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It's become a feature of every market survey, every industry conference, every insight report into the discipline: technology is the future of FM. That is certainly true; and it always has been.
Technology has played a big part in facilities management for years – service delivery relies on (and service providers sell on) time & attendance recording, performance audits, contract information portals, numerous variations on CAFM, meeting room management, hotdesk booking, catering apps, internet support for mobile teams, health & safety audits, permit to work systems, online training and training records, plus much more.
Some of this stuff is not very exciting, but it can ensure that the job gets done, is done right and has been recorded as such. Far more ‘sexy’ these days are sensor applications, IoT and the concept of deploying artificial intelligence – but that’s just the excitement of the new: there was a time when ditching the signing-in book in favour of an automated time & attendance package looked pretty flash.
The pace of technology development and take-up is quickening, of course – as it is in many aspects of our lives. In FM, we have a clear case of push and pull factors combining to make the sector fertile ground for new ways of doing things: in simple terms, much of the push lies in the promising new ideas more or less continually presented by system developers, and much of the pull results from the need in a highly competitive and low-margin sector to work smarter and offer more to the customer. How could technology not be the future for FM?
But, inevitably, the path forward is not always simple. There are questions and issues and uncertainties, too. Technology is great, though in any given situation it has to be the right technology for the particular problem or opportunity. FMs have to have the knowledge and skills to at least understand systems and their implementation, even if the actual implementation and operation is handled by experts. Adequate resources for the investment in products and any necessary training are essential. And there’s the whole people aspect of all this – the ‘human interface’ is critical in facilities management, with so much of what FMs do being about working with people to understand and meet their needs.
Finally, with the steady creep of technology into our organisations there has been the somewhat belated recognition that the data collected isn’t much use on its own; in fact, if all it does is accumulate, it’s a problem. Making that data work, converting it to useful, actionable information is what makes sense of the technology investment. Business information expert Graham Perry recently wrote of his frustration with our current situation. Everyone is talking about the value of data and how this will be the next great enabler, he noted – but he went on to point out that many organisations are treating data management as simply an IT project or even choosing to ignore that whole outcomes element of their investment. Perry is about to embark on some conversations with FM service providers to find out how they see new systems and applications fitting into their organisations and how they plan to make the best use of them. This should be both interesting and informative.
If you are already doing good things with new technology in FM, it’s not too late to put your initiatives forward for the i-FM Technology in FM Award. The entry deadline is Friday, 19 October. Judging will take place before the end of the year, and the winners will be revealed at February’s Workplace Futures conference. So join in – get the recognition you deserve for embracing the future!
Managing Editor, i-FM
22nd February 2019
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