03 June 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
In this month's Think Tank we investigate whether FM service providers are using CAFM and other technology effectively.
At the recent IWFM Conference, Heather Carey, deputy director at the Work Foundation - a consultancy on the future of work - said the UK's productivity problem was due in part to its ineffective adoption of technology.
"Innovation diffusion in the UK is not great," said Carey. "We have people that lag behind and more laggards in our economy than other country."
It is the case with all sorts of software use, she said: purchasing software; enterprise resource planning; software for people management; and software for managing client relationships.
Technology and innovation consultant Antony Slumbers also recently remarked that computer processing power and technological infrastructure is increasing "at an exponential rate" and "anything structured, repeatable or predictable will soon be automated" - highlighting the need for a more sophisticated attitude towards technology adoption.
So where does FM stand in all this? In this month's Think Tank we're asking if the FM service in your firm is using computer-aided facility management (CAFM) and other technology effectively and successfully? Is there sufficient integration? Are you seeing genuine performance benefits?
If yes, how? And if not, why not?
The FM profession is slightly behind the tech curve. In its defence, though, the industry-wide prerogative should be to deliver value via true partnerships, which perhaps detracts attention from the latest sparkly bit of tech. Yes, in larger corporations, the smart buildings era is upon us, and we are seeing some big FM providers partnering or acquiring agile technology companies to deliver fresh approaches to market needs. But the mid-market SME sector is where we're seeing the most disruption. Client organisations with tighter budgets are now outsourcing their building services to smaller, specialist providers with the right technology, rather than sinking money into costly off-the-shelf solutions.
Across all organisations there is one commonality: the need for greater efficiency and transparency when managing data. Compliance is top of the tree for FMs and we are now seeing greater adoption of cloud-based platforms and handheld technology to provide real-time building maintenance information. And as tech-savvy millennials join the workforce, they're going to want and expect this level of transparent access.
Steve McGregor, group managing director, DMA Group
Using the data
The FM industry's less than ideal relationship with innovation isn't so much down to a lack of enthusiasm, as Carey suggests, but more to do with not knowing how to fully leverage collected data. The built environment is awash with technology, yet most of the data that is recorded is rarely given the proper analysis required to drive smarter, more efficient service. This asks questions about why technology is being purchased in the first place.
To make FM technology effective, the data collected must be made available and interoperable with other data sets for those who make decisions on site. It's one thing to implement a technology solution, but another to scrutinise what it is supposedly telling you. Within the FM sector there are three key data sets: people (both internal and client-side), the client organisation, and service information (contract specifics). FM technology should be able to capture, measure and integrate these three metrics, as doing so will help to fulfil workflows.
James Bradley, director at Churchill Group
Lessons from Amara
Improvements in specialist tech, and a better understanding of its potential, are providing a huge opportunity for FM. Used effectively, it could transform the way the sector operates, improve standards of service, simplify communications and enable providers to realise long-term cost savings. Service providers that use it well can move ahead of the pack; we are already seeing the start of a noticeable gap between 'average' and best-in-class providers.
Deploying new technologies effectively is driving a need for more highly skilled and highly paid operatives. With an increasing need for technically capable employees, the competition to recruit the right people is going to be fierce. It means that some of the cost savings from introducing new tools and systems needs to be invested in training and recruiting.
Amara's Law, coined by Stanford University computer scientist Roy Amara, tells us that the impact of technology tends to be overestimated in the short term, and underestimated in the long term. For FM to avoid falling victim to the hype of digitisation, it is essential for service providers to consider the required elements beyond the bits and bytes.
Mike Boxall, MD at Sitemark
The best tech in the right places
The use of technology should be appropriate to the organisation with the complexity of the system being directly proportionate to the estate being managed. Wherever a system is put in place, I consider it should be compliant with ISO 41001.
The 'proptech' era
Thanks to the 'proptech' era now upon us, we are witnessing best-of-breed start-ups integrating their offerings with each other to deliver a truly modern workplace with unprecedented integrated solutions for FM services across enterprise businesses. This includes smart technologies for visitor management, meeting room management, employee apps, indoor navigation, the Internet of Things, and access control. So rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, there's now more of a jigsaw puzzle forming.
Specialists in niche products are joining forces to deliver solutions rather than boxed products. The FM industry is starting to ask, 'What do we expect, as consumers today, from the visitor experience and technological experiences?'
The move towards an automated on-site experience is where niche suppliers (open to integrations) can help FMs excel. For example, our integration partners are attributing as much as 50 per cent of installations to wider system integrations. Visitor management integration with access control heads the list right now, followed by meeting room management.
Examples of FM services using integrations includes Vodafone, which is working with us to achieve integration of Proxyclick as a big-screen smart device for welcoming visitors and a parking solution.
Gregory Blondeau, co-founder & director at Proxyclick
The UK has a problem with productivity. We may have low unemployment and high employment, but that just means we have more people working not very effectively.
FM is no better than average in terms of productivity growth. That is set to change because of technology.
If you look at the productivity of top internet companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, they are phenomenal. They may be huge companies in terms of value, but they do not employ that many people. Software does much of the work. Digital from end to end, they each have 'flywheels' that means each unit of input generates multiple units of output.
BIM, Digital Twins, RPA, Robotics, AI and associated technologies will be the flywheels that propel the innovators far away from the pack within FM. They are tools that require full commitment, and a willingness to ignore conventional thinking and practice. Whoever develops the corporate mindset to reject 'average' and embrace full-scale digital transformation will be very hard to compete against.
Antony Slumbers, technology and innovation consultant