How is facilities management as a profession handling the big technology challenges of 2017? Our latest Think Tank question is all about the reality of technological advancements in FM and the operational consequences of recent innovations.
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13 February 2017 | FM World team
The Internet of things? Drones? Artificial intelligence? Automation? Apps?
As the pace of technological advance quickens and the warnings about it become ever more apocalyptic, we decided this month to ask you which technology trends you really are grappling with right now.
There’s a good reason for asking. Speakers at this year’s BIFM ThinkFM conference will explore “how technological advances are transforming the way the world works and how facilities and workplaces can be created, managed and developed to deliver results for business and society”.
What’s more, at January’s Women in FM annual conference HR consultant Perry Timms reminded attendees of the prediction made by Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzwell, who said that by 2029 computers will be able to understand our language, learn from experience and outsmart even the most intelligent humans.
Interesting, perhaps scary stuff. Scary stuff. But which of these areas are you and your organisation really grappling with?
Technology can help boost low margins
Chris Kenneally, chief executive at Cordant Services, was speaking to FM World in 2015. His view was that certain services could benefit from technological developments: “Manned-guarding security and cleaning are low-margin activities today, and the only way to change that significantly is to introduce technology that takes back-office costs out and makes the workforce more productive – so that is where we are focusing.
“Just about everybody today has smartphones, so rather than taking a platform off the shelf and trying to integrate it with a smartphone we looked at it the other way round; we are building a system very much around Google apps – small modules that can be put together quickly and that can be upgraded for a client’s requirement.
Chris Kenneally, CEO, Cordant Group plc
Apps are changing the game
Vinci Facilities, like other service providers, is starting to see a shift in the role and impact of the facilities ‘user’ in the design and shape of the services they wish to receive, driven by social media and app technologies.
End users of almost all types are increasingly sharing their views about their workplace, or facility, when it suits them and that means the relationship between ‘specifier’ (property team), supplier (FM company) and facilities user is becoming more organic. It will in fact be fully integrated into the FM procurement and performance management process.
Once each end user is given the opportunity to express their desires and needs from an FM supplier as part of a form of ‘crowdsourcing’, the challenge then arises as to how to both manage and satisfy these expectations whilst remaining within statutory, regulatory, financial and commercial agreements between the specifier and the supplier. For example, in a hospital, if nurses request that the cleaning of patient wards is undertaken more frequently and to fit around patient needs then additional budget may be required or perhaps a change in service levels or operational procedures.
How this incremental cost or change in specification is accommodated will require an equally dynamic method of adjusting and recalibrating the ‘service’ to ensure that the right balance between demand, need, cost, and performance is maintained.
Phil Russell, sales and marketing director, Vinci Facilities