The smart office promises dramatic efficiency and productivity gains, but deploying smart office technology will require people with new skills, across different business functions.

A smart office is not a single, monolithic system, but instead a series of process improvements enhanced by the internet of things (IoT). For example, it’s possible to deploy an IoT system into conference rooms to automate space reservations, where Office 365 room requests are created instantly simply by walking into a room. Or, automatically lock a computer when someone leaves his or her desk and unlock it when the person returns. Or use voice recognition to start Skype conference calls and use wearables to connect with one another inside and outside of the office.

All of these IoT-enabled innovations save seconds here and seconds there, but they add up.

Deploying these new collaboration and productivity tools will require experience in IoT, security, networking, mobile applications and user-experience design. Companies will also need people with analytics and data science expertise – high-end professionals who can make sense of all the new data created by IoT devices and sensors.

In addition, organizations will require leaders who have these IT skills but also understand the operations technology (OT) side of the equation. There’s so much happening with integrated lighting, and HVAC systems, for example, that IT people who understand both environments will be in great demand. Companies will also need people on the OT/physical plant side who understand the new IT tools and can explain OT issues to the IT staff.

Primarily, three departments must adjust and develop new skills to drive the IoT-powered smart office: the IT department, facilities management and human resources (HR).

  1. The IT department. The IT staff wants to use IoT technology to let office workers collaborate more efficiently. When a manager walks into a building, IoT sensors can offer information on where people are sitting and which conference rooms or huddles spaces are open, and provide indoor wayfinding to get to the destination. Based on that information, the manager can quickly decide with whom to meet that morning, find open spaces to meet, or deal with complex in-room conference equipment. IoT provides the context for IT to provide an intuitive end user smart office collaboration experience. Making this happen will require developers to write these new applications, plus security people who know how to assign access rights and set privileges so these IT systems are secure.
  2. Facilities management. The facilities team wants to leverage IoT to improve the utilization of the office space and physical plant, and be an enabler for new activity-based working environments for employees. Today, IoT can provide real-time visibility into how people are using an office space, which can drive practical space optimization. For example, what if, on average, only four people are using a 10-person room? What if 50 percent of the time conference rooms are reserved but not used? These IoT-driven data points provide insights to drive facility decisions and smart workflows, improve utilization and create a better user experience through more space availability. Here’s where analytics and data science people will shine, by monitoring these utilization trends in real time so the organization can become more agile and respond to unfolding events.
  3. Human resources. HR leaders can leverage an IoT-enabled smart office to improve employee productivity and engagement, and to drive an increasingly agile culture to improve their own competitiveness. In some cases, a smart office can make a company look very compelling for recruiting top talent. For example, IoT/smart office technologies can empower employees to thrive in an activity-based working environment, or open seating, driving higher levels of invaluable ad hoc collaboration within and between teams to drive innovation. HR will especially want to bring in data scientists who can help them recruit more efficiently, as well as analyze all the new data the company generates, so the organization can use both human and energy resources more efficiently.

The smart office offers some exciting productivity opportunities, but companies must plan and identify the skills that line-of-business departments will need to drive IoT. Making the smart office happen will hinge on a company’s ability to find and hire people with these new IoT-based development, cloud and security skills.