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Using Business Intelligence Analytics to Drive Better CRE Decisions

6 ways business intelligence analytics can
help you make better space planning decisions.

Ian Morely

By Ian Morley

When you’re responsible for difficult decisions associated with corporate space planning, don’t you wish you had a crystal ball that could tell you what will be happening in your business in the next 10 to 20 years? You need to be able to accurately predict the future to make right decisions about your portfolio: whether to renew leases, consolidate space or move into new space.

Yet how can you predict the future when you don’t have a good handle on the present? When you lack accurate data about your current space utilization, you struggle with every decision from everyday business requests for more space to the really tough calls like whether or not to renew a building lease. And each time you get it wrong, the consequences are costly: like being stuck in a 10 year lease for a space that you don’t need. Or having to keep moving teams around because you had the wrong information about their needs. With each mistake you make because of bad data, not only are you wasting money, but you’re shining a light on your own deficiencies and hurting your reputation with your lines of business and executive team.

6 Ways Business Intelligence Analytics Can Help You Make Better Space Planning Decisions

Believe it or not, you can actually have that crystal ball with business intelligence analytics. With an accurate and reliable view of how to your space is utilized today, you can perform fact-based analysis to help you plan and drive the right decisions at every level. Here’s how.

1. Visualize your data. Business intelligence analytics is about more than collecting reams of data. It’s about accessing that data in a way that’s useful for making decisions. For example, data about which space is occupied by each business unit is much more useful in a visual block and stack tool than in a spreadsheet. When you can visualize that data, you can easily identify ways to create synergies by co-locating teams that could benefit from working together. You can also easily see where there is available space in a building and how you can consolidate to best take advantage of it.

2. Identify opportunities. To make more efficient use of space, business intelligence analytics help you spot opportunities: to take back unused space, and also to create synergies and increase collaboration by co-locating teams that could benefit from working together. You can also identify buildings that could successfully transition to an agile working environment where workers share space instead of having assigned seating. Data enables you to predict the ratios of people-to-seats that will work for each team.

Related article: 10 Keys to Success With the Agile Work Environment

3. Access actionable data. If your reports merely show you the amount of space each business unit occupies, that’s not actionable information. With the right tools providing business intelligence analytics, you can have information at your fingertips that you can immediately act upon to increase efficiency and decrease cost. For example, a floor plan with a heat map that shows you exactly which seats are unused. Or, an exception report showing the business units with the highest under-utilization of space.

4. Highlight trends over time. When making those big decisions about moves and leases, the best way to predict future needs is to look at trends. With the right business intelligence analytics, you can see how space usage changes over hours, days, months or years.

5. Track KPIs. Tracking KPIs related to your CRE goals not only helps keep you meet those goals, but helps you speak the same language as the rest of your business to give you more credibility. For example, let’s say you want to track real estate cost per person, or people-to-seats ratios for an agile work environment. The right business intelligence analytics tools can track customized KPI information and present that data in a way that’s easy to access and act upon.

6. Access relevant data. When you’re making a decision about the space for a particular region or line of business, you’ll want to be able to easily slice and dice your data to see only what’s relevant to the current decision. Make sure the tools you choose allow you to drill down to see the business intelligence analytics you need at any given time.

7. Collect forecasting data. With the right workplace management tools, you can collect headcount forecasts at a granular level from each business unit, and overlay that on top of your current utilization of space. There’s that crystal ball you wished for!

Related article: 10 Steps that Drive Better Space Efficiency In the Workplace

Collecting the Right Data for Business Intelligence Analytics

There are two essential CRE data components you’ll need to drive the business intelligence analytics you need to improve your decision making.

Occupancy

The first step is to get a handle on who sits where, or occupancy data. No one has this information today: HR cannot tell you accurately who works for the company let alone where they sit (especially contractors). Here is what you’ll need to collect to drive your business intelligence analytics:

  • Floor plans
  • Personnel data (including both employees and contractors)
  • Organizational hierarchy and cost centers
  • Allocation of space to each cost center
  • Names-to-seats

You also need a way to keep your data current and validate its accuracy. Ideally, each team should be tasked with keeping their data up to date. This is where the right workplace management software can make a tremendous difference: look for a tool that provides a portal for business units to access and update their information.

TIP: Collecting data directly from the source and requiring validation eliminates those arguments about the need for more space from your business units, since everyone can see exactly what space they have and which desks are vacant.

Utilization

Beyond tracking who-sits-where, to power useful business intelligence analytics you need to know how consistently those spaces are being used (or not used). How many desks are sitting empty every day while employees work off site? How many conference rooms with expensive video equipment are used primarily for small face to face meetings? Do those numbers change for different areas or different teams? These are important facts that can drive plans for moving to a free address environment or even plans for shared workspaces such as conference rooms.

There are quite a few technologies available for tracking space utilization, and they each have their strengths and weaknesses around precision, timeliness of data reporting, identifying users, cost and other factors. Best practice is to use a combination of technologies as appropriate for your needs, and use a software tool that combines and aggregates the data into useful business intelligence analytics.

To learn more, get your free copy of this informative guide: Measuring Workplace Utilization

Pulling Together Data to Create Useful Business Intelligence Analytics

For occupancy and utilization data to provide the insight you need to drive good decisions, you need workplace management software that creates useful business intelligence analytics. That means more than just reporting: visual and user-friendly space planning tools make it much faster and easier to make the best use of your data. Here are some features to look for:

Scenario planning. Your workplace team gains efficiency with a visual tool that shows the current state of your blocks and stacks and identifies opportunities to save space. Even better: one that lets you easily plan multiple move scenarios (with cost information) to see which works best.

Floor plan overlays. It’s infinitely more useful to see certain types of data overlaid on a floor plan to show the context, including team allocations, who sits where, tagging/keyword attributes (such as secure areas), UPS support, business criticality level (BCP context), shared equipment and conference room details.

Flexible dashboards. Look for the ability to customize dashboards to show business intelligence analytics the way you need to see them. For example, they should reflect your own terminology, adapt to your business rules, show only the attributes you want to see, or highlight specific KPIs you are tracking.

Custom report builder. Just as you need the ability to customize dashboards, you will also need to customize reports to your preferences. Many tools give you lots of reports but then you need to pay extra every time you want to customize them. A better option: look for an included report builder that lets you customize yourself without paying more for the business intelligence analytics you need.

Drill down capability. Business intelligence analytics aren’t very useful if they only show you high-level information. To make decisions, you’ll need to drill down and see information by geography or for any level of your organizational hierarchy.

Making the best use of business intelligence analytics involves more than just collecting data points. You need the right tools to help you understand and act on the data you gather. That’s where workplace management software can be so valuable. Yet the products on the market vary widely in terms of the functionality they offer, and it may seem like you’re comparing apples to oranges.

Find out how to determine which features are really important with this informative guide: 5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software.

5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software

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