“Tracy – I’m going to need your help with this one – are you free at two?”. John had just got off the phone with his CRE country head in Poland, Tomasz, and Tomasz was in a bind: his COO, Franciszka, had blocked Tomasz’ proposal to refit the HQ and avoid relocation.
Tracy read the briefing Tomasz had sent over to John. The HQ in Poland had 418 people across twelve main functions; everyone had an assigned workstation. Although all of the workstations were allocated to these twelve functions, there were 430 workstations in the building. Some functions had workstations allocated to them that were not assigned, and there were three workstations not allocated (residual from the Structural Vacancy that had been built into the original space plan when the building was occupied seven years earlier.
Tomasz was convinced that the Capacity of the existing building could accommodate the growth the business were talking about, even if that meant some limited use of unassigned or more flexible workspace. Frania, however, was unconvinced, and certain that a relocation would be required to avoid catastrophic overcrowding.
Tracy looked at some reports Tomasz had sent over based on the badge data. These were apparently the main agenda item for the two o’clock call John had asked her to join, which was with the Tomasz and Frania. The report showed some overall analysis – including that the peak occupancy on any day according to the building’s access control system was 317. It also showed a matrix with Frania’s team listed down the left and two weeks’ of dates across the top, with check-marks scattered throughout the matrix indicating which of the days each of her team were present. Tracy flinched – she had been down this road before, but with the call coming up there was little she could do.
“This report shows that we never have more than 317 people in the building. I know we have 418 people who work here, but they are never all in at the same time. Even if we grow by 30% – and your planning is for a 20% increase in headcount – we would still have enough desks in the building for everyone to have somewhere to work.”
Tomasz continued: “I know that it is not that simple: we would have to introduce some unassigned seating, but we do this already in other countries and it is very successful. I think we can avoid the disruption and inconvenience of moving and also keep this great price we have on the existing space.”
There was a pause for a moment, then Frania asked “this report – it is for my team for the first two weeks in February – is that right?”.
“Yes”, Tomasz replied. Here it comes, thought Tracy.
“Well, I think your own data proves my point: this is wrong. First, several of my team were away on skiing holidays during this period, so of course it looks like there is lots of free space. That just isn’t the normal case. And that’s not all: this report shows Oda wasn’t in the office on Thursday. Well, I have to tell you she was, because I met with her on that day. And Leslaw hasn’t worked in my team since December – he’s now in the finance team and was definitely not sat in my area at all in these two weeks. This data is unreliable and seems to have been chosen to support your point. Tomasz – I need you to help me deal with this expansion. Can you do that?”
It took Tracy and John a little while to help Tomasz recover some of his former confidence. Tracy was able to give him a better understanding of how and when to use – and just as importantly, not use – badge data. She also worked with him to see whether anything could be done short-term.
The HQ CAFM system was linked to a reservation system that had been procured mainly for the conference suite, but at some point had had all of the desks form the CAFM system loaded, even though they were permanently assigned. The reporting from the CAFM system wasn’t very helpful, but the reservation management system had a great reporting tool that made it easy to pull reservation information out.
Tracy ran some correlation analytics and found that the reservation management system almost exactly matched the badge data. She was a little surprised and asked Tomasz how people used the reservation system for the permanent desks? He explained that originally everyone was supposed to “check-in” when they got to the office each day, but they found that people quickly realized that if they didn’t do that it didn’t matter – the desk was still theirs and no one seemed to care. This made the use of the reservation system for permanent desks seem pointless, so they had built an integration that detected the first use of each persons security badge each day, and – when that person used their badge – automatically checked them in to any reservation they had for the day.
Tracy was disheartened: this automated connection between the access control system and the reservation management system meant that the correlation she had discovered was false. These two systems essentially were reporting the same identical data, not – as Tracy had hoped – providing some form of cross-check. That meant the data quality of either was just as bad as the original badge data, and Frania had already undermined the credibility of that. They needed something else.
A few calls later, Tracy had managed to find a helpful colleague in the group IT department. Tracy already had an analytical tool that could take the IPDD data from the IT network switches and map them back through the IT databases to which user they belonged to. It wasn’t a flawless process, but she had done it many times before and understood how using this kind of proxy could inform occupancy information.
The following week, Tracy laid out what she had managed to find to Tomasz and John.
“Using the IPDD data from the HQ network switches we can see when each person connects any one of their devices to the network. We can see their company-issued mobile phones or their laptops. Even those with desktops assigned to them can be tracked to some extent – we can see when the desktops sleep or hibernate and when they are ‘woken’. We can correlate this with the ACS/reservation data and establish a far more robust and reliable analysis of occupancy.”
Tomasz thought for a moment. “We only have a few days of data here. We can’t decide on anything from this, and I cannot take this Frania”.
“That’s right,” Tracy replied. “However, we will be able to gather this data continuously and within a few weeks we will have enough to be able to demonstrate to Frania why this approach is more reliable, and perhaps begin to regain her trust. All the time we will be getting more and more information, and our analytical model will become more and more reliable.”
“There’s another benefit. Frania called out that the assignment data is out of date – remember Leslaw, who transferred to finance? The IPDD data doesn’t just tell us when someone is likely to have been in the office – it also tells use where in the office they were. A docked laptop tells us precisely which desk the laptop is at, and even devices on wifi will give us a zone on a floor usually. We can use this data not only to report on the building occupancy, but also identify where the CAFM data and reservation data has someone in the wrong space.”
By the middle of the year, Tomasz had turned around his relationship with Frania, and instead of lacking credibility, she now recognized Tomasz as someone who was genuine and had high standards of integrity, and who wasn’t afraid to acknowledge his own failures when trying to support her objectives.
The IPDD, ACS and reservation management systems proxies enabled several analyses that provided compelling evidence to the organizational unit heads in the HQ about the reality of their own teams’ working patterns, and shifted the conversation away from the impossibility of unassigned desks to the opportunity to become more efficient.