Companies today are confronted by rapid shifts in market dynamics, evolving workforce requirements, intensifying competition, and rising cost pressures. This has led to their management teams becoming more aware of the company’s changing needs and are demanding greater value for every rupee spent. However, organisations are often so entrenched in managing day-to-day operations that they seldom take a step back and assess their current state of infrastructure.
Khurshed Gandhi, MD, Consulting & Workspace Services, Cushman & Wakefield, shed some light in a recent article in Commercial Design India on how data and technology can help shine a light for both investors and occupiers alike.
Putting Data First
At Cushman & Wakefield, our approach to data has always been to centralise as much as possible – especially given that we function in a global market with local interests and sensibilities. We have to be able to pull out a report that can give a potential investor, say, based in Singapore the rental and market movements for Mumbai CBD. This is possible only with a single source of truth.
We manage this through property database applications that track supply and demand of transactions through integrations with our sales systems and flowing up to the financial transactions we execute with our clients. This is continuously updated with market information and through feet-on-ground and partnerships with property intelligence and transactional data providers. It allows us to capture all the facets of property, tenant, owner and transactional information.
Property metrics like vacancy percentages, leasing trends, time to market; Financial metrics like occupancy costs, capital expenses required, cost per seat, etc; and other performance measures are all aggregated and visualised through GIS platforms and dashboards curated for individual client needs.
Services such as ArcGIS, Tableau and Power BI are provided to our employees for quick analytics and presentation capabilities. Our research teams are also equipped with big data capable statistical tools like R Programming to sift through years of data. This enables them to employ predictive analytical models to advise clients on market forecasts and help investors and occupiers make intelligent decisions on the 3Ls of corporate real estate: Location consolidation, Lease renegotiations and Layouts simplification.
Empowerment Through Technology
With the advent of PropTech 3.0, the intelligent technology solutions available to any player in the real estate industry have become countless — it’s difficult to pinpoint particular solutions that stand out from the crowd as there are better versions constantly being developed. And so, we employ the partnership first mentality, which allows the company to think on its feet, keep abreast of the latest trends in any application within the industry — all the while giving us the opportunity to fail fast and learn quickly. And this couldn’t be truer than for the facilities management (FM) sector that requires long-term engagement with clients, hence necessitating a more evolved and engaged technology approach with clients.
Our partnerships are with leading IT services companies that allow for management of obvious services like centralised helpdesk management services, asset management, preventive maintenance to inventory control, inspection management, workforce tracking. They also work to enhance the tenant experience through services like self-service portals and one-touch mobile apps, reporting services that help with capital planning, resource planning and asset lifecycle management.
Expansion of this product line leads to procurement management as well as space and occupancy planning, while being able to track financials down to the business unit allows for cost optimisations. For us, FM extends to employee wellness and experience solutions as well. We provide technologies that can enhance this through simplified workplace apps for day-to-day requirements like transport requests, cafeteria orders, booking seats, booking concierge services – the options are limited only by the client’s needs.
Each aspect could lead to disparate solutions but given our ability to leverage technology partners that can scale up or down based on necessity, we can stitch the tools together to provide a seamless experience to end-users. Now, our facilities services are expanding to leverage Artificial Intelligence as well through chatbots that are being piloted to provide first line support to our clients via centralised helpdesks services.
Thriving in the Internet of Things
For Cushman & Wakefield, the aim of any automation initiative is always driven with end results in mind — once the framework is established for key objectives, the technology can be moulded to suit the specific building or operational concern. Especially with a technology like IoT, the cases can be endless but it’s always the requirement that drives innovation and application. The most common requirement for IoT application is space occupancy management and optimisation, which is invariably where a significant portion of real estate expenses lie for our clients.
We have clients for whom we’ve utilised sensor technology placed strategically (read: financially) to capture employee movement. This gets aggregated to understand space utilisation by business units; high interest and footfall areas through heat maps; and utilisation of seats and spaces like meeting rooms and quiet spaces. It allows us to proactively advise clients with custom solutions to enhance workplace experience and employee engagement.
For instance, if data shows that employees tend to move around the cafeteria or open meeting spaces rather than closed meeting rooms or desks, then the organisation would benefit from creating more breakout spaces. These space tracking applications also create wayfinding solutions for employees that can lead them to the nearest empty seat or meeting rooms or even a colleague.
The other commonly used application for IoT at Cushman & Wakefield is in the area of predictive maintenance and remote management of critical assets and buildings. This is especially true for occupiers with large footprints across multiple countries, where it can be a challenge to centrally visualise and monitor asset and space performance. IoT technology helps track as well as predict possible breakdowns through monitoring data trends and outliers in information captured.
While the adoption of IoT has been limited due to heavy capex investments, we work closely with emerging technology providers that leverage Wi-Fi networks and simple software applications to track utilisation and performance without the need for any hardware installation. We expect renewed interest in this area and expect exciting times.
This blog post is based on an article which first appeared in Commercial Design India in the January 2019 issue under the title “Evolving with business”.