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Microsoft Adds Facilities Features to Hybrid Work Platform

The convergence of some facilities management functions with collaboration software has been an emerging trend as the pandemic unfolded. That trend got a boost this week as Microsoft used its Ignite conference to announce Places, which it describes as a connected workplace platform.
Places will incorporate functions including wayfinding, hotdesk booking, and (for enterprise leaders) space optimization. It will also leverage information from users’ collaboration applications — Outlook and Teams — to offer features that aim to solve some of the persistent problems employees have complained about in this early phase of the hybrid working experiment.
In Places, users will be able to “view the week ahead and see when your co-workers and close collaborators are planning to be in the office,” Jared Spataro, corporate VP for Microsoft 365 wrote in a company blog. “You’ll understand the days with the most in-office attendance, allowing you to adjust your schedule to take advantage of valuable in-person connections. Intelligent booking will help you discover available spaces with the right technology to match your meeting purpose and mix of in-person or remote participants.” The platform will even provide information on commute times.
The Places announcement continues a trend of collaboration or unified communications (UC) vendors incorporating some facilities management functions into their products, said Craig Durr, senior analyst at Wainhouse Research, which covers the communications and audio-visual market. “This is a great example of UC platforms pulling in more features to create a holistic product,” he said. Durr noted that, as another example, Zoom has had digital signage functionality for years and now has introduced desk reservations.
Though Microsoft is a definite powerhouse, Durr said Places’ impact on the facilities software market remains to be seen. “Many CRE executives utilize Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) to manage real estate portfolios, facilities maintenance, and optimize workplace resources,” he said. “These still have a lot of specialized functionality that I do not see the UC platforms adding to their offering.
“But it may not be the same for the current pure play workplace experience platforms like App Space, Robin, and Condeco,” Durr continued. “They are currently listed as partners to build on top of Microsoft Places, but this is where features seem to have the most overlap.”
Microsoft said Places will be available in 2023.