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FMs need to maximise the potential of technology by fostering positive relationships with the IT department, explains Indu Wijayatunga. 

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02 July 2018 | Indu Wijayatunga

Future-focussed FMs must develop and maintain relationships across the business that are increasingly outside their traditional sphere of influence. Perhaps the most important relationship is with the IT function. Here are five key considerations to help make IT a true business partner.

1 Keep on top of trends

FM professionals need to be aware of trends in the tech market to ensure the business they work for procures suitable technology to collect and manage relevant raw data in a proactive way. 

We have to know what a system can do for us, what options are available, what the benefits and risks are, what costs are reasonable to pay over the life of a system, and be accountable for delivery and implementation into the business we work for.

Knowing how to operate technology and understanding its functionality, outputs and future potential is essential for FMs. It will remain a challenge to keep abreast of trends related to technological advancements, but FMs must take the lead on technology and innovation in the areas of the business they have responsibility for – or risk other specialists moving in to fill the skills gap.

2 Collaboration is key

For an organisation to host FM systems (such as CAFM, CMMS, BEMS and BMS) and manage them effectively, collaboration with the IT department is required from the beginning of an implementation project.

This helps FMs to ensure the product supplier understands current IT infrastructure, processes and policies within the organisation and identifies how to manage change within the system to sustain a platform with zero downtime and without detrimental impact on business operations.  

FMs also have a crucial role in setting asset management protocols to be used in the system, such as asset-naming conventions, priorities for attendance, and property management data sets, to ensure the system supports the business and produces management information.

3 Align needs of FM and IT

FMs need to understand IT infrastructure and processes and also help IT understand their function – the FM helpdesk exemplifies this. 

Poor performance can often be improved by involving IT when procuring a particular system to identify how helpdesk feedback will align to organisations’ email infrastructure. This is an issue some organisations face as, when requests are entered, feedback isn’t sent to the requester on the status of a job. Therefore, FM function is criticised for non-performance. 

In my consultancy career, I have seen how organisations tend to invest heavily in the introduction of new systems without ensuring they support business objectives, or without implementing a long-term strategic plan to ensure success. 

By building collaborative relationships between FM and IT, and understanding the needs of each, procurement of services and products can help to deliver long-term success.

4 Learn to speak in IT

FMs need to develop a working knowledge of technical language to provide an interface between IT and other stakeholders, translating jargon for clients and other departments, and better communicating to IT what is required from them. It can also mean FM gets a better response from IT colleagues. Learning technical language makes it easier to understand IT’s function, but it also boosts an FM’s own technical competency and makes the task of formulating technical reports and reflecting business case requirements in technical matters simpler. 

5 Stay soft but inquisitive

Better communication with IT requires learning jargon, but it also relies on soft skills. A negative comment can have detrimental effects on the whole system implementation.

Translating tech-speak to simple language goes beyond understanding technical needs and adds a layer of softer communication to  make sure everyone feels valued and equipped to use the systems.

This approach guarantees that communication between departments is never disruptive of planned processes and helps to increase productivity.

Soft skills are essential for FMs to be able to discover stakeholders’ needs and then be able to advise them as to which path to pursue to keep in line with business objectives.  

Indu Wijayatunga is senior facility management consultant at Rider Levett Bucknall