JLL Uses Technology and Good Old-Fashioned Human Intel to Improve Workplace Planning

August 22, 2018 by

There are many elements that go into the planning of a workspace: design, architecture, furnishings, acoustics, floor plan, shared workspaces, mobile pods, biophilia essentials… the list goes on. The ability to envision a space prior to its development requires a talented team of architects, designers, and real estate professionals, not to mention a fiscally-savvy individual who can help set (and stick to) a realistic budget. While we never can replace the human capital behind these skills, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a tool to help companies do some of this planning in a time- (and fee-) efficient way before they select the space? After all, it’s often inefficient to hire a whole team to plan the five to 10 spaces that made the shortlist of consideration.

Enter JLL’s workplace design, planning, and budgeting tool, JLL InSite. The tool originally was designed with a simple principle: allow industry experts to shorten the design time and reduce the risks associated with workplace design. However, as the tool, which launched in May 2018 with version 1.0 (2.0 soon to follow), began to evolve organically, workplace occupancy planners and clients alike found an added benefit – its ability to aid in decision-making processes.

As Megan Mackinson, Vice President of Occupancy Planning for JLL explains, “We’ve been doing programming and test fits forever at JLL, but we realized that we needed to create a comprehensive tool that was simple to use for both our brokers and clients, large and small. We are interested in bringing the best value to our customers, which means creating an out-of-the-box tool that pairs analytics and benchmarking metrics, based on spaces we currently manage, to deliver data that aids in the decision-making process.”

Shortening design time.

Mackinson shared that one of JLL InSite’s most valuable benefits is the ability to reduce design time and assist clients with decision-making. “Anecdotally, the brokers that we’ve worked with have shortened the space selection process to a week or two instead of a month or two, largely due to the tool’s ability to allow a client to envision how a space would work for their business needs. The process has helped clients pick a direction, and perhaps even consider a space they originally did not think would work for their requirements.”

The tool is fast – it turns out a plan within a few days and offers rapid prototyping that helps make decisions like, “Is it possible to add 20 workstations to this space?” If not, clients know quickly, and can refocus their search to more appropriate spaces. What’s more, the tool provides budgetary planning advice. Sure, you may be able to add those 20 workstations, but the cost will be 40 percent higher than anticipated.

Adding to JLL InSite’s industry relevancy is the fact that it’s able to deliver code-compliant, 2D AutoCAD and 3D Revit floor plans. The plans are created and implemented by knowledgeable professionals and can be used by architects once the planning is complete. “We want to be able to create these renderings, but then also hand them off to the A&D team and provide them with usable files that they don’t need to recreate, shaving 2 to 3 weeks off the design development timeline. It’s a systematizing process that streamlines the decision-making process for end-users,” shares Mackinson.

Envisioning the space, from soup to nuts.

While Version 1.0 only launched earlier this year, the JLL team is hard at work developing improvements for Version 2.0. While Version 1.0 includes a very generic look at furniture, such as the basic seating arrangements needed for a standard 6×6 workstation, Version 2.0 looks to include a more configurable version that can be used by dedicated accounts and encompass their specific space standards and guidelines. “We’re developing our Synergy Partner Program that will also enhance the tool,” explains Mackinson. “These partners will be vetted by our team and have the ability to bring huge value to our clients. Factors like sustainability, quality, and service reputation will be considered before a vendor, most often a manufacturer, will be considered for the program.”

Mackinson adds that the goal of 2.0 will be to further integrate all the pieces of the puzzle. “We’re going to continue to bring all of the subject matter experts together in one place. We’re hoping to better connect occupancy planning, brokerage, and financial metrics to offer a fully-integrated experience that helps clients make a more informed decision.”

Technology will never replace the need for human knowledge.

As good as this tool is, we’re reminded that it is primarily for programmatic planning, and A&D firms still are required to craft and design dynamic spaces and transitions. Mackinson adds that there can never be a true replacement for human intel. “Our tool focuses on people and is enhanced by technology. We want our clients to have the tools they need to make decisions but feel confident because they are backed by real people with degrees and licenses to make informed choices. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to truly automate the process, because there always will be value in having a skilled architect or interior designer involved in developing the plans, but at the end of the day, this tool helps make informed decisions quicker in the process, saving time and money for the occupant. That’s definitely something worth celebrating.”


This article was originally published in The Business of Furniture, a division of Bellow Press, on August 15, 2018. It is reprinted here with permission.

About the author: Amanda Schneider, LEED AP is a researcher, blogger for the Huffington Post, and the founder of ThinkLab, a research led strategy firm serving the contract interiors market.