Digitisation: the best path forward for the future of workspace

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Liam Bray

Director, Real Estate

Companies looking to enhance their workspace setups are under pressure to deliver fit-out projects faster to ensure the best return on investment. Here, we explore why digitisation is key to making improvements to timings, costs and quality, while also decarbonising the supply chain.

The world of work has changed dramatically since COVID-19 hit and flexible working became far more prominent. The demands of the modern workforce have shifted along with this, pushing organisations everywhere to modify their workspace strategies so that they satisfy the unique priorities and preferences of their company and every employee working within it.  

As companies continue to iterate their workspace strategies, we are noticing companies favour shorter, more flexible leases, rather than the more traditional long-term leases that make it more difficult to adapt as their needs change. 

In the context of workspace fit out, this is heightening the urgency around project delivery as companies push for fast delivery to ensure the best ROI. We are also seeing project budgets squeezed, limiting the ability to enhance workspace setup to boost employee productivity, satisfaction and commitment, all while trying to decarbonise. 

Digitisation is the only way the industry can unlock time, cost and quality improvements, while also decarbonising the supply chain. 

In this piece, we offer a glimpse of what a digital strategy might look like in practice and share some of the necessary steps that should be implemented along the way. 

Appoint a digital project management office (PMO) to unlock collaboration across your supply chain 

As with any change programme, attempting to go digital will be met with some resistance to change, fear of the unknown, reluctance to invest and suspicion around the benefits.  

To make change happen, a clear vision accompanied by bold leadership is required, and we recommend tasking a highly experienced digital PMO to help deliver the change for you through a multi-year digital strategy. 

It is also worth taking these small and simple steps to get things off the ground: 

  • Invest in a cloud-based document system that enables suppliers to collaborate in a more productive setting, rather than over email. This will also be helpful for audit and assurance purposes. 
  • Build your object library (kit of parts) comprising three-dimensional ‘objects’ that your designers can reuse on future designs. 
  • Set out a consistent organisation structure in line with industry standards, such as RIBA's Plan of Works, to smoothen out processes and, critically, make change stick. 

Leverage laser scanning to build a clear picture of your workspace 

Laser scanning is a fast and inexpensive method that helps workspace teams build a clear picture of your working environments. It enables sensible scoping decisions to be made, reducing the need for unnecessary work, encouraging reuse through re-purposing furniture and equipment and identifying items to be recycled on site – all driving out carbon, cutting costs and saving time. 

Laser scanning also provides a highly accurate record that may highlight errors in historical ‘as-builts,’ avoiding design challenges later, and it establishes a template to commence early design using your object library. 

Build supply chain partnerships with a growth mindset 

Many suppliers in the construction industry have not adopted digital technologies because they have not been asked to do so; human nature follows the path of least resistance.  

To reap the benefits of going digital, you need to ask more of the supply chain, in skill and will. This means: 

  • Building a team of committed suppliers who are willing to learn.  
  • Working only with designers that are willing to design building information modelling (BIM). 
  • Ensuring your project manager is engaging, exciting and delighting your customers with rich, visual 3D flythroughs and interactive design. 
  • Demanding that your quantity surveyors leverage auto-measurement from the BIM model, and instead focus their efforts on uncovering cost issues and getting to work on your tendering strategy sooner. A digital model with clear specifications can enable two-stage tenders at a much earlier stage. 
  • Having a digital PMO partner that can facilitate change through knowledge sharing, frequent communications, encouraging networking across partnerships and building a team that knows and understands your business and others'. 

Demonstrate your digital success 

Digital products reduce ambiguity in data. Soon, you will be able to demonstrate the significant benefits of digitisation, specifically those centred around:  

  • Time: Cycle times will reduce significantly. At Standard Chartered, we reduced the cycle time by 22 percent. This can equate to weeks or months, meaning millions in wasted lease costs or damages avoided from landlords. 
  • Quality: Earlier access means customers and colleagues can enjoy your space sooner. Engaging customers in the rich visual designs early helps with buy-in and creating a sense of belonging to the new space. 
  • Cost: This will become apparent once your PMO has set up global buying deals for your most frequently procured items (e.g. furniture) and your quantity surveyor has negotiated rates early on to help the right investment decisions to be made. 
  • Carbon: This shines through when your PMO builds an embodied carbon calculator to assist in measuring the carbon impact of your kit of parts and your project team values engineering carbon, selecting to re-purpose existing furniture instead of buying new. In 80 percent of our retrofit projects at Standard Chartered, we delivered at 5 to 10 percent below the typical benchmark for office projects by implementing a value-engineered furniture reuse strategy during the business case stage.  

Drive return on tangible equity (ROTE) and carbon efficiency through the whole life of your asset 

By this point, your workspace team will be fully digitised, your assets digitally designed, asset tagged by your facilities management team and linked to your digital model so you can easily find them in your buildings.  

With your general ledger tightly linked to the depreciation cycle of your assets, your net-book value is highly accurate. And by digitising your asset base, you will be empowered to make conscious decisions about how hard you sweat your asset, driving proactive maintenance that extends the life of your asset, reducing future capex spend and long-term ROTE. 

Run insight driven programmes that are aligned to your strategic goals  

Capturing the performance of your estate across a league table aligned to your objectives across key data sources (customer, colleague, reactive maintenance, temperature, utilisation) enables you to build a pipeline that satisfies your immediate business needs. 

Data and analytics unlock future projects with the aim of repurposing and reusing assets with zero value, enabling capex to be invested in higher yielding projects. This will reduce your net book value and contribute to a higher ROTE, while also reducing your embodied carbon. Above all, it will prevent issues occurring that can erode trust with customers and colleagues. 

Take a programmatic approach to buy better for a healthier and more sustainable workspace 

With your pipeline of projects, small and large, plus your life cycle replacement mapped out, you can forecast your planned procurement for the next 20 years.  

This opens an opportunity to leverage volume to further reduce your carbon commitments. You can specify products with a minimum level of recycled content, low volatile organic chemicals to enhance wellbeing, or demand sustainably sourced materials to include FSC timber.  

The volume committed enables you to offset additional costs of material specifications, leaving you with a healthier and more sustainable workspace at no additional cost. 

In summary, decarbonisation of your workspace is achievable, and it can drive significant benefits for customers, colleagues and suppliers. It fundamentally requires a long-term commitment, starting with the strategic decision to switch from analogue to digital, putting leadership and collaboration at the heart of your digital strategy. 

For further information contact:

liam bray.jpg

Liam Bray
Director, Real Estate

t: +65 9484 8384
e: