CTO Jasper Schuurmans discusses the motivations behind Mapiq's technological development

CTO and co-founder of Mapiq, Jasper Schuurmans, takes us through his experiences developing a workplace solution that empowers data-driven decisions.

Jasper Schuurmans co-founded Mapiq in 2015 and now serves as the company's Chief Technology Officer (CTO); he recently sat down with us to discuss with us the ins and outs of Mapiq's technological development. After facing many challenges and successes, Jasper has a unique understanding of how Mapiq's technology has reacted to and shaped the changing hybrid working environment.  

Here, our conversation covers the intricacies of hybrid working solutions, Mapiq's stance on privacy, and the importance of IT teams when integrating and selecting a new piece of workplace technology.  

Looking back at where Mapiq started years ago, how did you realize the possibilities of Mapiq’s technology and your unique position in the workplace experience market?  

"When we began, people were really starting to realize that everything in a building or workplace could be connected through the web. As a young, very agile player in the market, we quickly adapted to these new circumstances. That was the ideal situation for us to build our platform.    

In our first project, we learned that we could have a specific role in integrating existing technology. We could connect all kinds of tools, sensors, and positioning technology within a single building and bring it all together.    

As a startup in a world of bigger, slower technology companies, the key to our initial success was being fast and flexible. Our flexibility allowed us to quickly unlock new functionalities in six months; if we were a larger company, these projects might have taken us years to complete. But even though we're fast, we've always made sure to prioritize quality, security and privacy aspects from the very beginning."  

Since you founded Mapiq, the world has changed in some pretty drastic ways. What were the major changes, technological or otherwise, that you've had to overcome?

"Of course, a big game-changer for Mapiq was the recent pandemic. Initially, it was a challenge as we knew we needed to help our customers and their employees return to their offices. So, we decided to build a product specifically designed to tackle COVID-related issues. This was an opportunity to release a product that could bring people safely into the office while ensuring distancing measures and capacity limits.  

As the pandemic progressed, there were time constraints involved in producing a new product that gave our customers what they needed as quickly as possible. Though we were moving at a quick pace, this was the ideal opportunity to make some changes to our platform to increase scalability.  

To do this, we also needed to apply our past learnings: for instance, we looked more closely at our interactions with IT departments when they implemented our solutions. We were able to get rid of a lot of work involved with setting up, single sign-on, and getting our system integrated into customers’ existing ecosystems. Instead, we focused on opening up new APIs that allow our customers to connect  and synchronize with existing systems in a more accessible way.    

We got the best out of a bad situation during the pandemic. And thanks to what we had to overcome, our technology is now more scalable and easier to implement."  

Today, people in the workplace use all kinds of technology. How can you make sure that when these tools are combined, they simplify workdays rather than complicate them?

"Well, I think that we're used to integrating and connecting things in today's world. For instance, smart buildings are not a new concept. What's different is that the primary users of this kind of technology used to just consist of real-estate and facility managers, so there wasn't a need for a user-friendly user interface or an experience-focused solution. People just needed data to understand how their buildings were being utilized.  

But today, with hybrid working, people can decide where they want to work, and the question becomes: "What value does it bring me if I come to the office today?" Employers need to ensure that the workday is a fundamentally good experience for employees.    

For that kind of workday experience, the technology needs to be integrated—but that doesn't just mean connecting a bunch of sensors together. It's about curating a workday experience that helps you get the most out of your day. Companies should look for a combination of smart algorithms, machine learning predictions, and more, to get data out of a building and turn that information into tailored analytics that helps organizations and individual employees have a perfect day at the office."    

What kind of impact has hybrid working had on Mapiq's technology?  

"With the rise of hybrid working, analytics have become vital: people need to understand what's happening in their workspaces. Because individual workers have more flexibility than ever before, it's hard to make decisions for your employees without understanding the reality of how they interact with the office. People tend to decide last minute whether they’ll come to the office because that choice often depends on a single meeting where a couple of colleagues are also physically present. If you're a facility manager who has to predict how to cater lunch that day, the results can be unpredictable and may lead to excess costs.  

We use predictive modeling to predict occupancy. Suppose we can understand when a person is likely to come to the office and what their working habits and hours are. In that case, we can help organizations understand and make strategic decisions based on what will likely happen in the future.    

This helps organizations optimize their offices and allows employees to get the most out of their days. We can use this technology to help employees connect with their colleagues, find the best days to come to the office, and understand when it is best to work remotely."  

In what other ways has the technology developed over time?

"If you look purely at the technology, the biggest move that our customers probably won't even see is the transition from a single-tenant platform to a multi-tenant platform.  

With this move towards scalability, we've become more standardized. We can't always make unique exceptions for individual customers; instead, we need to consider the needs of all clients. But with Mapiq, our product is designed to be easy to connect with, and organizations can put their essence into the product by connecting their own systems to it."  

How should organizations integrate a workplace experience tool into their hybrid working strategy?

"I think we're just at the start of this hybrid working journey. We've had two years of lockdowns, and now we're just getting back to the office and adapting to the new way of working. We need to anticipate what's to come. That means proactively performing experiments, data analysis, and modeling to find out what's successful.  

Our goal is to help our customers deal with the flexibility of hybrid working. Our technology can help organizations manage their offices and understand what is and will be available. Not everything can be predicted, and we actually don't want every day to be 100% predictable: we want it to be 100% efficient.  

That's where our prediction technology comes in. It's not about finding the average number of people who come into the office on Wednesdays. It's about learning what drives people to go to the office in the first place. Analytics are key to this. We go beyond occupancy to understand the average number of people in a meeting room, where people are working from, or how many no-shows are there for certain meetings.  

When integrating a new tool, it's all about empowering people through hybrid working. Companies can start hybrid working by determining a set of guidelines, but ultimately, it's about giving individuals the power to make their own decisions and reacting to the results of those choices."  

What kinds of voices are involved in getting a workplace solution?  

"People buy workplace solutions for a variety of reasons. Originally, we saw many companies looking for a real estate management solution or a way to ensure safety precautions. But today, there are many more parties and concerns involved, stemming from different teams who will all engage with the tool.    

In the past, IT managers were only involved late in the process, after the strategy and vision for a new working method had already been decided. But now, teams are embracing IT early in the process as an opportunity to understand what routes are best for both people and organizations alike.    

Similarly, with the rise of hybrid working, HR has become a more significant part of the process as they consider the importance of employee experiences. Just like how IT is a key decision-maker in assessing the company's technical needs, HR has become vital in assessing what people's needs are."    

Can you elaborate on the value of involving IT teams when selecting a workplace solution?  

"Like facility management, HR, and real estate, IT is a party that organizations should involve as soon as possible. Companies need to understand how hard it will be for an IT department to set up, configure, and maintain a solution.  

The worst thing a company can do is only consult the IT department at the end of the process. If companies pick a vendor because they have the best sales pitch but then go to IT after the fact and ask them to arrange the connectivity needed to onboard the vendor into the IT landscape, they're way too late.    

Having clients involve their IT teams also makes it easier to sell and implement the solution from the vendor side. Their feedback means that vendors can understand organizations better. As a result, vendors want to build solutions that match enterprise standards and provide customers with a sense of ease and familiarity.  

It's also important to know what IT teams are looking for so that the implementation process is a breeze: we don't want to give a large packet of instructions to another company and then see what they do with it."  

Data and security are at the forefront of many companies' priorities today, and for a good reason. How does Mapiq uphold privacy and security standards?  

"At Mapiq, it's always been integral to develop our products with privacy in mind. For us, privacy means that our software is built so that data can only be used for what it's intended for and that it can be made unusable, anonymized, and pseudonymized when needed. Our team wants to ensure that we never build something that can be misused to track employees' day-to-day activities. We never want to make something like an employee-monitoring tool.

When we start collaborating with clients, we always have early meetings with their work council and their security or privacy officer. Everyone needs to be asking if the functionalities in mind are aligned from a privacy perspective. In that case, things like GDPR can be a blessing. It gives us an ethical framework and provides an opportunity for those kinds of conversations.  

Privacy and security are a constant conversation because accessing user data is a reality and a necessity. Processing personal data isn't inherently bad: you need personal data if you want to make a product that can help manage your day as a personal assistant might.    

For us, it's obvious that you shouldn't collect data without explicit permission. You wouldn't just go and grab something out of someone's purse or secretly walk into a house and look around. That is burglary, and it should be viewed that way for people's data as well."    

Any final words?

"As we continue shaping workdays around the globe, we always believe it's important for us to communicate our ideals, methods, and technological perspectives. If we really understand the needs of our users and customers, we can make sure that we build technology which optimally supports them."

If you're interested in learning more about what we can do for your organization, feel free to contact us.

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