The strategic and commercial contribution that Facilities Managers can make to a business has gone unrecognised for far too long. Will the end of the Covid crisis see them finally emerge from the ‘boiler room’ to become key senior members within their organisations? And will they be ready to meet the challenge?

FM has delivered

In this article for the RICS, Paul Bagurst argues the Covid crisis:

has shown how integral FM professionals are to core functions like risk management, business continuity, and ensuring employee welfare.

But now, he says, the onus is on FM to command the respect they deserve at a commercial level:

By moving higher up the value chain, FM professionals will place themselves at the heart of business decisions and gain representation at the C-suite, where they can use their expertise to help deliver confidence, wellbeing and good experiences for all asset users.

But how are we going to do it?

As Adam Mason and Will Easton (Head of Workplace at One Eighty Group) discuss in this edition of Let’s Talk FM, Facilities Managers are being leaned on to deliver faster adoption of new working practices as companies adjust to a different business landscape.

For the first time, many companies are having to support:

  • Changing patterns of flexible and home-working
  • More dispersed asset management
  • Continual reconfiguration of workplaces
  • New, untested management systems and processes

And it’s going to take really agile Facility Management teams to continue to deliver and report on this.

It’ll need better digital tools for more seamless communication between maintenance teams, and more accurate tracking of people, assets and spending.

New pressure to achieve strategic objectives

Not only this, but there’s going to be additional pressure on FM to deliver on more strategic objectives:

  • Cost reduction:  Budgets are tightening. Businesses are taking big decisions about real estate and new working practices to make them more streamlined and profitable. FM are going to be pivotal in supplying the strategic insight and practical support to drive and maintain long-term efficiencies.
  • Cultural change: Companies need to change to support a mix of virtual and real world interactions. In the retail world businesses need to welcome customers back into altered shops. FMs are going to be responsible for delivering business continuity - while making different worker and customer experiences more enjoyable and productive.
  • Risk management: New rules around worker wellbeing will be put in place to support long-term plans to return to the workplace. FM will need better tools for assessing risk, planning, and delivering compliant spaces and working practices. Minimising risk of H&S failures and financial exposure from non-compliance will be a top priority for every business in the aftermath of the pandemic.
  • Future planning: Facilities Managers need to be thinking about their operations in a holistic way to keep their companies competitive. Buildings, assets, and working environments are subject to long-term commercial trends as well as sudden disruption by global events. Only access to data and trend analysis can help factor in political, economical, social, technological, legal,and  environmental (PESTLE) thinking into our plans.

But can we do it?

The C-Suite definitely needs FM input and expertise to help organisations plan for a future of constant commercial change. Covid could be the catalyst for that to happen.

But without access to the right digital tools Facilities Managers are going to be pretty limited in how they can contribute to those strategic conversations.

We need a digital revolution

Digital transformation needs to happen if FM teams are going to be able to plan and deliver the innovation expected of them.

Unless there are the tools to automate all the manual tasks that are taking up so much of their resources, FM aren’t going to have the time or energy to dedicate to the big strategic challenges ahead.

And then, there’s the data.

“Data is the new oil” - but right now our systems are seizing up

‘Data is the new oil’ says Nadeem Ashraf, (Head of EAM at Tesco) in the latest Expansive webinar. “It’s the oil that keeps business moving”

And this is surely something that every FM can identify with. Access to FM data can show what’s working and what’s not across a business, bringing insight to:

  • Improving supplier performance

  • Extending the life of assets

  • Identifying gaps in compliance that increase exposure and risk

  • Controlling costs and optimising budgets

Data helps FM make the business case for change to a wider team. It can inform a company’s whole strategy around building, asset management, and direct smarter capital expenditure.

But for most businesses, FM data just doesn’t exist in one place, and can’t be easily collated and reported on. What’s more, there’s a whole layer of unstructured data, hidden deep in emails, spreadsheets and word docs, that just isn’t accessible.

CAFM is the answer

That’s why the case for using FM software has to be made. CAFM systems can give teams the tools to manage and control FM operations. It can automate and streamline:

  • Work requests

  • Work orders

  • Planned maintenance

  • Asset management

  • Compliance management

  • Document management

  • Budget management

With all these functions delivered through a single platform, CAFM can make every piece of required data available via dashboards and downloadable charts for analysis and future planning.

It can take all the unstructured data of daily operations and turn it into the structured ‘BIG data’ that can identify new trends and commercial opportunities.

CAFM adoption is the barrier

But the fact is, there’s limited adoption of CAFM right now. In fact, it’s reported that 74% of businesses have never even attempted an implementation.

As Fiona Happiness (Head of Facility Management at UKTV) says in our latest webinar, a lot of FM teams use Excel because they still feel it’s the easiest option available. The risk with a CAFM system is that it will take months to install, training will be difficult and their workers will find it so complicated they won’t use it. That would be a disaster for any FM anxious to impress the board and see ROI emerging from the platform.

Clearly, CAFM vendors have got to prioritise usability and configurability to win the confidence of the teams they’re selling to.

But without dropping the Excel sheets and adopting CAFM systems, FM are never going to streamline their operations, unleash the data and evidence their strategic thinking.

The challenge for Facilities Managers is not gaining the skills or vision to contribute to the commercial conversation. It’s finding the tools that will help them win their arguments and deliver on strategy in a convincing way.

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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