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The future is smart for facilities management

Organisational transformation is big business these days as retail, commercial and other sectors recognise that changing and evolving is key to their sustainability.

It’s easy to focus on sectors like retail where there is a more obvious shift to new channels, visible physical refurbishments and more investment in the bricks and mortar experience. However, across the board, from distribution centres and warehouses to office developments, the expectations of those who operate or interact within these environments are becoming ever more sophisticated.

This, in turn, is placing increasingly strategic demands on areas of business designed to support not just large transformation programmes but also the day to day running of buildings and services that enable the business to deliver. For the likes of facilities management professionals, now is the time to show that the role is about more than just keeping the lights on.

In the current climate of transformation, there are a number of emerging trends that are redefining the role of facilities management. Over the next few years, new technologies, ways of working, a continued drive for efficiencies and changing customer expectations will all have a significant impact on the industry.

To keep pace with this enormous change and show continued value in the role and function, facilities managers must go beyond the traditional building maintenance requirements and increasingly focus on workspace and workplace environment as a whole. So what does the future of facilities maintenance look like?

While often deemed the worst of all outcomes, outsourcing actually offers the FM sector a real opportunity to deliver at both a strategic and tactical level by making sure the right people are responsible for the right areas. Done correctly, this approach means that the more hands-on and day to day parts of the role that are, for example, more traditionally linked to building and property maintenance, could be outsourced to a team that have the right skill, capacity and if important, geographic coverage to be able to maintain the level of support needed. This has the potential to free up the inhouse team to focus on a more strategic view; analysing and interpreting data, predicting and planning for future requirements and looking at innovation in the sector.

Combining facilities-related functions
Particularly prevalent in multi-site organisations, it is still often the case that there are several departments dealing with facilities-related activities and as a minimum, a Property and a Facilities Management function.

The future FM model sees these departments combined into a powerhouse of building and services management, better able to benefit from combined data and reporting, more collaborative ways of working and combined specialist knowledge.

Specific expertise within each distinct area will remain important, but the power lies in how this knowledge is shared, leveraged and built upon for the FM agenda as a whole, rather than the component parts.

Focusing on the workplace experience
It’s been said that facilities professionals are becoming the ‘concierge of the workplace’ in that the role is increasingly about the whole building environment and the experience workers have within it

in order to make them more productive. Moving beyond the more traditional expectation of keeping a building standing and in working order, FM professionals will increasingly be involved in the technology, services and amenities to not just keep the building fit for purpose but to meet the growing expectations of those who interact with the environment as both workers and customers/visitors.

With the increase of collaborative tools and social media, it’s foreseeable that there will be an increase in external influence over decisions that need to be made about a building or environment within it and Facilities Managers will need to be engaged and aware of how to navigate this new influence on what has traditionally been quite a ‘closed door’ world.

Collaboration and partnerships
As with many areas of business, the world of FM must learn to build stronger and more meaningful relationships with the vendors it works with and not just focus on the commercial elements. Vendors that can add strategic value through innovation, process redesign, technology and other tangible improvements will find they are thriving as genuine partners to the FM function rather than just as a supplier.

Smart workplace
The future is undoubtably connected and this will be increasingly transformative for the facilities maintenance sector. Buildings and workplace environments, whether in retail, offices or commercial use, will need to be more comfortable, energy efficient and technologically enabled. How this gets delivered in a cost-effective way will be the responsibility of facilities management professionals.

Interestingly, how the sector works more collaboratively with other professions, such as architects, builders and designers as part of the transformation agenda will be integral to successful modernisation of these spaces.

Behind all of the future trends that are likely to impact the sector, however, is quality data. Improved technology in the building management space means there should be an abundance of data available to not only manage a space in real-time but to accurately predict future needs and issues in a preventative way.

Understanding what the data is saying and how to use this has been proven to help drive efficiencies through energy savings, a reduction in total building lifecycle costs and as a contributor to the sustainability agenda. It can also help streamline operations and ensure compliance against industry benchmarking, which is increasingly important.

The other key factor that must underpin the remit of facilities management is customer experience and appreciating that this must be embraced and managed as carefully as the built environment itself. There is already a greater focus on connecting the people who work in facilities management and those who are impacted by the decisions that are made by this function and so it’s a natural step to think more about how services and the environment can enhance productivity, collaboration and build a sense of community, whatever the purpose of the space.

With over 20 years’ experience of transforming commercial space, Sigma provide a true end-to-end service; from fixtures and consolidation, to construction, projects and M&E.


About Sarah OBeirne

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