What are the Facilities Management trends that are significant right now, as we stand at the brink of a return to ‘normality? Here are five challenges and opportunities we all need to respond to.
1. Facilities Managers have become more visible and important in their organisations
Everyone’s saying it. Facilities Managers are emerging from the boiler room to become involved in serious business strategy decisions. The C-Suite has finally noticed what they do matters. The last year has demonstrated how creative FM can be the difference between a functioning and a failing business.
But do they have the tools to take business beyond this moment and into a high performing future?
2. But day to day facilities management remains complicated
For the medium term and maybe even longer - the day to day routine of maintenance and building management is going to be a painful logistical challenge. Even if mandatory social distancing requirements are lifted on ‘Freedom Day’ as planned, it won’t be the case in every setting - notably healthcare where restrictions will still apply.
FM will be aware that:
- Ongoing and frequent sanitising routines may still be necessary
- Retail and hospitality workers may still want or need Covid protections even though customers may not
- Teams of workers in bars and restaurants may still need to bubble to prevent potential further COVID outbreaks
All this will need careful planning to organise - not to mention the smarter use of resources to deliver on complex service requirements in the most cost-effective way.
We’re going to need the tools to manage people remotely and communicate in real-time to solve problems. We’re going to need better remote-tracking tools to ensure jobs are being done on time and properly. We’re going to need access to the data to track our spending and ensure we’re measuring the right KPIs for continual improvement. We’ll need to be rock solid with our compliance obligations too, as we navigate a potentially jittery post-Covid era of changing H&S requirements
3. Long term business evolution will require fundamental FM changes
It might be a cliche, but it does seem that many things in our working lives just won’t be the same again. The ‘death of the office’ may have been widely exaggerated - but if PwC are expecting most of their teams to log in from home between 2 - 3 times a week that suggests a big shift in expectations around the way many of us will be working in the future..
Hybrid working is going to become a major feature in many people’s lives.
It will make:
- Asset distribution and tracking much more complicated - presenting new challenges for remotely monitoring and maintaining computer equipment & furniture
- As businesses struggle to cut costs and maintain profits, working practices and whole business models will need to change. As a result we'll need to be more responsive in the way we set up, service and support workspaces and the people who occupy them.
If we want to keep control of dispersed and mobile assets, we need to digitise fast. And In challenging economic times we need to ensure we’re extracting maximum value from all the assets we own - minimising downtime and extending their life spans wherever we can.
We’re also going to need to up our ability to mobilise FM to respond rapidly to changing real time demands
- Change workplace layout frequently and rapidly
- Manage and maintain equipment dispersed across the real estate
- Build and host temporary installations to reconfigure workspaces - displays, booths etc
- Organising clean and sanitise for hot-desking areas throughout the day
And we’re going to need to do all this on tighter budgets and across a changing landscape of real estate - with some workspaces growing, some getting smaller, others fragmenting further into hub and spoke office arrangements
4. FMs need more budget control
In this pre-Pandemic survey of business leaders by Forbes, digital transformation was a top priority, followed closely by the need for great control over spending. We would argue though, you can’t have one without the other.
As workplaces return to full use, there will be a slew of work to be done.
- Backlog of planned maintenance
- New problems emerging through months of equipment disuse
- Extra compliance checks for Legionnaire control in HVAC systems, swimming pools, bathrooms etc
We need to get on top of all this, quickly, and make sure the work is being accurately recorded.
Going forward, the pressure will be on to maintain standards while tightening budgets, and we just won’t be able to do this without the right digital maintenance tools.
- Work order management software
- Contractor / engineer portals
- Preventive maintenance capabilities
- Benchmarking tools to monitor and optimise performance
- Compliance controls
- Cost / budget control and invoice auditing
Most importantly FM needs to demonstrate to the C-Suite that we have proper control and oversight of our budgets; that we are guarding against waste and overspend at every opportunity. We need to show them that they’re getting value for money from the contractors we use and the equipment we buy.
The pressure for accountability and transparency in the way we handle spending will only continue to mount in the years to come. And the truth is, if FM can’t report accurately on spending and predict Capex needs, the freedom and ability to control our own budgets may well be removed from us altogether.
5. Everyone’s talking about a future of IoT, AI and AR.
In many ways that future is already here. Spaces and equipment are reporting back to companies in real time about their status and condition; they are maintaining themselves and even controlling their own energy consumption.
There's a huge opportunity for future savings in this kind of smart technology and the FM world is awash with promises about harnessing it to increase cost savings and efficiency.
There’s enthusiasm for this, even if it’s not backed up with action. In this study 67% of FM said that IoT was extremely important to them and their business, but nearly 40% of the same cohort said they had done nothing practical about meeting their goals.
It’s easy to understand why. Most FM teams are way off having the systems in place to support this kind of data gathering. Often these tools come as part of hugely expensive super solutions including hardware and software packages that promise to track real time FM data and integrate them into our reporting.
But these are huge investments often with open ended time lines for delivery. Will the C-Suite be prepared to risk such long range projects to deliver on hardware that is still evolving?
We would argue that to take advantage of these opportunities, you should be looking for flexible CAFM tools that are agnostic about integration. With flexible APIs you can connect to any third party tech products that the business requires to enhance their reporting, while retaining their long term ability to upgrade and change as and when the tech evolves.
Where are we going? And how will we get there?
The pressure of these trends in facilities management are being felt in the everyday interactions between FM, the C-Suite, engineers, finance teams, regulators and customers. FM teams are being asked, all the time, to save money, respond faster and innovate more.
But FM’s ability to rise to these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities they offer is tied to their ability to digitally control their teams, operations and budgets. And all that relies on our ability to collect critical data; to use it in meaningful ways in reporting to the c-suite and our everyday decision making.
To do this we’ll need to act fast. We need to find the tools that can rapidly become part of the ‘way we do things’ - without getting bogged down in complex installations. We need to get our teams using the practical, digital tools that can bring us the control and insight we need to support changing business strategies in an altered world.