Episode #5

The Accelerating Pace of Change in IWMS

Russell Olson, President & CEO and Bill Jordan, Vice President from ROI Consulting Group speak with host Bart Waldeck about how much volatility and rapid change there has been as organizations emerge from the pandemic, how mindsets have shifted, and the short- and long-term changes they are making implementing for their clients.
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The Accelerating Pace of Change in IWMS
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In this Episode

Russell Olson, President & CEO and Bill Jordan, Vice President from R.O.I. Consulting Group speak with host Bart Waldeck about how much volatility and rapid change there has been as organizations emerge from the pandemic, how mindsets have shifted, and the short- and long-term changes they are making implementing for their clients.

  • Transcript

Episode Transcript

Bart Waldeck:  

Good day, everyone, and welcome to Workplace 2.0, Tango’s podcast about all things corporate real estate. As usual, I’m your host, Bart Waldeck. Glad that you could join us today. I am really excited to have our two guests on today. I think they bring a unique perspective to all the craziness and volatility that is the reality of corporate real estate today. So, I’m pleased to welcome Bill Jordon and Russell Olson from ROI consulting group. Thanks for joining Workplace 2.0. Glad you could make it here today.

Why don’t we start with a little bit of background on ROI Consulting and then maybe you guys could shed light on why you have gray hair and you’ve been working this industry for so long.

Russell Olson:

Well, in my case the gray hair started when I was about 17. But I think that between the two of us, we both have about 25+ years experience, just in the what I’ll call CAFM/IWMS world. Starting way, way back–late 80s, early 90s, and have been going at it since and in a number of different past lives. And now at ROI, we’ve been working together for…what is it now, Bill?

Bill Jordon:                  

2013.

Russell:                       

ROI…we are a smaller–I’m not going to say boutique, I hate that term–but smaller company focused specifically around workplace technologies. So any software related to real estate, facilities management, operations, basically what would normally be bundled into an IWMS solution. And we’re also involved to a certain degree with sensors now. So that’s another one that’s a real hot topic as I’m sure you’re aware and we’re getting into that area as well.

Bart:    

Your reputation proceeds you, so, welcome, and thanks again for joining. I know we’ve had an opportunity as a company to work with you on some things recently and I think your perspective is going to be unique on this type of environment we’re in which, for those of us who’ve been around a long time, this is unprecedented in what we’re seeing in the scope of change that’s going on.

Over the last six months, there’s been this gyration of, we’re going back, we’re not going back. And it feels like we’re finally on the cusp of actually returning to the office with a lot of the vaccinations in full swing. Some of the numbers coming down and stuff like that. I assume your customers are wrestling with the planning for the return and how that’s going to go. What are some of the top issues in the moment that you are having a lot of dialogue with your customers about?

Russell:

I think the biggest is since last March, it’s been spikes for us. Every one of our clients just keeps coming back saying, “Okay, we’ve got to start planning. No, we’re going to wait. We’re going to start planning. No, we’re going to wait.” Now, I think it’s becoming much, much clearer as to when they’re really going to go back this time. All the others were false starts. I think a lot of it is CYA stuff as well.

The company wants to make sure they’ve done everything humanly possible to protect the health and welfare of their employees. So every time something new gets spoken about or written up in a trade or somebody in senior management is talking to a friend who mentioned they’re doing something. All of a sudden it’s, “Oh my God, did we consider this? Do we have to do this? Look into it.”

So those things are I think, just constantly evolving. What we found though is the COVID situation has really cast a major light on to the use of software in the facilities and real estate arena. If you didn’t have something in place, all of a sudden senior management was looking at you like, “Well, what’s wrong with you? Why don’t we have this? Why can’t I get answers immediately?” People that did, now it’s getting even that much more attention. You usually see in most cases, the solution is great. There’s some exposure to the greater employee population for certain aspects of an IWMS solution, but it’s usually not one of those things that gets a lot of attention in the company.

Unless you have to book a conference room for the CEO and nothing’s available. So the seat for the new executive and you can’t find the place to put them. So there are situations where it automatically gets thrust into the spotlight but now it’s there center stage and everybody’s looking at this as the solution to all their problems and it’s going to help with everything. And the people that have solutions that they are familiar and comfortable with as well as they know how to use in a very flexible manner are the ones that are really succeeding.

It’s the others that were using something they weren’t super familiar, they weren’t able to change and do things on the fly. Those are the ones that we’ve seen episodes where they’ve got a full functioning fantastic solution at their hands. And all of a sudden they turn around and they’re asking architects to do stuff for them because they just don’t know how to use the system, and some simple stuff like, “Let me just calculate the distance between spaces. I’m going to go to an architect and I’m going to pay them top dollar to go draw little circles for me.”

There are definitely people that are finding or companies are realizing that their team either might not have the right tools or might not be fully conversant in the tools they have. The worst are the ones that had nothing though because there’s a lot of attention on them. They’re doing a lot of tire kicking because they don’t want to be that person that picked the wrong solution in the middle of a crisis and lost their job because of it. But I think that’s starting to cause some analysis paralysis where I’m waiting, I’m waiting, I’m waiting. I’m kicking so many tires that my foot’s numb.

Now it’s going to get to the point where they say, “Okay, we’ve got to go back next week.” And they’re just going to have nothing. It’ll be a mad scramble and they’ll fall on their face anyway. So, we see a lot of it though now. The pace has picked up.

Bill and I were talking about this throughout the week. It’s just the pace over the past week or so has really kicked up several notches. And I think that’s because people have a much clearer vision as to when things have to happen now and it’s full steam ahead because it’s right around the corner.

Bill:     

I think Russell just identified what’s changed from a year ago to now and the single answer is the pace of things. Back March, April, May, as people were discussing different strategies that may have been a two, three month process where new strategies were coming out, you’re talking to us today. Talk to us in a week and everything will have changed again. That’s how fast the pace is now. Russell mentioned we’re talking almost every day about this because it’s new information coming every day now.

Bart:    

There’s an article every day coming out. Google’s doing this or Salesforce is doing that or Morgan Stanley’s doing this, as it relates to return to office and this pendulum where we swing all the way from–and this happened in retail too, with the online shopping side of things–but it swings all the way to one extreme.

Everybody’s working from home and we don’t need offices more and CFOs are salivating that they can reduce all the occupancy costs. But now we’re swinging back where, Microsoft and Google are saying, “You know what? You got to come into the office.” So it’s just all this unknown of what’s really going to work and how a company’s culture and philosophy will impact return to the office. And I think you hit it on the head as it relates to technology and the need for technology.

One thing you had mentioned, Russell, about this employee engagement side of things, right? So it’s this last mile where IWMS systems, they can handle requests. I want to reserve a room or a space or things like that or amenities and things. But now we’re talking about almost a consumer facing type of application to manage employee engagement and everybody and their brother’s trying to get into that game.

Salesforce, ServiceNow, even Facebook, has a tool around that and try to be the face of the franchise for employees. And then you have IWMS doing the back office execution type of things. And you’re opening it up to a much larger user base than you would in your core real estate and facilities groups.

So it’s an interesting, interesting time. I know we faced the challenge of trying to be everything to everyone and that’s usually a recipe for failure but integrating to those new solutions I think is critical.

Russell:

We’re starting to see more and more connectivity being made available within the IWMS applications out there. APIs are the latest and greatest buzzword. Comes up in every single conversation. What kind of tools do you have to connect? What’s already built? That’s something else we’re seeing people developing more app stores, where from the core application I can simply go look at all the other integrations that are available, pick them and it’s not going to take six months and an army of consultants to now make it at work. It’s already there. You have configuration settings and you’re off and running. That’s what people are coming to expect, and that’s how we’re starting to see things evolve.

Bart:    

I would agree a 100% that we’re seeing that. We’re creating a bunch of connectors to these things. That’s what you’re talking about where you’ve got the ability to plug and play. If there’s something else in a space that we have capabilities around, we need to be able to connect to it and that’s fine, because it’s an ecosystem.

It sounds like you’re seeing a greater appetite for investment in technology that we haven’t necessarily always seen or maybe the ability to change technology because what they have doesn’t fit the current need.

Russell:

The appetite for the technology it’s always been there. And you’ve been at this for a long time as well. It’s always a long sales cycle for an IWMS solution.

I love to tell the story about one of our clients. It took us seven years to close the deal. They would have us come back every single year, do the demo, give them a proposal and then tell us they didn’t get the budget approved. Next year, next year, next year. We finally get the budget approved, we do the project, and during training just prior to go-live, one of the head guys at the facility turns around and said, “So how many more days of training do we have?” And the project lead turns around and says, “That’s it, this is it today. We’re done.” And the guy goes, “I don’t understand, why?” Well, that’s all we can get approved was one day of training. And the guy says, “I just got approval to spend $80,000 for the drapes in the CEO’s office. But I can’t spend a couple grand to get my entire team trained on the application that we need to do our jobs every day?”

And that summarized it – facilities, people, real estate people. Hey, if it’s a lease, if it’s construction, furniture, finishes that kind of stuff, sky’s the limit there. They used to spending it. I’ve had people tell me that, “I can’t see spending a couple of thousand dollars on a solution for managing all this, but I just spent five times as much for the seating in the waiting room of our new office.” So there’s that weird thing. IT guys turn around and say, “Oh, it’s not $5 billion for your software? Great. Let’s buy it. No problem. Put it on my card something.”

But it’s a problem for facilities. So it does seem to be that now if you didn’t have anything, people are saying, “Well, why don’t we have this?” And it’s like, “Oh it would only cost X? Well, shoot, let’s just do it.”

Bill:     

And to be clear, the thing that has changed when you were in facilities for the most part, it was hard to get the ear of the C-suite. Right now, C-suites direct line to facilities because they’re trying to solve this problem and they know facilities get the information. And if they have no system, they know facilities doesn’t have great information.

Bart:    

I was talking with someone the other day about that same thing and the potential concern that: careful what you wish for, right? Now you have the C- suite sticking their nose in the tent around facilities and what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. And the stakes are really high and there’s a lot of liability, potential issues with returning to the office and things like that and not having the right tools. And so it’s given I think the opportunity to allow real estate facilities groups to finally get the approval for the technology they’re looking for. But at the same time, now they have much more visibility to what they’re doing for better or worse.

Russell:

And that’s something we’ve seen over the last year–a huge uptick in executive dashboards, but most people use that term just for dashboarding within the solution, but we’re being asked to provide sort of a login that’ll only show very high level dashboard information, nothing more. Just for the senior level executives within the client organization. They want to be able to just click. Here it goes and show me everything I need at a glance.

The other thing is automatic reports. I’m getting that request nonstop where somebody wants to be able to have reports sent out every Monday, 9:00 AM, blast it out to a distribution list with all the key performance indicators that the executives want to see. The last one is almost every project we’re on, the clients are asking for a regular nightly extract of data to go into a data warehouse so they can use some business intelligence tools to provide company-wide dashboards for the executives.

Bill:     

On the other side of that, and it’s not a new business for us, but it’s one that has really taken off of late for those that have systems. They know that that data is being eyed now, we’re getting a lot of folks reaching out to us to assist with the quality of their data. So the upkeep of it and seeing everything that is there it seems to be on a weekly basis now. We have people who acknowledge that we just don’t have the resources or we don’t have the processes.

Bart:    

It’s the drive towards more real-time. Sure, I can look back what it was last quarter last year, but I need something a little more real time to really manage in this dynamic environment that is a good segue to the dynamic workplace. The hybrid workplace. Everything we’ve been reading for the last year about how things are changing. The idea that your employees are going to fall into buckets as it relates to based on their job and their persona. Are they in the office all the time and they need dedicated seating? Are they more of a flex worker who’s there two to three days a week and maybe you’re using neighborhood concepts and things like that? Or is it someone who’s in very infrequently and they’re almost treated like a visitor, right? And depending on the company and the type of work they do, people are going to fit into those different buckets. And you’re going to have to figure out how to manage a more real-time environment. Do you buy into the dynamic workplace concept? Are you seeing your clients really try to figure out what that means for them?

Bill:     

Everybody to a tee it seems is not going to return to office business as usual. Everything’s the same. Just about everybody has acknowledged that when return office happens, it’s going to be a different scenario. And they’re battling the two pieces of it. One there’s going to be change. And how do you get your workforce to accept that as positive change? That’s a hard one. A lot of people struggle with change. The other piece is as we’re reaching out to our employees for this new environment that we’re going to have. What is the right amount? We can’t give them everything in the world thinking that, “Yeah, I’ve got everything in the world. So I’m going to come back to work.” Individuals are individuals, some are gonna be comfortable coming back.

Some are going to not be comfortable coming back, coming up with that right amount. That’s brought up some interesting conversations. We were just talking about this last night, Russell. A year and a half ago, the whole thought of sensors in the workplace, no privacy concerns, privacy concerns. Now it’s sensors in the workplace. If they can tell me that there’s too many people here and I shouldn’t come in, I’m much more comfortable. Maybe I’m okay with it. So there’s just all these different levels where what somebody was thinking a year and a half ago, it’s a different mindset now. This is the piece that we’re seeing that is still fluid is the conversation of, do we give employees the choice to come back or not? Do we make it a requirement? They’ve got to be back at least 40%, 60%? People are struggling with that now. Companies are struggling with that. Universities are struggling with it.

Bart:    

I’ve seen actually on the University front, some are contemplating the requirement of vaccination order to return to campus. And even employers are wrestling with that. I know on our side, just personally at Tango, we’re wrestling with the same exact questions like, is productivity remaining high when we’re work from home? Is it starting to take a dip because of fatigue from it? And should we be more mandatory and some of our return to the office type thing? So everybody’s in the same spot there.

Bill:     

And there’s the legal ramifications that we don’t know right now but we know we’ll find out because as some of the Universities that talked about, you’ve got to get vaccinated immediately after lawsuits being filed.

Bart:    

It begs the question too about in this dynamic workplace, if a portion of the staff is remaining at home and obviously we’ve been dealing with this for the last years. How do you outfit and maintain those folks to be productive from a typical facilities perspective? Are you giving a stipend for internet and having new displays at home and not everybody has an environment where they can work. So have you started seeing your clients asking you to extend your lens from just what’s happening in the four walls of the office to what’s happening outside the office?

Russell:

And a couple of different ways and I think one of the things that we’ve had a few people talk about is hub and spoke type models, where instead of everybody goes to the office, the office stays there as a central hub. But then they’re going to have smaller satellites and looking at a GIS type technologies to figure out where they’ve got clusters of people that make more sense to open up satellites. This way they have someplace close that they could go to instead of having travel all the way into the office. Maybe have something there where they could pick up supplies or packages or have some informal meetings with team members or those types of things where they can meet outside of their house. I’m sure it’s awkward if you have to have a meeting with somebody and all of a sudden you’re bringing them over, having them around the dining room table or something. So those things are things that we’re hearing rumblings about is should we be looking to do stuff like that?

Bart:    

Ironically, a couple of examples. Personally, for us as we’re onboarding people, we’re actually in that exact situation where what we had to go to another person in the area who has the same job role at their house to help ramp them up because we couldn’t really bring them into the office. Also, ironically, I was just talking to a retailer and I hadn’t thought about this but it’s an interesting concept is a lot of the folks working in the office side of the retail organization have long commutes. It could be an hour or two hours even upwards of three hours. And what they’ve started doing is dedicating space within stores for offices for their own employees who live near theirs. So it’s almost like creating a satellite and a retail store if you work at that concept. So I thought that was a unique and interesting first time I’ve heard that, but it makes sense.

Russell:

Until you have to take a Zoom call from a changing room or something. All kidding aside, I’ve heard some similar things like they’re looking to repurpose shopping malls to do some of those, make them sort of hybrid where they’ve got a lot of retailers pull out of the mall. So they’re looking to turn those into like coworking spaces and stuff. Which wouldn’t be bad because now you’ve got all amenities, you’re able to repurpose.

Bart:    

I know all of the mall owners are interested in that given some of the vacancies and things going on there.

Russell:

And the other was hotels. I think that was one where I heard that a lot of them have meeting and conference type space and especially out in the suburbs where you don’t necessarily have a ton of coworking space. They’re already there, they’re already set up and can accommodate lots of people. It makes it a draw for them. So I think it’s a win-win too.

Bart:    

So in the short term as you’re helping clients think through the return. Are you seeing them make material bets on changing the existing layout or footprint of offices? Or going from dedicated space to more collaborative space or neighborhoods? Are they just doing cosmetic or small changes and waiting and seeing what develops before they start making larger decisions about moves, ads, changes and things such as that? Is it a wait and see or is it let’s go now?

Bill:     

I’m seeing with a number of our clients, it’s a let’s go now. And not only that, as they were discussing this, I asked the question of, “For these changes you’re looking to do, are you looking them to be interim change? And then two, three, four years down the road, you have another change?” And they’ve all said, “No, this is going to be our new normal.” I always have coined this whole experience as a forced experiment on companies. We’ve been a remote workforce forever. We’re used to it. It’s just our way of doing things. For a lot of companies it was a concept that a lot of managers were nervous about doing because I won’t be able to see them. I have no confirmation that they’re actually working. Some of the things you brought up earlier Bart, what’s happening is everybody had to do it.

They’re finding that people more productive and their bigger issues are, are people going to get burnt out because they’re overworking now? So they’ve seen that this works. Also without question it doesn’t take a lot to see, “Okay, if I can house the same amount of people in my company and 20, 30, 40% less of a footprint, that’s a huge cost savings.” Real estate is the biggest expense. So people are looking to make this change. People are investing money in it. At least the companies that I’ve been talking with, they’ve got a plan. The only thing that’s really changed for the major portion of the plan is when that date is that people will come back. At one point it was beginning of the year and then it was February and April and now June. Russell, you finding anything different than that with the clients that you speak with?

Russell:

Not really. I think though, as we said when this first started last year, last March. A couple of months later we were hearing stories anywhere up to 70% of the staff wasn’t going to return. I think that was the highest number I heard. But we’ve said most of them fell between 25 to 50% of the staff was not ever going to come back. Now we’re hearing a little bit of a different story. Outside of just a lot of people like working from home, they’re more productive. But I think as Bill said, the people are getting burnt out or they’re just finding themselves… a lot of depression or just disconnected from the rest of the team. Having a Zoom meeting or a teams meeting and stuff is great but after a while, you want to see somebody and interact with them.

So I think they’re seeing more people that are ready to go back now because they just want a change a pace.

Being locked in their houses for so long. So I think that number has slowly swung back closer to the 25% than it was the 50. And then on top of it, there was tons of people saying that they were going to be shedding a lot of their footprint. A lot of real estate was going to disappear. A couple of people, I think just pumped the brakes on that. And they’re waiting to see just how many people are going to come back as well as with the social distancing aspects. I don’t know. We haven’t seen a lot of people reconfiguring a ton of furniture as much as we’ve seen them just staggering the use of it.

So that it’s just stay as it was. Most companies were moving to a more of an agile workplace or ready. Now things that we are seeing are the furniture is what it is. It’s a one size fits all. There are several companies that are looking to move back towards more traditional private offices or high walled cubes or something. I’m not sure if the pendulum is going to completely swing back in that direction but I think people might feel a little safer with that setup but having people distanced and not having everybody there all at the same time is going to mean you’re going to need as much or more space than they were anticipating. So that’s where I think a lot of people are adopting a wait and see attitude before they make any hard decisions on just the overall real estate footprint. So that’s why I think we’re going to see what happens probably by next year, this time. I think everybody will have a much clearer picture as to where things are heading there.

Bill:

And most of that reconfiguration that does occur. The common theme is more collaboration space.

Bart:    

And how about neighborhood concepts? Are you seeing an uptick in that? We have for sure.

Russell:

Yeah. It was moving in that direction pre-COVID. But now what we’re seeing is more people are looking to move in that direction, a little heavier because of the flexible seating. The one different dynamic was in the past reservations, solutions weren’t necessary. They were nice to have more so than must have, and now we’re seeing it become more of a must have, even if you have enough space and the team’s going to come in and sit within their neighborhood. They still want to be able to manage that, be able to report on the actual utilization. So either a reservation solution and or a sensor type technology overlaid with that to figure out just exactly how the space is being used.

But also the check-ins so that you can see who’s actually showed up, do contact tracing if you need to. Back to that CYA type stuff that I mentioned before. So those things, but then because of the workplace becoming so much more flexible and agile, just because people are coming to the office doesn’t necessarily mean they’re even sitting in their seats and that’s where the sensors really come into play.

Bart:    

And Bill, you hit on this too, and we’ve seen it as well. Their initial resistance to sensors and things. They’re tearing it off the bottom of their desk and you find it in garbage cans when you’re walking by a desk because they didn’t want to be tracked, but now there’s a value to the employee around safety. So they’re more willing to give in order to get. So give you some more of my personal data in order for you to give me information and allows me feel safe to be safer in the work environment. So I think that’s why maybe the dynamic is changing in the willingness of people to be tracked at a deeper level.

Obviously we have PIP and other types of things that need to be closely watched, but is privacy cropping up in these discussions about IoT? And there’s a lot of things out there like Lidar. Are we capturing device IDs? Do we know that Bill is going into the bathroom 14 times a day? We don’t know. What’s the sense that you’re getting there?

Russell:

Yeah. I think there’s still a sensitivity but the difference is as long as the employees are getting something in return, it’s a lot more welcome. So for instance, if I’m able to as you said, I could see how many people are currently in the cafeteria, so I’m not walking down into a massive crowd. There’s a benefit to me. I know I get in and out quickly or there’s no lines right now. If I’m gonna go use the fitness center, I could see that there is ample equipment available to me. Or I’m going to book a desk. I need to know that I have a desk that’s appropriate. It’s amply spaced out from the others. So I think as long as there’s a benefit. Prior to COVID we used to hear people where they were looking at sensors and then there was a lot of pushback and people would always… WeWork was the one they would always, ” WeWork has sensors everywhere. They know everywhere everybody’s going.”

And my response was, “Well, yeah because the employees have an app, it tells them where there’s free beer and goat yoga and everything else.” So it’s like, “Hey, I’d install this app if I could get free beer and have goats doing yoga with me, absolutely.” But in a regular corporate setting, it’s like, “Hold on a second. The boss wants to know where I am every second of the day, how long I spent in the men’s room and stuff.” Nobody’s going to go for that. But if there’s benefits to me then I’m going to be a little bit more willing to give up a little privacy to get something in return. And that’s where I think the whole COVID thing is opening up a little more in terms of people’s perspective on things. They’re becoming a little bit more willing to give away some of that privacy in return for some benefits in themselves.

Bill:     

And on that, the companies that porting out the solutions are putting a huge focus on it being anonymous data. So somebody went to the bathroom 13 times but you can’t pin it on me because there’s nothing identifying me. And then there’s other pieces to it that doesn’t have to be anonymous. So you gave the example earlier of neighborhoods and people going in. And Russell talked about reservation systems needing to be put in place, the booking piece of it. So knowing that and the return to work. A percentage of people are going to come in on any given day. For me it’s valuable to say, “Okay, I’m looking to going to work next week and I really would like to talk to Russell face to face. So let me take a look and see if there’s any days he’s going to be in. Oh, great. He’s in Thursday. So I’m going to work on going in Thursday also.”

Bart:    

It’s a good segue to what I want to talk about next is this concept of real time occupancy management, which if you think about it, if you boil it back. We’re moving in an agile and dynamic workplace is a situation where you have a fixed supply of space and you have a dynamic demand that is changing based on whether people are coming into the office and what type of space they need and what they’re doing. And that’s dynamic on a day and even within a day part standpoint. So the ability to manage that equation, to find an equilibrium between your supply of space and your demand for space becomes much more complicated and much more real time. And the ability to then get smart from it. So if we talk about the return to the office being initially a learning phase of what does agile work look like for your organization?

How is space being used? Then you can make longer term bets on what you want to do with the portfolio but you can also get smart about helping with collaboration and things like that. So if we know that Bill is typically coming in Tuesday and Thursday and based on all his team’s meetings and all his outlook stuff, he’s meeting with Russell quite frequently and maybe a couple other people. We can start getting almost Netflix-like in suggesting, “You know what, you maybe want to look at Tuesday because a lot of people you work with not naming names, but a lot of people you work with are going to be in the office that day. They’re going to be sitting in this neighborhood over here. So if you’re thinking of coming in Tuesday, let us know. You can book right here and you’ll be in the proximity that folks that you work with the most.” So do you guys see that as a potential evolution of where we’re going?

Bill:     

Absolutely. And in addition to that, that can push even more change. So we’ll continue with your scenario. Russell, myself, two other people we’re meeting twice a week in the same conference room. It’s a conference room for 12 people but there’s only four of us meeting. But you’re able to see through the data. Oh, but they’re meeting there twice a week. They’ve been doing it for 26 weeks. Maybe this 12 person conference room should be split into two six person conference rooms. There are other types of change that you can get from that also.

Russell:

And I think the AI type technology, we’re going to start to see more and more of that start to become embedded into IWMS solutions. We’ve already had people talking about that for quite some time with reservation systems. So it learns your preferences similar to, if you’re going to fly, you can put in some of your preferences there and it’ll start to recognize patterns like that. I think we’ll start to see some similar stuff.

Bart:    

I mean, our industry is, as you guys know more than anybody, tend to be a laggard as it relates to technology. But I think this is giving us a real shot in the arm to utilize and contemporary capabilities to our use cases and our problems that are out there. I do think one of the challenges of this historically and curious if you’ve seen a change in how people are approaching this. On the IoT side, on the sensor side, that stuff’s not cheap, right? You can do a decent job with badge data, reservation data and some other stuff to try to understand what’s going on.

But if you want to start moving into, wifi BLE, you want to start moving into blurred camera. You want to start moving into LIDAR and some of these other capabilities you start opening up the checkbook. And I think Russell, you had mentioned that IoT and sensors has been a hot topic. Are you seeing a change in the willingness to invest in those solutions? You’re not going to turn key 5 million square feet with this stuff, right? But you might want to have placed some bets from an IoT perspective.

Russel:

I think it’s still a little too new. We’ve seen some of it happening over the years and I think the amount of effort that had to go into making it work was sort of a room full of elves, just magically doing stuff behind.I think the technology is getting better, less labor intensive to build those algorithms. And I think the technology is becoming more cost-effective. So as the price starts to come down a bit and the technology gets a little better, I think people are gonna start to expect it. But right now I think it’s still a novelty. And I don’t think there’s a lot of people outside of some major bleeding edge technology firms that are going to need and want stuff like that. But yeah, until you can show like a real solid return on investment, you’re not going to see people just demanding it just yet but I just think we’re not that far away.

Bill:     

And because of the cost I think a lot of folks would want to start with a test pilot and you don’t have people in the office now so you really can’t test it. So that comes into play also.

Bart:    

Ironically, we’re doing exactly that. So in our offices, just as a way to eat our own dog food, we’ve invested in LIDAR. We’ve invested in Bluetooth and wifi sensors and we’re adding a number of different sensors type to get a diversity of what maybe our clients would potentially be implementing and using that as a way to test ourselves on some of this real time occupancy management and to your point until we’re back in the office even voluntarily, which is coming up for us shortly. We don’t even have indebted to play with at all.

But I do think hopefully the cost of the hardware will continue to come down to be more reasonable, like most technologies and we’ll see an uptake in adoption and then making this more of a reality. But data is needed in order to do some of these AI and other types of things. You need a lot of data, a lot of data.

Well just to wrap up here. Wondered your perspectives individually about, for companies that are just now trying to get their act together, they can’t boil the ocean. What do you advise them to be focusing on in the short term, as we move back towards the office?

Russell:

They should all run out and buy IWMS solutions and hire us to implement them.

Bart:    

Exactly. They should buy our solution and you guys can implement it. I’m all for it.

Russell:

Just my simple advice is just to use some common sense. That’s really it. We’ve seen some people do exactly that. Just boil the ocean, trying to look at every permutation of what could possibly happen and go wrong. And back at our whole paralysis thing. Just use some basic common sense. You can’t have a contingency plan for every possible thing that could happen but you need to move forward. You need to be flexible and hope for the best.

Bill:     

So what are the things that we talk about internally is a bad decision is better than no decision. So that just paralysis there. Not telling everybody to make bad decisions but don’t make no decision. Do something. Even if it’s small. Yeah. Just do whatever makes sense. You don’t have to get the perfect thing first because it’ll be too late.

Bart:    

Right. Exactly. Well, gentlemen I really do appreciate your perspective today. Again, Bill Jordon and Russell Olson from ROI consulting group. Some experts in the space, really appreciate the perspective and hopefully we’ll have you back on Workplace 2.0

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