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Going softly to win hard-nosed business gains
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Going softly to win hard-nosed business gains

Businesses that want greater agility and more efficient use of resources typically settle for quick wins and easy pickings.  Some things just can’t be changed.  But what if that most immovable constant of your organisation – the bricks and mortar – was significantly more flexible than you first thought?

Buildings are at the heart of business life, and hold the key to far-reaching improvement opportunities.  To see it for yourself, you need to turn the relationship between buildings and business value inside-out.

Buildings are becoming as ‘soft’ and malleable as today’s organisational structures and new working practices.  The old, hard reality of ‘one person, one desk’ appears nothing more than a misperception now that smart buildings have rewritten the ratio between people, place and productivity.  You can achieve 1:1.4 without disrupting business-as-usual.

Square feet, floors, air conditioning – these hard lines were all businesses ever used to hear about buildings.  Once leases were signed, the die was cast.  But what they ultimately wanted was different; an environment to facilitate the maximum output for the minimum input, and not a penny more. 

Over time, ‘soft’ will become the first consideration on the requirements list, driven by significant early efficiency gains.  Soft is smart.

Take UBS as an example. Within months we directly helped them to achieved increased occupancy levels and reduced operational costs at one of their central London offices in Golden Lane, with employees benefitting from a digitally enhanced work environment with real-time workspace management tools that improve mobility and productivity.

The financial benefits of smart buildings are enough on their own, but the experience is even more compelling.

Firstly, smart buildings are softening the traditional concept of the working day, in line with flexible working demands. 

‘Soft’ is beginning to shape people’s experiences of workplaces in a very meaningful way and, over time, may be as least as influential as the traditional factors that govern how individuals engage with their environment. 

Migration to these new ways of working doesn’t have to be hard.  Imagine a touchscreen terminal by your nearest water cooler, feeding back the building’s vital signs, allow you to see, learn and engage with the process, fueling your inquisitiveness.  Or an intuitive ‘way-marking’ app, helping you locate the workspace that best suits your immediate purpose, the people to fill it or interact with, and the coffee to feed your endeavour.  This cuts down the chances of going astray, rewarding exploratory behavior and aiding efficient knowledge transfer.

‘Soft’ is already cutting down to size the seemingly insurmountable task of integrating lots of disparate IT and environmental systems into a greater, purposeful whole.  By the same token, ‘soft’ is the glue binding IoT initiatives into a purposeful project.

Crucially, ‘soft’ means making sense of all this technology and data non-disruptively, so that people can work to their full potential and businesses spend less to achieve it. 

I’ll delve deeper into the value of data lakes in a future blog. 

Smart buildings, and the preeminence of ‘soft’ over ‘hard’ in the journey toward greater business value, is a reality of the digital revolution.  It’s an opportunity for today, not just tomorrow.

Tags: Smart buildings, connect IB