People data – a growing trend
Beyond core property information, people data such as headcount, building utilisation, and attendance can provide CRE functions with powerful insights into how their portfolio is serving the wider business by measuring how people use buildings. This is a key trend that is growing in significance across the market with a lot more emphasis being placed on such information at board level.
Traditional ‘people’ metrics such as cost per head and headcount per square foot can give leadership teams defined KPIs to guide their portfolio performance, and benchmark themselves against industry leaders. Meanwhile, analysing attendance patterns can give insights into what motivates people to come to work – or stay away – and, therefore, establish the success or failure of the workplace strategies. This data can easily be gathered from building card swipe data, and from sensor data that can be installed in rooms and desks. This can provide a level of granularity that gives CRE functions an edge over industry norms.
With the right employee buy-in, CRE teams can even measure the impact of different work environments on employee wellbeing. Heart rate, sleep patterns, and productivity can be tracked and aggregated from wearable tech to form an in-depth picture of how teams perform when put into new environments. Examples include impact of increased light on heart rate, or how break-out spaces affect productivity and cognitive performance. Understanding how people operate in different situations can dramatically change how a CRE function shapes its offering.
While there has been some sensitivity around the tracking of employee data, with a new sense of wellness-tracking and smart technology for consumers to monitor this information, I believe that we will collectively become more comfortable with it in the workplace.
Making data…bigger: The benefit of external data sources
Finally, non-traditional external data sets are increasingly being used to give more meaning to traditional property and people data. Weather patterns, traffic, pollution, and even crime levels are all factors that can be read alongside standard property data to form a truly comprehensive picture of your real estate portfolio and how it serves business needs.
While two properties might look the same on paper today, looking beyond the features of the properties themselves can give a valuable insight into their future. Desirability of the surrounding area, number of nearby planning applications, and the prevalence of crime can lead to significant changes in their value and overall running costs over the next three years.
Getting results: Bringing it all together
CRE functions can spend fortunes scrubbing data, fixing systems, and investing in analytics platforms. But data is useless if it can’t be correctly interpreted to produce actionable insights. It is vital that CRE functions properly invest in the skills required to make sense of increasingly complex data.
Investment in full-time data scientists is a good place to start – experts who can land in any team and start to address quick wins and plan out longer term data strategies for those responsible for in-house CRE. Beyond this, fostering a data culture in which decision-makers at all levels truly understand how to draw real insights from data should be the primary goal for any CRE function.
75% of all data currently available has been generated in the past five years – or so goes one of the aphorisms about data that can be found online. But from both a business and a wider societal basis, we are all becoming a lot more comfortable with the collation and interpretation of data. The CRE sector has some way to go, but there is now a burgeoning sense of making up for lost time and using data to not only benchmark performance but really drive the strategy of our offices and workplaces.
So, if you want to master your CRE data environment: get the basics right with a centralised lease system, understand how your properties are being used as well as how occupants are performing with people data, and take your understanding of your portfolio to the next level by connecting all of this with external data.