The cost of real estate for business is the second largest recurring cost item (first is people) and can often be more than 20% of annual costs. Since even before the pandemic, though fueled hugely because of hybrid work practices, organisations are looking for ways to be smarter with this space and better understand, plan, and manage these expensive costs.
As we talk about ways to optimise cost within an organisation, we often think about cost optimisation with regards to cloud spend, consolidating vendors, smarter hiring and moving more power hungry, space consuming data centres to cloud.
Announced at this year’s Microsoft Ignite Conference, Microsoft Places could be the redeeming feature large organisations need to help optimise their office real estate both now and for years to come.
What is Microsoft Places?
Hybrid work promises us the best of all worlds. The ease and comfort of working from home, the connection and energy of engaging with our coworkers in the office, and the flexibility and opportunity of working where we want. But today, there are still challenges preventing this promise from becoming a reality.
Microsoft Places is a new (coming in 2023) connected workplace platform that promises to deliver on the promise of blending the best of hybrid and in-person work. Microsoft places is a new platform (yes, platform not product), that will deliver solutions that help organisations coordinate where work happens, modernise the office with intelligent technology, and optimise the workplace for the continuing ever-changing needs.
I said before, Microsoft Places is not a product – it’s a suite of products and services which will slowly embed themselves across the wider Microsoft 365 services like Team and Outlook which is where people spend their time. In short this is all about making the office space are more responsive to everyone’s needs.
Microsoft Places, aims to intelligently leverage signals, data and building systems to provide a truly connected workspace experience, bringing the best employee experience, through a single, unified platform which builds upon the building and technology infrastructure to create an environment which can adapt to serve the unique and changing needs of hybrid work and allows leaders and facilities management to better plan and manage their real estate.
The key services will include:
- Hybrid scheduling – which will leverage common data signals from Outlook and Teams to allow employees to view their week(s) ahead and see when co-workers and others you need to work or collaborate with are planning to be in the office.
- Intelligent booking for meetings – will help employees discover available spaces with the right technology to match your meeting purpose and mix of in-person or remote participants. This will also feature recommendations for the shortest commute times, along with prompts that provide guidance on when to leave the office for next meeting and ensuring you don’t get booked back-to-back when you have in person meetings to travel to.
- Wayfinding – will help employees quickly find the right meeting room, which is key for larger organisations with many locations, buildings, and rooms. Employees will be able to see live interactive maps from their mobile device that guides them to the to the right location.
- Hot desk booking – will mean that employees can see choose where to sit and reserve desks or rooms accordingly. Updates to Microsoft Teams Rooms will bring more inclusive features for hybrid meetings such as auto-framing, content capture and more.
- Meet-ups – will allow employees to easily create impromptu meetups and share with others in the office.
Insights and Data for Leaders
Since all this will leverage the wider Microsoft 365 suite and power of the Microsoft Graph, Microsoft Places will provide a plethora of data driven insights such as utilisation data, energy-saving opportunities, and occupancy trends to better manage the physical space.
This data will help leaders and facilities management make any necessary dynamic space adjustments on a particular day or week such as changing excess huddle rooms to overbooked collaboration rooms or converting meeting rooms into more hot desking areas.
This data will provide not only trends and usage data but will also allow organisations to better prepare, plan and optimise the real estate they have available and how it’s used to maximum potential. This may include reducing available floors on lighter foot fall days – saving energy expenditures and improving the workplace experience for everyone as well as working with managers and team leaders to better understand office trends around people, and spaces and places across their entire portfolio, creating more flexible, dynamic, and sustainable places that support new ways of working.
Working with Connected Spaces Partners
Since the building fabric, sensors and existing management platforms are critical to the success of a modern intelligent building, Microsoft have partnered with many industry and technology partners. This ecosystem of partners will build on top of the Microsoft Places platform with new and existing solutions, leveraging, and enhancing the rich data of the Microsoft Graph.
The list of partners (which will grow closer to release) include.
- Cisco (coming soon with DNA Spaces)
- Johnson Controls
- Swift Connect and
- Many more
Microsoft say that Places will enter preview in early 2023 with general availability later next year. Microsoft will release more information on this over the next couple of months.