In the Professional Services sector the key assets are expertise and knowledge, typically delivered by highly skilled professionals and to some extent by algorithms or knowledge based systems. The Internet of Things which consists of invisible sensors that interact seamlessly is not traditionally associated with Professional Services apart from the managed services sector where sensors are used to monitor facilities management such as cleaning, heating and lighting. However, we are seeing the emergence of a trend to promote collaboration and expertise sharing in the digital workplace among professionals using a combination of IOT based technology, mobile technology and Big Data in Professional Services.

The dynamics of the workplace are changing fast with digital technologies enabling remote work, talent networks, greater collaboration and mobility.  Companies providing high levels of expertise such as consultancies, audit and legal firms are rethinking workplace dynamics and in some cases promoting social collaboration and knowledge sharing by introducing IOT based and Big Data technologies into their workplaces.

One example is Deloitte in the US which uses an award winning internal application to offer services to consultants when they are in the office such as hoteling or workspace reservations, highlighting proximity to customers, connecting consultants with other team members and travel concierge services. Consultants receive push notifications on mobile devices and can be alerted when someone they want to interact with arrives at the office with a precise location or can be alerted if other colleagues are at the airport.

Source: Deloitte Application Studios

The application can recommend a coffee shop to them on their itinerary and also send push alerts in response to external events in real-time such as a change in weather or traffic conditions. A user profile is built up over time based on preferences and a history of interactions to enable predictive capabilities and more personalized recommendations for the next visit to the office.

The company benefits from greater productivity, optimal use of space and optimal utilization of consultants’ time and expertise.

We are also seeing the emergence of a field called People Analytics, embodied by an offshoot of MIT Media Labs, Humanyze, which has devised a sociometric badge. The badge incorporates sensors which can be used to track social interactions of an employee within an organization. This badge is somewhat more intrusive than the hoteling app mentioned above as it is the size of a smartphone and is worn by the employee at the workplace using a lanyard. Of course employees have to opt-in to wear the badge which raises data privacy questions but using aggregated and anonymized data will help allay fears of Big Brother style tracking.

Sociometric Badge

Image Source: Humanyze

Deloitte in Canada was redesigning its St John’s, Newfoundland office in 2015 and brought in Humanyze to analyze whether the new office layout was accomplishing its goals. The sociometric badge tracks movements around the office and social interactions through a microphone. The microphone does not record conversations but tracks how much the employee is speaking and how much they are listening. By comparing activities before and after the office redesign, the company was able to detect popular common areas and lesser used areas, useful insights for future office redesigns.

IOT delivers value through the insights it gives us into potential business outcomes. By analyzing employee interactions and behavior through IOT and Big Data, companies can derive insights to help them operate more efficiently. By fostering social collaboration and maximizing proximity in an increasingly disaggregated world, Professional Services companies can also improve employee engagement and retention of their most valuable assets.

This blog was originally published on Digitalist in December 2016.

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