What does company-wide digital transformation look like? And what role will FM play in completing that journey?

What does digital transformation look like?

Digital transformation has been defined by one group of experts as:

“The application of technology that improves customer experience, reduces friction, increases productivity and elevates profitability across a business”,

Which sounds about right to us.

Digital transformation has reshaped business models

And it’s true that digital transformation has touched nearly every department in every business in every sector over the last 20 years.

It’s reinvented what entire companies do and how they do it. It’s also defeated companies who were too slow to adapt to its new realities.

Digital transformation has passed FM by - until now

Yet, until now, FM has often been untouched by the ‘digital transformation projects’ going on in the wider business. And it’s a fact that the strategic input expected from the ‘boiler room’ by senior management has been minimal.

But all this is changing. In fact, in the last 12 months there’s been a perfect storm of pressures that’s suddenly made many in the C-Suite sit up and take notice of their FM function.

New challenges - new opportunities

Covid has shown us how central FM is in responding to new business demands:

  • Changing offices & retail spaces to meet new business needs
  • Supporting shifts in working patterns (e.g. home working and hybrid working)
  • Distributing and managing more dispersed assets
  • Delivering rapid change within available budgets
  • Implementing and reporting on new compliance demands
  • Ensuring businesses always keep running and turning over

And the fact is, many businesses have found some of these changes have actually made their people more productive and profitable.

Business continues to transform with digital

It seems Covid has spurred many in the C-Suite to push on with more ambitious, digital transformation projects:

More hybrid working is expected - with different working patterns for remote teams spread out across the country. McKinsey say 20% of all office workers will become ‘hybrid’ in the next 5 years - working at least 3 days a week from home. Workers will be coming and going at different times/locations for different reasons - and FM will need to prepare for them with:

  • Support for larger group meetings and town hall gatherings in shared spaces.
  • More hot desking, ‘agile furniture and flexible access to power/business system
  • New and different kinds of office servicing - with spaces that have more technology and furniture that can be moved and reconfigured on the fly.
  • More automation and experiential spaces making offices ‘creative and technology hubs.

We’re not going ‘back to normal’

Our buildings and businesses may not be going back to ‘normal’ but will keep on a path of change and innovation to keep them profitable and relevant.

And FM are definitely going to be a key part of delivering all this, as they:

1. Reduce business risk

Facilities Management will need to be there to control the risk of compliance failures and equipment breakdown. They’ll need to ensure that more mobile and dispersed assets are:

  • Being tracked and monitored properly
  • Being used correctly
  • Are available when needed
  • Are properly maintained

At the same time, they’ll need to monitor buildings and respond to keep working environments safe and compliant as they are used by different groups throughout the day. This includes managing spaces to keep control of hygiene, air quality, heating, as well as preparing and reconfiguring spaces before and after use.

2. Save the business time

FMs are going to need to respond fast to constantly changing business demands. And they’re not going to be able to do this without:

  • More automation of help-desk functions
  • Better asset tracking
  • Mobile management of contractors/engineers
  • Integration with IoT/BMS

to help them monitor demand and deliver services across different buildings/regions more efficiently.

3. Save the business money

After the economic shocks of the last 12 months, FMs are inevitably going to need to deliver on these changes with fewer resources. To do this they’re going to need to be able to:

  • Track and optimise where their budgets are being spent in real time
  • Track assets to manage replacement cycle
  • Monitor and optimise engineer /contractor performance
  • Use data to drive better financial decision making
  • Spot emerging FM trends to prevent revenue loss and keep adding value

4. Improve service

The point of digital transformation has always been to make businesses more frictionless in their operations.

If FMs are going to help businesses serve their customers and support staff more seamlessly at the ‘pace of digital’, we’ll need to:

Have the tools to respond to maintenance needs faster and more accurately:

  • Improve comms
  • Cut down on errors
  • Increase first time fix rates
  • Make sure assets and facilities are always available as and when they are required.
  • Anticipate business needs through better data analysis
  • Manage Capex more effectively to make the right investment decisions
  • Continually demonstrate the way they can optimise FM services

What’s standing in your way?

A lack of the right technology may be stopping businesses upgrading their facilities and asset management to meet these new business needs.

But also many companies have traditionally not got behind their FM teams in the past. Even when new CAFMs have been implemented and digitisation projects have been underway.

This time it needs to be different and businesses will need the right support to:

1. Match their objectives to technology needs

The technology has to help FM meet objectives fast and without huge amounts of disruption. The digital tools and the software partners they choose have to be flexible and agile enough to help businesses improve in areas of the greatest need and see a quick initial return on investment to keep momentum going.

2. Collaborate with all key stakeholders

You’re going to need buy-in from everyone in the business to get the FM digital tools set up and running. Making sure everybody has input in what they need from FM software is critical. Helping the FM teams integrate and introduce the technology across the business will be key to making it a success.

3. Find dedicated digital transformation expertise

You need to choose a digital partner who can help you prioritise and implement your programme of FM digital transformation. There may be a lot of data and workflow configuration to manage, so you’re going to need support to make the right decisions and launch each phase of transformation on time.

4. Build the business case for change

FM are still going to need to explain to the C-Suite exactly what they need, why they need it, as well as set out how much it’s going to cost and detail the benefits it will bring. Even if you theoretically have buy-in from the top of the business, you’ll need to make a compelling case and a strategy in place to keep a transformation programme on track.

The digital transformation of a whole business won’t be complete until Facility Management has transformed, too.

But if FM are going to help businesses

  • reduce friction
  • improve customer service
  • increase productivity and profits

they’ve got to have the right digital tools and software partners to make it happen.

How to choose a CAFM system

Tom Wilcock

Written by Tom Wilcock

Tom Wilcock is the COO and Co-Founder of Expansive Solutions. He is a digital expert with a background in delivering large-scale business digital transformation. He specialises in project management, product user experience, business ecosystems and data intelligence.

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