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The Long but Necessary Journey of Automating an Office Building

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We live in an on-demand world. We can instantly answer any question on our phone, watch any of our favorite movies and TV shows from any of our devices, and have a meal delivered to our doorsteps. An on-demand world has given us endless possibilities and made our lives much more efficient. But it has also made us impatient for anything less than instant gratification.

When it comes to buying products and accessing services, people expect things to be easy and fast. This expectation now extends to the workplace. Occupiers and their employees have less patience for clunky, time-consuming office technology that simply doesn’t work. Who has the time to download a printer driver, get stuck at reception when entering a building, try helplessly to book a meeting room, or connect a device to the network when emails keep pouring in? This friction can quickly lead to dissatisfaction for workers when it comes to their view of the office.

The desire for technology to work correctly, the first time, has made it more technologically complex to deliver and manage modern offices. The post-pandemic push for greater flexibility and a wider variety of spaces and services has compounded this complexity at a time when the office experience is under scrutiny by all. With hybrid working policies taking shape and workers needing space and services that meet their constantly changing requirements, today’s office buildings must be able to respond and adapt. With this comes a slew of technical considerations that must be addressed by office landlords and operators. 

For occupants to book space remotely or come into any office across various locations in a portfolio, anytime they want, a lot of processes need to take place behind the scenes within a building. Take something as seemingly simple as access control. End-user access credentials need to be added not just to one building but to the company’s entire real estate footprint to gain entry to both the common areas and tenant-controlled spaces they need. The same goes for network access and meeting room or desk booking. Syncing user permissions to dozens if not hundreds of user devices at any moment is a complex process that takes time, multiple networks and technology platforms, and it generally leaves a lot of room for human error.

The answer to managing all of the in-building networks and providing services instantly is network automation. Creating a truly flexible office proposition that aligns to the needs of today’s occupiers means that multiple networks and systems have to communicate with each other, at scale. “We see a lot of clients that are using multiple point solutions. But in order to make the technology work without someone to patch it all together, a building needs to run on a single digital backbone,” said James Shannon, Chief Product and Technology Officer at real estate technology provider, essensys

As explained in a recent Infobrief by research and advisory firm, IDC, most buildings follow a similar path when building out their digital systems. “Most buildings start out as ‘self-led,’ where the occupant has to do the work of getting themselves in the system,” Shannon said. “Then when they start to focus on making the access control aspect better, they eventually become safety-led, which makes buildings more secure but often doesn’t make the user experience much better.” 

Eventually buildings evolve from being self-led to becoming tech-led, but even that is not the final endgame for smart buildings. “Offices need to get to a point where landlords or tenants can optimize for the precise results that they are looking for, be it easier access or more secure protocols,” Shannon said. 

By connecting all of a building’s systems to a secure, private network, an office space provider can gain better control and automation over processes and services to create superior, friction-free office experiences for their tenants. A strong technology foundation can help speed up the move-in process, increase tenant retention, and therefore occupancy rates, and make for an overall better real estate proposition. 

Users always love the on-demand experience but often don’t realize what has to happen on the back-end to make it possible. Something as simple as adding a new employee or granting access to a visitor could take dozens of processes across multiple platforms in order to work. No matter the cost of on-demand technology, consumers are demanding it. So, asset owners and operators must embark on the journey towards network automation in order to provide the kind of office experiences and agility that workers don’t just want but expect. 

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