts blood vessels in the brain and can decrease productivity), it’s really the action of standing and walking over to the office kitchen or local cafe. Think of sitting as a battery drainer and the movement as a generator; a couple of minutes of movement have effectively rebooted your brain and woken you up.

Here’s how open plan office spaces can encourage movement to improve workforce health:

  • Physically seeing your co-worker across the room can encourage you to walk over to talk instead of sending an email.
  • Centrally located bins, printers and copiers encourage getting up.
  • Allowing enough space around workstations helps people feel comfortable moving around.

Give staff control over their environment

An activity-based work environment allows employees to choose the type of workspace they will use each day, so they can choose a space that’s suited to the work they need to do. For example, they can choose a private, quiet space for tasks that require intense concentration, or an open and comfortable space for a team brainstorming session. This type of control improves well-being as well as increasing productivity and performance.

Related article: What Does the Agile Work Environment Look Like?

Offer healthier food options

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employees spend an average of 8.9 hours working each day, and many spend a great deal more. Being trapped in an office where the only sustenance comes from coffee and vending machines can negatively impact workforce health. Lendlease studied the affect of healthy food options by replacing sweets with fresh fruit. Their employees reported feeling better about coming to work as well as improved mental health and anxiety levels.

Taking steps to improve workforce health, including making a move to an activity based work environment, is an investment that brings significant returns in the form of healthier bodies, minds, workplaces and even a healthier company culture. And ultimately, a healthier bottom line and long-term success for the company.

Technology enables the move to activity based working

If you’re considering moving to an activity based work environment, the first step in the planning process is to collect data about your current space utilization. Many companies don’t have a true picture of how much space sits empty every day, and that number can be 50 percent or more. Start with workplace management software that helps right-size office space and get occupancy levels under control.

Next, implement the right mix of sensors and other technology to track not just desks that aren’t assigned to anyone, but overall utilization of all your workspace. That data allows you to plan for the right ratios of seats-to-people and mix of space types in a non-assigned seating model.

Here are a couple of helpful resources to get you started:

5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software
Measuring Workplace Utilization


Activity Based Working: How It Can Work for the Public Sector

With all the buzz about activity based working environments these days, property teams worldwide are starting to sit up and take notice. That’s especially true in Australia and New Zealand, where some of the largest organisations, such as NAB, ANZ, Commmonwealth Bank, and Westpac are leading the way in creating modern spaces with non-assigned seating.

These workplaces of the future are not only driving down the cost of real estate for these large firms, but helping to attract top talent and to create a culture of collaboration and innovation.

Related article: What Does the Agile Work Environment Look Like?

Large corporations are not the only forward-thinking organisations making the move to activity based working. Several Australian government departments have already implemented flexible work environments. You can read more about them in these articles:

Office for Digital Government: Activity Based Working and Adaptive Workspaces
Department of Human Services: Government agency jumps on activity-based bandwagon
Defence pilots activity based working

While we can’t name names, we also know of more Australian government departments currently exploring the option, with pilot programs in the works.

Here’s why exploring a move to activity based working is smart for the public sector.

Why activity based working is a win for government departments

It’s true that government agencies do face certain challenges in making the move to activity based working, above and beyond the ones faced by private enterprise, such as overcoming employee anxiety and resistance to change. For government departments, older buildings and lack of budget to refurbish can also hinder plans to change to an activity based working environment. In addition, government departments face restrictions from Enterprise Bargaining Agreements and mandated business practices.

Related article: Top 3 Challenges of Moving to an Agile Working Environment

However, the benefits to be gained from activity based working are so compelling that some government pioneers are pushing the envelope in spite of these challenges. Here’s why:

Huge cost savings.
Real estate represents one of the highest costs faced by organisations, second only to the cost of labour. Most property teams are facing pressure to reduce the cost of workspace, but Australian government departments face an even greater challenge. They are mandated by law to reduce costs every year, in the form of the yearly efficiency dividend.

Since activity based working allows organisations to accommodate more people in fewer square meters, it’s an attractive option for helping to meet occupational density and vacancy targets, as well as reducing overall real estate spend without any reduction in headcount.

According to a report by global property services firm JLL, Australian government agencies can reduce their property footprint by as much as 40 percent by adopting activity based working environments.

Workplace productivity.
While many organisations initially face objections to activity based working, once they demonstrate the benefits for workers and ease their anxieties, these modern environments help workers to be more engaged and productive.

After all, in exchange for the desk they lose, employees stand to gain spaces that are better suited for the work they are doing, more collaborative spaces where they can connect with co-workers, and fun features like employee lounges, kitchens are areas for relaxation. It’s a proven fact: happy workers produce better results.

With constant pressure to reduce cost and meet the challenges of changing government initiatives, the public sector must be constantly looking for ways to improve. When you need ideas and innovation, fostering a collaborative culture within your organization is a good place to start. When teams have spaces that encourage them to work together, as activity based working spaces do, there’s a significant increase in creative thinking.

More agility.
There’s a reason activity based working is sometimes referred to as “agile working.” These environments are more conducive to changing business conditions and implementing new initiatives quickly. These are challenges that government agencies face regularly. Whenever a new regime takes over with new priorities and new laws are enacted, public sector departments need to be able to turn on a dime. Agile spaces can more easily accommodate fluctuations in numbers of workers and reorganizations due to new plans.

Attracting and retaining talent.
It’s no secret that there’s a shortage of skilled and talented workers in many industries and regions. Government agencies are competing for talent with private companies out there providing comfortable and even fun work environments. Millennials in particular are drawn to the cool new features found in activity based working environments.

Technology can ease the transition to activity based working

If you’re considering a move to activity based working, even if that move might be years down the road, now is the time to implement technology that can help you on the journey to right-sizing your office space.

Any plan to move to a non-assigned seating model must begin with understanding and taking control of your current utilisation of space. Workplace management software helps you build reliable data about your work space and how it is being used, stating with business unit allocation and down to the seat level. When you have this accurate information, you can use it to gain the trust of your business units, drive conversations about strategic changes, and even build a business case for a move to activity based working.

Technology also provides the data you’ll need to design and implement the activity based working environment that’s right for you. For example, to decide on people-to-seats ratios for each business unit, you must have a deep understanding of space utilisation, not just who sits where. That’s where utilisation tracking technologies come into play, such as RFID tags, badge swipes or speed gates, lighting and desk sensors and network capture tools. Besides giving you the data to make good decisions, the data from these technologies can also power wayfinding tools for employees to find work spaces and each other in the new environment.

To learn more about the different technologies for collecting utilisation data, take a look at this helpful resource: Measuring Workplace Utilization.


Case Study: Automation Helps Optimise Workplace Space Utilisation

Are you under the gun to improve workplace space utilisation and reduce your footprint? Just about every large organisation is facing this challenge today. If you are looking for solutions to this problem, you might be surprised to hear that you can learn a thing or two from the Australian government.

In 2009, the Australian government began reviewing its property footprint with the goal of saving money by reducing space. The result was a new process called PRODAC, which requires departments to report their space utilisation every year, and to work toward meeting progressively shrinking targets for vacancy and occupational density. They must also meet a yearly efficiency dividend by reducing operational costs.

If you think you’re under a lot of pressure to reduce your space utilisation, imagine being mandated by law to do so! That’s the burden on the Australian public sector. Let us tell you a story about one department, which we can’t name for security reasons, and how they have made significant strides in reducing the space they hold. At one point they reduced vacancy from 18% down to 10% in a short period, even with severe restrictions due to security and employee conditions.

How did they do it? By automating space utilisation management, and learning some important lessons about managing change along the way.

What can you do when you’re mandated to reduce space utilisation?

When the PRODAC regulations were announced, Australian public sector departments and agencies were suddenly faced with a huge burden: carrying out a time-consuming reporting process each year, and figuring out how to go about reducing their space utilisation.

One government department, who became a Serraview client, realized early on that this was their opportunity to explore automating their space management processes. Their property team consisted of a group of smart individuals who had seen what technology could accomplish, and they had a vision of how they could do better with space utilisation.

Challenges to automating space utilisation management

Now, as you’re probably aware, implementing new technology can pose challenges, even when everyone’s on board about the need for the change. However, the public sector face even more difficult hurdles to implementing new technology than most:

  • Strict security requirements. Any new software must treat data with the same level of security as the government does. Although the data being stored is classified at the lower end of the risk spectrum (as it doesn’t include any financial data, health data information about the public, or top secret classified data), it still requires stringent controls to be put in place to protect personal data about employees and their locations. Any new system would need to pass extensive, time-consuming security accreditation in line with the Australian Government Information Security Manual (ISM) published by the Department of Defence.
  • Enterprise Bargaining Agreements. Due to strict employment conditions negotiated for government employees, the property team had restrictions on their ability to transition people to best-practice workplaces, such as agile working. Any changes would have to be negotiated and implemented slowly.

The property team realized that getting security clearance to put detailed data into the system, as well as the IT support to implement advanced utilisation technologies like Serraview Live, was going to take some time. However, they knew they couldn’t wait that long to get started taking control of their space utilisation. So they devised an implementation plan in stages to help them reap the benefits as quickly as possible.

Implementing space utilisation technology in 3 stages

STAGE ONE: Taking control of business space allocation

When the property team first implemented Serraview’s space utilisation management technology, the only data they were allowed to put into the system was information about business units and their space assignments. So that’s where the team started. Serraview took care of importing all their floor plans, then they were able to overlay allocation data and easily view color-coded plans showing where teams were located.

While the team couldn’t yet track seat assignments and employee data at this stage, having those graphical floor plans helped the team to drive conversations with business units about space requests and even relocations. The ability to create scenario plans and show a group their new space went a long way toward easing people’s concerns about moving.

Related article: Property Teams: How to Drive Space Utilization Planning Conversations

STAGE TWO: Adding employee data

Additional security hurdles were cleared when Serraview achieved ISM certification, allowing the team to begin tracking employee data in the system. Now they were ready to get a better handle on occupancy and achieve their space utilisation targets. When business units submitted requests for additional space, having those graphical floor plans that showed exactly who sits where really changed the conversation. Groups could no longer “hide” space that they didn’t really need.

At this stage, the property team could actually see the pockets of available space and fill them when new requests came in, rather than having to increase footprint. They could also easily restack and consolidate available space, and reduce their footprint by subleasing that space out to another government department. That new strategy saved significant cost instead of waiting out a 10 year lease with under-utilised space.

STAGE THREE: Implementing utilisation tracking technology

Today, this government department is in the process of implementing utilisation tracking technologies, such as badge swipe/speed gate data, and moving toward collecting utilization data through their IP network using Serraview Live. With that system in place, utilisation information will be automatically maintained with no need for staff intervention.

Tracking utilisation tells you how and when space is actually being used, not just who it’s assigned to. As a starting point, the property team is finding the data useful as proof to gain approval for their strategic plans, and they continue to find more ways that data can help drive down space utilisation.

One idea in the planning stages is a move to an agile working environment, as opposed to the current assigned-seating model. One successful pilot has already been completed and a second is slated to begin later this year. These modern workspaces not only reduce footprint significantly, but also help attract top talent and even promote a culture of collaboration and innovation within an organisation.

Related article: What Does the Agile Work Environment Look Like?

What results can you expect from automating space utilisation planning?

Here’s what this Australian government department has achieved and some of the lessons they learned along the way:

Space utilisation targets achieved: twice!
It takes resiliency along with the right automated tools to reduce space utilisation and achieve the aggressive targets required from the Australian public sector. This particular team had to do it twice! They managed to reduce their vacancy rate from 18 percent down to 10 percent, and they were also able to meet their density target (at that time) of 16 square meters per person. Then in 2014, the government imposed significant staffing reductions, which shot their vacancy back up to 23 percent! At the same time their density target was reduced as well.

Talk about taking the wind out of your sails! It was back to the drawing board for the property team, but now they knew they had the tools and the skills to accomplish their goals. Within a year, they managed to get their vacancy back down, reduce their total real estate footprint by 25%, and are on target to meet the new density requirements.

Proactively managing change
This Australian government property team have learned more than they bargained for in the process of automating their space utilisation management. Not just about how to best use the new tools to reduce their footprint, but about managing change and how others react to that change.

The team found that the visual nature of their new system was a great help in changing people’s mindsets and reducing conflict. For example, previously their business units were focused on their own interests and not very concerned about impacts of change on other groups. As a result, it was difficult for them to accept a scenario that was best overall. That all changed when they were able to see visual move scenarios and the impact their “wants” would have on other groups. Seeing is believing!

The accommodation staff also benefited from being able to see both the current state of their space utilisation and the potential results of their strategic plans. It helped settle differences between team members about how to tackle space planning issues.

Furthermore, the data also allowed the property team to make excess space available to other government departments and agencies. Thus they could decrease their own space holding and apply the cost savings to their efficiency dividend, the annual reduction in operational expenses imposed on the Australian public sector.

Related article: Using Business Intelligence Analytics to Drive Better CRE Decisions

What space utilisation challenges are you facing?

Today’s large organisations, whether public or private sector, are facing the need to reduce their space footprint. Organisations are waking up to the fact that as much as 50 percent or more of their space sits vacant each day due to increasingly mobile workforces, and those wasted costs can be reduced.

To do so, you need to improve space utilisation using the right automated tools. The trick is choosing the one that will bring the best and fastest results.

Here’s a helpful resource that can help jump-start your search for the right workplace management software: 5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software.


5 Ways to Smooth Relocation After Machinery of Government Changes

For public sector employees, machinery of government changes can be a source of a great deal of anxiety about changes in job responsibilities, reporting structure, and (possibly worst of all) having to relocate to a new workspace.

For property teams within government departments, machinery of government changes can be even more stressful. That’s because you not only have to worry about your own job, but you’re suddenly facing a great deal more work: managing relocations of the shifting workforce and finding new space for any new departments and agencies. It’s a monumental task, and one that needs to be accomplished at lightning speed.

In large corporations, churn is also a way of life and property teams are tasked with moving them around while minimising work disruption. But in the public sector, you regularly face an even more difficult challenge: moving large numbers of people at the drop of a hat. With machinery of government changes, you often won’t know what’s coming until the change is publicly announced.

In addition to moves resulting from machinery of government, public sector departments are expected to help each other out with their space needs, such as subleasing available space to each other. It’s not unheard of for departments to swap space when one is growing and the other getting smaller. That means even more relocations.

In the process of working with Australian government departments for a decade, Serraview has learned a thing or two about making these transitions faster and easier. Here’s some advice we think will help, as well as specific steps for smoothing and speeding the process of relocating groups after a machinery of government change.

Technology is the key to smoothing churn after machinery of government changes

This advice is probably not a surprise to you: technology always seems to be the way to make things faster and easier. For government agencies in particular, getting new technology implemented can be a challenge. We’re here to tell you—not just because we develop this technology, but because we’ve seen the results time and time again—that it’s well worth the effort. Here’s how to make it happen.


STEP 1: Implement technology to get your house in order

You’ve probably heard the old adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Whomever coined that phrase probably never imagined it would be used to describe technology. But it’s true: implementing the right technology helps you be prepared for machinery of government changes. And that preparation can make a world of difference in speeding and managing the process when you have to implement those massive relocations.

Since you’re not likely get much warning about machinery of government changes, the key to reacting quickly is having an accurate picture of your current occupancy. If you don’t have this information today, it will take you much longer to figure out how to accommodate potentially thousands of new people. Now is the time to get your house in order with a workplace management tool that provides you with a trustworthy source of record for occupancy data. You’ll be in the best position to handle whatever comes when you know where your people are and how much vacancy currently exists.

Here are some tips about features to look for:

Self-service portal: Speed data collection by providing an easy way for departments to enter, update and validate their data. They will WANT to do it when they see the reports you can provide them in return.

Utilisation tracking: If you’re facing restrictions on getting some teams to enter data, you can import badge swipe data or implement computer network monitoring software to collect utilisation data automatically.

Related article: What’s New in Smart Building Technology: Occupancy Sensors

Scenario modeling: If you’re getting wind that changes are coming, you want access to tools that help you prepare multiple possible scenarios for accommodating machinery of government changes.

STEP 2: Gather new data

When the word comes down about changes impacting your department, you won’t have to panic since you have your workplace management system and your occupancy data in place. So what comes next?

Now is the time to gather new information: both the digital kind and the human kind. If you’re lucky, your workplace management software company might help you with the digital part (gathering and importing the data about the new teams you need to accommodate). That’s how you’ll find out about the numbers of people and how their teams are currently structured.

Here’s some important advice: don’t stop there. Get in touch with leaders, representatives and space champions for the new teams affected by the machinery of government changes. That often means EAs and PAs, who you want to make your new best friends. They can tell you about important things to know about the teams being moved, such as which teams would benefit from being aligned, which can’t sit together, and what important goals and initiatives they are working on that might impact the relocation.

STEP 3: Create a relocation plan

Once you know for certain how much vacancy you have, as well as the numbers and needs of those you need to accommodate, it’s time to create a plan for the relocation.

Spend some time (but not too much time, you’ll be under pressure to get started) modeling a few scenarios to see which option provides the best balance of cost effectiveness and time to implement. You will be able to see where your existing vacancy can accommodate the new changes. Your workplace management software will come in handy now, when you can easily restack your floors to create a contiguous space for the new group. Don’t forget to take into account the intelligence info you learned from your space champions when creating seating plans and move schedules.

Another option to consider when working through possible solutions for machinery of government changes, especially when it looks like you don’t have enough space, is a move to agile working. Moving from an assigned seating model to a free address space might be the solution you need to accommodate a new department without adding footprint.


To learn more about moving to agile working, read this related article:
10 Keys to Success with the Agile Work Environment

For more tips about creating relocation plans, read this related article:
Office Relocation Planning: Keeping Your Move On Track, Part 1

STEP 4: Communicate

Moving makes employees anxious, and machinery of government changes make the whole situation even more stressful. When entire departments are moving and restructuring, there’s a great deal of change management that needs to take place. Communication can smooth the transition by helping people be prepared for what’s coming and easing their fears.

You really can’t communicate too much in preparation for a relocation. There are give and take aspects to this communication: listening and gathering intelligence, and proactively providing helpful information to affected employees. We previously mentioned the “take” part: making friends with representatives of the new departments to learn about their needs. Now it’s time for giving back. One of the most efficient and effective ways to do this is by setting up automated email communications for everyone involved in the relocation.

Technology can make this task vastly simpler. Just set up different templates providing need-to-know information for each affected group, and schedule them to go out at the right time according to the relocation plan.

 You’ll also need to communicate information to other parties involved in implementing the relocation, such as removalists. Technology can make this step simple as well, when you can easily generate reports with all the information they need.

STEP 5: Provide move day support

Even with the best relocation plan, you’re bound to hit a few snags on move day. This is especially true for moves caused by machinery of government changes, since you’re moving so many with so little time to get ready. Once again, the trick is to be prepared and provide support for dealing with issues.

Establish support points-of-contact for different types of issues in advance, such as IT issues or finding lost items. Then communicate that information to everyone (using one of your email templates!) prior to move day. On the day itself, people may not have comm set up so you’ll need support staff walking the floors to help people out.

Your goal should be to minimise work disruption as much as possible. Postpone problems that are not business-critical, and focus on getting people back to work.

Related article: Office Relocation Checklist for Successfully Executing Your Move

Implementing workplace technology: How long does it take?

Here’s the good news: you still have time to be ready for the next general election and the resulting machinery of government changes. Today’s best in class workplace management software can be up and running in months, rather than years like some older IWMS systems you might be considering.

Time to implement and achieve value is just one of the critical features you must consider when evaluating workplace management tools.

Learn more about what you might be missing from our informative guide to 5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software.


VIDEO: How To Create a Stacking Plan to Right-Size Office Space

If you are a corporate space planner, figuring out how to right-size your office space can seem overwhelming. How can you create a new stacking plan that takes advantage of your existing vacancy? You may need room for a new team or just want to consolidate so you can sublease space that’s not needed.

Just figuring out where you have empty seats can take weeks all by itself. And while you are collecting that data, it’s already becoming outdated as people move around. The good news is, there’s a much easier way to create a new stacking plan that consolidates your vacant seats. Watch this video to see Serraview’s Ian Morley demonstrate how to do it in a couple of minutes.

And don’t forget, if you’ve got questions, send us a message on Twitter and use the hashtag #AskSerraview.

Hello, and welcome to Serraview’s first Space Planning Video Blog!

My name is Ian Morley, and I’m here to answer your most pressing questions about corporate space management.To get the ball rolling, let’s start with one of the most commonly asked questions we get from clients.

The question is: What is the best way to right-size my office space?It’s a great question. Let me show you how we can use our Scenario Planning Tools to quickly answer it.First up, I’m going to open up Serraview’s Block & Stack tool and take a look at the extent of the problem.

We’re going to take a look at the stacking plan for our building at 100 Broadway.

Here you can see our current stacking plan for the building, including how many seats are assigned to each business unit.

If you look here at the top right, you can see some key metrics about the building.

The key number I’m looking for is this one here in gray… it’s showing that we currently have 429 vacant seats in the building.

If you look at the floors you can see that they average about 128 seats per floor. In other words, if we create a new stacking plan to right-size the space allocations, we should be able to free up over 3 floors of space.

Putting that into perspective, in most major cities, that’s the equivalent of over $3 million in wasted real estate space.

Ok, so how do we go about creating a new stacking plan to right-size the building?

The best way to do that is to create a what-if scenario plan.

We’ll go to the FILE menu and choose NEW PROJECT.

I’ll add a PROJECT NAME and enter my building.

To right-size my team allocations, I select all the teams, then choose TOOLS, Set to occupants.

You can see that the system has now compressed all of the teams’ allocations, and freed up all this vacancy here in the white.

Now, we may be able to stop here, but I do want to go a step further and quickly restack the building by dragging and dropping our groups around. That way, we can consolidate all our available space into a couple of floors, so that we can hopefully sublet or repurpose for another project team that’s about to enter the building.

An there we have it! In the space of a couple of minutes, we’ve just created a new stacking plan to right-sized the building, and we’ve freed up over three floors of vacant space.

Thank you for joining us for Serraview’s first Space Planning Video Blog!

If you have a pressing question that you’d like us to answer, please send us a message over Twitter, using the hashtag #AskSerraview.

I look forward to it, and see you next time.

To learn more about corporate space planning issues, read these related topics:

Fast-Track Corporate Space Planning: Technology Can Shorten Your Day
10 Steps That Drive Better Space Efficiency in the Workplace

If you’re just beginning a search for the right corporate space planning tool, you’ll quickly discover that comparing the available options is no easy task. There’s a wide range of features and functionality, and it can be tricky to figure out what will deliver the results you’re after. Hone in on the search criteria that help companies get faster results and better ROI with this helpful guide to 5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software.