How The Internet Of Things Can Foster Social Collaboration And Knowledge Sharing In Professional Services Firms

Catherine Lynch

The professional services sector’s 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 (IoT), 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 an emerging 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.

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 United States, 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 providing travel concierge services. Consultants receive push notifications on mobile devices and can be alerted, along with a precise location, when someone they want to interact with arrives at the office or if other colleagues are at the airport.

The application can recommend a coffee shop to them on their itinerary and also send push alerts in real-time in response to external events 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.

biometric badgeWe 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 that can be used to track an employee’s social interactions 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 on a lanyard by the employee at the workplace. 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

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.

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

Learn more about Live Business: The Importance of the Internet of Things.

Catherine Lynch

About Catherine Lynch

Catherine Lynch is senior director of Industry Marketing, Professional Services, at SAP. She is a content marketing specialist with a particular focus on the professional services and media industries globally. Catherine has wide international experience working with enterprise application vendors in global roles, creating thought leadership, and is a social media practitioner.