The Sharing Economy: The New (Old) Buzz

April 5, 2016

Robert Fulghum, author of "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten", listed as his #1 learning: Share Everything.

Maybe something old is new again?

There's a new buzz term to add to Cloud, Big Data, Social Networks and Mobility; it's called the Sharing Economy.

A formal definition of the Sharing Economy is an ecosystem that leverages information technology to maximize the use of an asset's excess capacity through sharing or reuse. The value generated for the participants of the ecosystem includes improved access, sustainability and profitability for its organizational and individual participants.

For practical purposes, the Sharing Economy is based on a simple premise, more sharing means less waste. Sounds a lot like a foundational element for improved sustainability, doesn't it?

The December 9, 2013 edition of Fortune Magazine contained an editorial by my mentor, the "growth guy" Verne Harnish, CEO of Gazelle's Inc. He named four trends to watch in 2014, and one of them was the Sharing Economy. He wrote,

"...Consumers have caught on quickly to the benefits of renting out their homes through Airbnb and saving on auto costs with Zipcar. It's time for every CEO to look for ways to maximize unused assets, whether that means sharing office space or underemployed workers..."

Well, isn't that interesting? The hot new trend in 2014 is leveraging technology to maximize the use of office space through sharing, something AgilQuest pioneered twenty years ago. My goodness, we might even be cool now, just like NetJets, UBER, and Airbnb. If we can't be cool, then at least we know we give hundreds of thousands of people the freedom to choose when and where they work and give organizations the opportunity to improve their profitability by hundreds of millions of dollars and reduce their CO2 footprint by thousands of metric tons annually through the sharing.

Think Differently, Think Better

Most people take the underutilization of things for granted. We never really think about the empty guest room in our house, except when a rare visit by Aunt Betty occurs. We don't think about the empty seats in our car when we drive across town. Management has walked by of empty office space for so long they don't even think about the waste, and are blind to it because that is the way it has always been.

But innovative individuals and organizations now see with new eyes and ask themselves "Why and How?" Why can't we share the excess capacity of our assets? How can we make it easily available for others to leverage and use to mutual benefit? And How can we make or save money doing it!

Think of the many days each year your extra room...or two... wasn't used as a place for someone to sleep. 300 days a year? 350 days a year? Now multiply that by $50 a day, or maybe $100 a day. Even in the simplest example, that would be $15,000 or more per year. AirBnB thinks about it, and now so have the hotel chains...

Think about the number of times you drive across town on an errand, just you in your big SUV. You have at least one seat...or two or three... in the car empty and available for a guest. If that seat was shared just one trip a week at $30 a ride adds up to $1,500 or more a year. UBER thinks about it. Feel squeamish about riding with a stranger? You must not fly on airplanes or ride buses or use the metro...and not participate on UBER.

Think about all the offices, workstations and meeting rooms in the typical office building or university campus that lay vacant because someone is out sick, on vacation, in training, at a client, on a business trip, at a Starbucks, or any of a hundred places that are not "in their office". It is not a little number.

On average, 50% of all office space in the US is unoccupied on any given day – that's 7 Billion sq ft (with a "B") of empty office space just begging to be shared. At $15,000 of cost annually for each desk, that's over half a Trillion dollars (with a "T") of lost revenue or cost recovery opportunity. Think about it; a $ Trillion here and a $ Trillion there, and pretty soon you have Sharing Economy for places to work. AgilQuest thinks about it.

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