I have the chance to regularly interact with experts in corporate real estate, facilities management, and energy management. Their businesses, both small and large, are located around the world. And from the first-hand accounts of these experts, I get a sense of what businesses need to thrive in the current economic climate and to succeed in the days ahead.
I predict that the efficient utilization of real estate, resources, and energy will be a critical business focus during 2012. To arrive at astute, accurate financial decisions, management teams will focus on increasing data acquisition so they can analyze workspace utilization trends down to a finite level. They will also place greater emphasis on leveraging flexible space and videoconferencing solutions, all in an attempt to maximize productivity without increasing costs.
Precision management of space utilization and energy consumption
To gain a more detailed understanding of how space and energy is used, companies will extend occupancy detection beyond conference rooms and work areas down to individual workspaces, desks, and drop-in space. Monitoring space and energy at the granular level provides details needed to identify the necessary amount of real estate for efficient functions, while avoiding unnecessary expenditures on excess workspace. It also facilitates the reduction of energy consumption in underutilized areas.
Companies that are not measuring and monitoring how their space is being used are missing out on a massive opportunity to reduce real-estate and energy costs. This doesn’t mean simply making sure a room isn’t sitting empty all day, but rather implementing and automatically enforcing usage rules so space is used to its maximum potential, while simultaneously reducing energy consumption.
From energy monitoring to active energy management
Similarly, I see companies moving from energy monitoring to active energy management, primarily by implementing automated energy control systems that can track, measure, adjust, and then repeat the process. Companies will tie energy-efficient workspace reservation systems into building management systems to automatically control the heating and cooling of real estate based on how and when it will be used.
“Rising energy costs and government mandates have resulted in an explosion in the active energy management of buildings,” according to Stephen Stokes, research vice president and distinguished analyst for Gartner. “Progressive companies need to make use of sub-metering to monitor energy consumption down to a finite level. Only then can they understand how, when, and where excess energy is being consumed, track space utilization trends to uncover inefficiencies, and implement active energy control systems to eliminate unnecessary consumption.”
Hibernation is not only for bears
Tying together systems for managing space utilization and energy consumption will enable companies to hibernate underutilized space; for example, rendering overflow workspace unavailable for booking until other areas are fully occupied. Another example is consolidating bookings of sequential similarly sized meetings into a single meeting room, rather than allowing reservations to be made for rooms located on various floors, thus minimizing climatization needs.
The concept of space hibernation provides companies with a tremendous opportunity for energy savings. This is true both on the macro level, by enabling companies to shut off large areas of underutilized facilities, but also on a micro level, by making it possible for them to consolidate room usage to achieve efficient energy consumption.
Business intelligence sheds light on trends and details
Another business trend that I foresee for 2012 is the evolution of interactive reporting. Instead of producing copious static reports to get a handle on real-estate utilization trends, companies will rely on comprehensive business intelligence systems. Dashboards and interactive visualizations will ease the process of identifying trends and inefficiencies, both companywide and at individual locations.
The plain truth is that management is demanding more from a reporting engine. People don’t want to review a tableful of graphs and spreadsheets to get the big picture. They need fast access to detailed information, presented in a graphical format that is easier to analyze and process, so they can make educated decisions before—not after—inefficiencies occur.
Multisystem videoconferencing integration for greater collaboration and reduced costs
Organizations are increasingly leveraging videoconferencing and telepresence technology to accommodate mobile workers and reduce travel expenses. As more mergers and acquisitions take place, companies are trying to manage multiple videoconferencing systems that lack interoperability. As a result, I foresee that an emphasis will be placed on videoconferencing management technology that both ensures the optimal utilization of these assets and provides multisystem integration.
Videoconference and telepresence technology has advanced tremendously, but, if that technology isn’t leveraged fully, it becomes more of an economic liability than an effective productivity and collaboration tool. Efficient management is a must if a company is to maximize ROI.
Increased use of variable workspace
As companies strive to use their facilities as efficiently as possible and, perhaps, to reduce their overall real-estate portfolio, they will make use of variable workspace offered by outside vendors as an alternative to real-estate expansion and to accommodate occasional spatial overflows. I believe companies will also use variable workspace to eliminate locations such as underutilized satellite offices, so they will pay for space only when they actually need it.
On average it costs more than $10,000 annually to maintain a single workspace, so the variable workspace model is an attractive alternative to fixed-space leasing. Swapping in variable workspace to replace a satellite office of, for example, twenty workspaces can pay for itself within the first quarter alone.
Integration of IT and real estate eliminates redundancies and reduces costs
One technical trend I foresee for 2012 is companies’ integrating business applications relating to resource, facilities, and energy management with information technology (IT). Real-estate and facility professionals working together with IT can eliminate redundant information databases, create centralized data repositories for analysis, and reduce the total cost of application ownership by eliminating duplicate data entry. Likely applications in this scenario are computer-aided design (CAD), integrated workplace management systems (IWMS), building management systems (BMS), SharePoint, security badging, internet protocol (IP) addresses, and collaborative tools such as Outlook and Lotus Notes.
It is clear from talking to people at industry events that the integration of real estate and IT will be a key initiative in 2012. Anytime an organization misses the chance to integrate, it ends up with groups operating in silos and loses the cohesiveness that a multi-system approach offers.
Analysis and flexibility will lead to efficient utilization
In 2012, analyzing space- and energy-usage trends and a placing a greater reliance on videoconferencing and variable workspace will enable businesses and other organizations to maximize the efficient utilization of real estate and workspace, increasing efficiency without increasing costs.