The 4 benefits of digitising facilities management

Like many industries, the future of facilities management is increasingly focused around better use of technology. That’s the conclusion of two recent studies that look at the impact and opportunities that digitisation and greater connectivity bring to the sector.

Frost & Sullivan’s new market research report predicts that the global outsourced FM market will be worth nearly $1 trillion by 2025. Much of this growth will be due to enabling technologies such as Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT). These will allow FM companies to widen the range of services they offer, both directly and through partnerships with providers in other areas.

At the same time technology is already central to how facilities managers operate today. Service Works Group’s (SWG’s) annual survey found that software is being used to manage a whole range of activities, from maintenance to asset and resource management.

Looking at both reports, there are four reasons behind this increased reliance on technology:

  1. Greater efficiency
    Technology can reduce the cost of carrying out facilities management activities. Whether it is automating monitoringto remove the need for staff to manually check temperature and humidity readings, or improving productivity by digitising paper-based processes, the facilities management industry can ensure it is more efficient and effective. This will help outsourced providers deliver the savings that they have promised to clients, while allowing in-house managers to do more with less when it comes to budget. For example, 72% of respondents in the SWG survey said they were now using mobile technology to improve the management of staff and contractors, up 27% from 2015.
  2. Retaining existing customers
    Poor quality of service is one of the primary reasons that customers leave FM providers – it was the reason given by nearly three quarters (71%) of respondentsin a Deloitte survey looking at insourcingfor example. Delivering a better service that meets agreed standards is central to customer satisfaction and loyalty, and technology helps by providing monitoring and control over what is happening on the ground. This ensures that managers are alerted to any issues quickly and action can be taken to fix problems before they escalate.
  3. Winning new business
    Competition in the facilities management market is fierce, and there is a continual downward pressure on prices. By increasing efficiency and reducing costs, technology can ensure firms are competitive when pitching, but, more importantly, it can allow them to innovate and differentiate themselves against rivals. Use of Internet of Things sensors to monitor equipmentand allow pre-emptive maintenance is a good example of how companies can stand out from the crowd, whilst also boosting service levels and productivity.
  4. Extending service offerings
    The breadth of services catered for within the facilities management sector is continually expanding, covering everything from catering and cleaning to security and front of house operations. Frost & Sullivan point to the opportunities for FM operations to become even more central to businesses, particularly around sustainability management. Technology is a key part of enabling this, bringing data and information into a single place where it can be monitored and used to control the environment in real-time. With the rise of bundled services from fewer providers, outsourcers need to be able to expand what they offer if they are to win more business.

However, there are also some notes of caution. Benefiting from technology requires new skills, particularly around understanding data and embedded technology, such as the Internet of Things. FM providers, whether in-house or outsourced will therefore find themselves competing with a wider range of companies to attract staff with these skills if they are to use their knowledge to transform their operations. For example, a recent survey by Schneider Electric found that an inability to turn raw data into actionable insight was holding back the use of IoT technology in building management.

There is also a concern that technology is either not fit for purpose or is simply not used. The SWG research found that nearly a third (31%) of companies still rely on Excel spreadsheets to manage FM. Even worse, 14% still used paper-based checklists – hardly the right platform to benefit from digitisation.

The FM operations of the future will be fully digitised – now is therefore the time for providers to invest in technology if they want to ready themselves for the imminent $1 trillion opportunity.

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