Amazingly, despite the recent leaps in technology, we still see a lot of corporate real estate teams using manual processes and Excel spreadsheets to track space utilization. Here’s why it’s time to automate those systems.

Traditionally, a large part of a Corporate Real Estate (CRE) professional’s job was physically walking the floors of an office building and then manually entering the data she collected into a spreadsheet with dozens of formulas and macros. Over the course of weeks or months, she would turn these complex spreadsheets into a report showing how the company could consolidate and shrink their square footage by 20%.

It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

Now, with so many tools and software platforms available, it’s hard to believe that so many companies still do things the old way. Spreadsheets certainly have their place, but maybe not in space planning or workplace optimization.

Why it’s Time to Move from Spreadsheets to Automation

Let’s look at what automation offers:

Save Time

A space planning and management tool, like Serraview, pulls in real-time space utilization data from a variety of sources. Instead of spending several weeks physically walking floors and conducting manual audits to see who’s sitting where, you can generate reports in minutes that perform space utilization calculations and show data in real time. You can also look at space usage trends throughout the day and go back weeks or even months to see trends over time.

Serraview’s internal CRM system allows CRE to share the responsibility of maintaining the integrity of the data with the business. Each business unit can independently validate their data, so the CRE team doesn’t need to physically walk each floor. This is huge for enabling the CRE team to work more efficiently and with better data. Plus it also helps to share accountability about the organization’s space management between CRE and the business.

Process More Data

More data is being collected in your workplace than ever before—data on office space utilization, yes, but also data on building systems and efficiency, air quality, lighting use, and more. There is simply no way mere humans can process and analyze this much data in an accurate and timely manner.

With an automated system, you can quickly make space utilization calculations and be able to see patterns and correlations more clearly. For example, you can see opportunities to save on utilities if you notice that your HVAC is set to turn the air on at 8:00 am, but the majority of your employees don’t come in until 9:00, so you can run the AC for one hour less each day.

Depending on the systems and devices you have in place, you can also look at the usage rates for conference rooms and soft seating. With this data, you can make more informed decisions about office layouts.


Get More Accurate Analysis

When data collection and analysis are done automatically, you remove—or at least drastically reduce—the risk of human error. How many times have you had to start a space utilization calculation from scratch when you realize you had entered data into the wrong column of a spreadsheet, or weren’t using the latest file?

When the data is stored in a central, cloud-based system, it’s accessible to everyone who needs it, from the CRE team to individual business units who can validate their data. Plus, the data is always current, so you’re not working with assumed or old data.

What You Can Do with Automation

So you’re ready to ditch your spreadsheets and start using a better tool for space utilization calculations…now what?

Occupancy Reports

Using data gathered from automation tools like badge entry systems, desk sensors or check-in systems, you can instantly get statistics on:

  • Average occupancy
  • Conference room utilization
  • Times of peak utilization
  • …and more, all without doing walk-through space audits


Scenario Planning

In Serraview, the color-coding functionality and drag-and-drop tool makes it simple to experiment with different layouts and allocations to optimize your space. You can use the occupancy reports to test different co-locations or ways to consolidate your space.

Because Serraview pulls in real-time data from other systems, when you start experimenting with different scenarios, you can also immediately see how it will impact key CRE metrics like square foot per person or cost per person.

Track and Manage Lease Options and Renewals

Serraview’s space planning tool also pulls in data on your lease options and renewals, including key dates for planning. Because generating occupancy reports and scenario plans will take less time, you don’t have to work so far ahead—which means when it comes time to decide if you need to release or add space, you’re make space utilization calculations using the most up-to-date, accurate data.

Plus, the Conflict Resolution tool tracks changes in the VBS (Visual Block & Stack) and alerts you when those changes could affect the scenario you’re planning. This means that when you finish your planning and have selected a scenario, you won’t end up with months-old data— you’ll be able to easily incorporate updated data for the actual execution of the plan.

Build Strong Business Cases

Ultimately, switching from spreadsheets to automation means you’re able to use evidence-based decisions to build stronger business cases. Space utilization calculations from data that’s been gathered automatically by IoT devices and other systems is usually more “bulletproof” in the eyes of the C-suite, compared to the data gathered from walk-throughs.

For example, with a space planning tool like Serraview, you can display occupancy data from the last six months showing that your building is 40% utilized and make the case for transitioning from fixed to flexible seating with a 2-1 desk ratio. You can show two scenario plans, one for average utilization and one for peak utilization, or have different options for co-locating different business groups. Most importantly, you can also bring in data on the fiscal impact of these changes.

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Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.