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Knowledge is power

From IoT integration to robotics, intelligent assistants and virtual reality, CAFM might appear to be moving into the realms of science fiction. But as leading vendors explain, technology is driving unprecedented CAFM functionality which will benefit users and suppliers alike – so long as it is properly managed


The all-pervasive reach of digital applications across all areas of business is a compelling driver for CAFM providers to up their game and stake a claim at the top table for what they have to offer clients. FM now has a scope and breadth way beyond anything most industry pundits would have contemplated 15 or 20 years ago.

FM can mean a range of different functions to different clients and, with the rise of the app, CAFM technology is available in the hands of all, not just FM specialists. CAFM providers are working to offer flexible and agile digital capabilities that can sit within an organisation’s IT strategy in both controlling and subsidiary support roles, depending on the way the client views its world today and may choose to shift its strategy to respond to its operating environment tomorrow.

Interoperability is now a critical ‘must have’ to provide real utility for clients and service providers driving their businesses via CAFM. The ability to talk to legacy systems and other digital management systems which operate in parallel should be basic, not nice-to-have, and best-of-breed should not mean elitist or proprietary.

We have passed the point where technology for technology’s sake has any credibility with our markets. Users want to see a clear, real-world business benefit when they commit to a product. The impact of consumer technology, whereby ultimately every function must be able to deliver information or offer a service at some credible level via any smartphone, has removed barriers to expectation. Users will pick and mix from whichever sources most clearly satisfy their strategic goals. We added an app dimension to our capabilities last year and increased the proportion of customer business analysts in relation to the number of digital technologists.

Big data looms increasingly large on the corporate management agenda as the internet of things (IoT) begins to realise its potential, and more assets and sensors (even microchips in employees!) can provide status data to management and control systems. Context-aware services, whereby a system responds based on both who you are and where you are in a building, are also a realisable ambition. However, we are aware of a proliferation of pilots but not yet much progression to roll-outs.

There still seems to be a lack of clarity around the purpose of gathering all this extra data, and there are issues of identity security management and data protection in relation to employee and other user databases, particularly in view of the new General Data Protection Regulation requirements from May this year. To enhance corporate wellbeing it’s necessary to set specific money-saving or efficiency-increasing ambitions that relate realistically to the improvement of the ecosystem in which employees operate.

FM service providers are having to become increasingly agile in getting to grips with the proliferation of new systems and digital tools. Very few have the resources to develop their own enabling technologies, so they must look to CAFM providers with the broadest skillsets. The market increasingly finds itself on a pathway where innovation is being delivered at the same rate as consumer digital technology. We are entering a space where the competitor who steals your customers could be an unknown who will offer a new digital concept in six months’ time. Service providers need to embrace technologies that can envelop their clients in a comfort zone of adaptive support.


FM is constantly evolving and embracing new technologies, such as the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and predictive maintenance. It’s a fast-moving industry, but to truly appreciate and benefit from the business advantages that advances in facilities and maintenance technology can bring, facilities professionals need to be early adopters, driving change through their organisations.

The debate around insourcing or outsourcing FM continues, but we are witnessing a shift towards companies selecting their own CAFM system, and, more importantly, holding their own data. Even before the Carillion story broke, there seemed to be a new appreciation that such data is too valuable to be handed over to a third party. Some organisations prefer to outsource their maintenance contract for good reasons – it doesn’t mean they have to automatically forfeit their right to own and hold their data.

A customer of ours did just that – they brought the management of FM data in-house, dismissed the service provider, then re-hired them as a major contractor, saving a lot of money and giving them full control of their FM and the flexibility to change contractor as needed.

We’ve also noticed more customers wanting to make real use of their data, with greater reporting capabilities being the biggest development expected over the next 12 months. Most systems can provide standard reports, which are often no more than a dump of data from the CAFM system into Excel. But looking to the future, these reports will become increasingly sophisticated – they’ll take data from multiple collection points (such as weather feeds, sales totals, sensors on assets, IoT devices) and present it in a way that can be used to make a real difference to a company’s bottom line. The reporting of tomorrow will deliver actual business insight that will help organisations improve their competitiveness.

Data and CAFM go hand in hand. Huge amounts of data are generated daily and it’s important to make use of it. Those reports of yesteryear that drown out sense with their rows and rows of data will move aside to make room for smarter, more visual reporting – reporting that will make organisations more efficient, productive and profitable. Being able to conduct meaningful analysis between the same assets used in different parts of a business – whether it be regions, countries, brands – is a powerful proposition. Taking this a step further, data stored on a shared cloud-based platform can be aggregated and used to develop insights that demonstrate how a business performs compared to its industry peers; such data can also be crunched to compare asset performance across different organisations.

Technological capability has improved to such an extent that organisations can now collect a meticulous and extensive array of data, offering unprecedented insight into how and when assets are used. Long positioned as the hallmark of enterprise in the ‘information age’, data now informs a large portion of how the workplace is organised and managed. As CAFM products evolve, FMs will be in an even better position to use that data to formulate meaningful strategic business decisions.

About Sarah OBeirne


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