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Smart embrace

With the FM industry being one of the last areas to undergo technological transformation – it’s about time it embraced digital transformation, says Aidan Donnelly, CEO at SmartWorkplus

The past few years have seen swathes of a previously traditional real estate industry embrace digitisation. From virtual reality property listings, to digital transactions and smart contracts, many elements of both the commercial and residential property industry have enhanced their performance through technology.

Yet research by buildings material supplier Watco, found that 72 per cent of FMs admit their business is slow to embrace digital innovation. Despite some technologies such as customer portals being used by a reported 33 per cent of FMs, the sector still has a long way to go with technology adoption.

This resistance to deploying technology could have dire consequences. Worryingly, 45 per cent of FMs are concerned their business could become unviable in the next couple of years if their digital technologies and skills aren’t improved. Many FM processes are still happening in a highly analogue way, which leaves them prone to human error and a lack of efficiency. Cleaning schedules for example, are still often recorded manually, which can be highly inaccurate and lead to either wasted resources, or poor cleanliness standards.

The FM industry is facing an array of challenges which will only intensify over 2024 and beyond. Many FMs are now under intense pressure to reduce their buildings’ carbon emissions and reach net zero. The pandemic has also led to increased expectations and heightened standards around a building’s cleanliness. Furthermore, the last few years have seen an increase in tenant expectations, with a smooth, almost hotel-like experience now the standard. FMs are tasked with meeting all of these demands whilst keeping costs and complexity low.

A technology-empowered approach to FM will be essential to rise to these challenges and succeed in an increasingly difficult landscape. The right technology will also enable FMs to keep within a budget and unlock new capabilities and efficiencies without making tasks more time-consuming and complicated.


Emissions reductions and energy efficiency are where FMs have the most to gain from embracing technology. The built environment is estimated to contribute around 40 per cent of global carbon emissions, and it’s therefore vital that our buildings become more sustainable.

There is also a huge commercial imperative to increase a building’s energy efficiency. By 2030, the UK government will require commercial properties to reach an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of ‘B’ or above. According to data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, 60 per cent of commercial properties currently have an EPC rating of ‘C’ or below. FMs will therefore need to enhance sustainability to avoid being hit with penalties, or properties becoming obsolete.

Additionally, the more sustainable a building, the more attractive it is to prospective tenants, investors or potential employees. Sensor technology for example can measure, analyse and ultimately reduce a building’s energy consumption, leading to a more carbon-efficient and environmentally friendly property. As society becomes more and more sensitive to environmental impacts, sustainable buildings will be increasingly sought after.

Saving energy also means saving money. This is increasingly important in the current challenging economic climate, where many businesses are facing rising costs due to supply chain issues and increasing energy and material prices. The cost of living crisis is also the cost of doing business crisis. Over 105,000 UK businesses closed in the first quarter of 2023, whilst just 79,000 new businesses opened, representing the largest net decrease on record, according to the Office for National Statistics. The right technology can increase a building’s energy and operational efficiency, therefore reducing waste, ensuring resources are used efficiently, and ultimately saving money.


The right technology can also enable FMs to understand their building and tenants’ individual needs to offer the right services and troubleshoot any issues. Effective communication is the backbone of any customer service strategy. A streamlined communication system such as a client portal means any questions or queries can be promptly answered, building trust and enhanced customer experience.

FM teams are responsible for delivering the heightened standard of cleaning expected since the pandemic. Technology can enable efficient and cost-effective cleaning to be easily implemented. Sensors that detect room usage can ensure that the appropriate resources are deployed to clean each space, meaning high standards are maintained and no cleaning is wasted.

Careful implementation of technology can improve a building and business’ organisation by streamlining everyday processes such as building access. The right technology solution can also be seamlessly integrated with any existing infrastructure, therefore maximising a building’s holistic operations and performance.

Put simply, FM teams can unlock a whole host of benefits by embracing technology in their strategy for 2024. The role of the FM is becoming increasingly complex, and these additional demands are often not reflected in the allocation of additional budget or resources. Technology is therefore FM’s best friend in achieving 2024’s sustainability, operational and cost goals.

About Sarah OBeirne

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