In my old newspaper editor days, I verbally slapped around my reporters if they did something called Burying The Lede – putting the big news at the end of the story, if they got it in there at all.
I needled a guy from EY (aka Ernst and Young) the other day at the Four Winds conference in Denver this week for pretty much doing that, as he and a colleague almost mentioned as an aside in their presentation how his multinational company had saved about $500 million by using data harvested, in part, from corporate digital signage.
No, that’s not a typo. A HALF BILLION FREAKING DOLLARS.
So how did that happen?
The giant consulting company has offices all over the globe, often in high profile and therefore very expensive office spaces. But this is a company that makes its money dropping its experts into the premises of clients, to do audits or whatever. So the EY offices don’t have piles of people who occupy the same desk every day. They want those people out generating billable hours.
That means EY has desks that don’t get used, and meeting rooms where the lights are often out. In some cases, the company is leasing way more commercial space than it actually needs.
The old way of sorting out how much space was really needed were people who would go in as EY leases neared expiration, to do lengthy, in-person assessments on what was really needed in square feet. At $60-$100 a square foot per month, or God knows what, shaving 5,000 feet would save at least $300,000 a month.
EY’s IT team now uses digital staff and meeting directories, and booking room systems, to remove the hassles of organizing meetings and booking rooms. They then mine the data that comes out of those systems – revealing how often rooms are used for meetings, and how often they sit empty. EY combines that with data from things like access control systems to get a sense of how many staff are actually in the offices by various time-period measures.
All that gives EY a picture of how much office an EY branch really needs.
Overall, the savings on space usage – measured as savings in commercial office lease costs – is about $500 million.
At EY’s Times Square office, analyzing actual usage using the room booking system, digital door signs and other data like staff badge taps on access systems, led to three floors being sublet. That move, alone, generated $85 million in savings.
Trying to get a client over the line on a signage project, with a client that needs a tangible Return On Investment? Office cost savings might be something to throw in the mix if the project ties at all into that.
Even the crankiest CFO raises his eyebrows when the ROI is measured in a numbers that has a whole bunch of zeroes.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.