Buying Workplace Software? 11 Technical Terms You Need to Know
The scope of workplace software has become much more all-encompassing, impacting not only your facilities management team, but everyone in your organization. More than a way to keep track of tasks or a source of actionable workplace data, it’s a linchpin for your entire employee experience.
Many workplace software vendors use similar terminology, which can make it difficult to compare them—especially if you don’t have an IT background.
To help make the process a little easier, we’ve put together a list of 11 technical terms you need to know to make an informed decision.
Workplace Software: 11 Terms To Know
An API (application program interface) is a set of rules and protocols that allow different solutions to interact with each other. Software developers use APIs to retrieve data from one program and transfer it directly to another. In the case of workplace software, APIs enable a new solution (for example, a help desk platform) to integrate seamlessly with your existing system. (iOFFICE’s workplace software is an open API, which allows it to connect to hundreds of different applications your workforce already uses.)
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality (AR) technology is quickly becoming less science fiction and more a part of everyday life. Unlike virtual reality which replaces your regular office environment, AR enhances how you engage with the workplace. For instance, workplace software with AR technology allows you to superimpose computer-generated images on an existing physical environment so you can visualize what a space might look like before making any major changes. It could also allow you to see a visual representation of who’s in the office on any given day when you’re working remotely.
Encryption At Rest
Unlike data in transit, which is actively moving from one network to another or being transferred from a storage device to the cloud, data at rest is standing still where it’s being stored. Data in both states needs to be protected, and data encryption is one of the most common methods for doing so. Encrypted data has been translated into a code that can only be read by someone with a decryption key.
As more customers raise concerns about data security, many software companies (including ours) are taking proactive steps to support encryption for data at rest.
Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that allows workplace software to more accurately predict outcomes using data gathered from various sources, including smart sensors. Essentially, workplace software with this type of technology can “learn” how to perform certain functions without a developer have to explicitly program the command. One application of machine learning is intelligent asset maintenance where workplace software uses its previous “experience” to recognize an asset has a potential issue and automatically create a service ticket .
RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, is a popular technology for use in security badging systems and, more broadly, workplace data collection. It involves the use of an RFID chip and a receiver which use a wireless network to communicate. RFID technology can be used to gather information about occupancy and space utilization and also simplify asset tracking. RFID tags are easier to scan than barcodes and can be integrated with smart sensors to monitor asset performance.
SaaS stands for “software-as-a-service” and refers to solutions that are cloud-based and automatically updated by the provider at no extra cost to the user (beyond the subscription fee). When evaluating workplace software, you may encounter a provider who claims their solution is “SaaS” when it’s still supporting on-premise and hosted solutions. Ask them to elaborate so you can make sure you won’t run into any hidden fees for maintenance, updates and other standard services later. In a true SaaS platform, users can customize some aspects of the software, such as data fields and workflows. They can set up integrations and often upgrade their subscription to add functionality. However, a true SaaS platform will work with all upgrades without disruption.
Single Sign-On (SSO)
A single sign-on (SSO) service allows a user to access multiple applications using one username and password, rather than requiring a unique set of login credentials for each program. Since employees already have to log into several different platforms when they arrive for the day, it’s important that the workplace software you choose gives them access to everything they need via SSO. Otherwise, you risk having low adoption.
Smart sensors connect to the Internet of Things (IoT) to collect data about the workplace. These sensors can measure the occupancy of rooms, gauge the volume of noise in a space, calculate temperature and assess humidity levels. Then, using Bluetooth, cellular, LTE and Wi-Fi technology, the sensors can transmit this data to the workplace software for facilities managers to use to better understand the workplace.
User Interface (UI)
The user interface (UI) refers to the actual space where the user engages with the software. In terms of workplace software, the UI includes the menus and buttons that allow them to reserve a room, locate a colleague, submit a service ticket and so on. The aesthetic and intuitiveness of a workplace software’s UI is what determines whether the workforce loves the solution or hates it and refuses to use it.
User Experience (UX)
The user experience (UX) includes every aspect of an employee’s interaction with the workplace software. It involves not only the UI but also the response time of the software, its reliability and how well it fits into their day-to-day lives. The user experience is the most important thing to consider when evaluating workplace software because there’s a direct correlation between the quality of the UX and adoption.
Wayfinding is technology that enables employees to orient themselves in the workplace and navigate through the office to their desired location. Wayfinding features are becoming an integral part of workplace software because they support the productivity of the workforce and enhance the overall employee experience.
Choosing the Right Workplace Software
The workplace software you choose can set your organization up for a successful, productive environment….or it can become a frustrating, never-ending money pit.
Some legacy software can cost upwards of $1 million or more just to host and maintain each year—and that’s not including updates.
That’s why it’s so important to be an informed buyer.
Still need some help making your decision? Check out this list of key questions to ask workplace software vendors.