Gary Watkins, CEO at Service Works Global says an analysis of the key findings from SWG’s UK FM software survey in partnership with FMJ, shows that wherever tech is employed it must be done strategically to achieve the best results
In November last year, we launched a survey in partnership with FMJ to ask people working in FM about their use of software and gather insights on industry trends. The questions asked respondents to reflect on both the last 12 months and the time since the start of the pandemic.
►ROLE IN FM – 55 PER CENT EMPLOYED DIRECTLY AT PREMISES; 29 PER CENT FM SERVICE PROVIDER
Arguably the biggest impact of COVID on the workplace has been how businesses manage space. Where before there were people-per-square-foot ratios, now there is much more thought given to creating workplaces that are hygienic, healthy, and conducive to work.
This is a trend that respondents believe is here to stay. When asked about the top technology trends that will have the biggest impact in the next 12 months, property and space management (including flexible working) was the second highest answer. Interestingly, workplace wellbeing was a very close third, tying in neatly with space management.
Sixty five per cent of respondents have either made changes to their workplaces to allow for flexible working or are in the process of doing so. A further 14 per cent had already adopted flexible working. When asked about how FM has changed since March 2020, the majority of respondents cited the use of more technology for remote asset or space monitoring, including implementing CAFM (Computer-Aided Facilities Management) software, workplace or sensor technology.
Yet there are a number of challenges that FMs face. Despite an increased workload in the last 12 months, budgets have remained largely unchanged and just 17 per cent of respondents said that their current FM software was flexible enough to support changing workplace demands. Furthermore, when asked about the key challenges for FM in the next 12 months, budgetary pressures and meeting demand for flexible working ranked in the top three answers.
Space management is clearly a key part of the FM role, but without the right budget or support, FMs may not be as effective as they would like to be.
►ROLE IN PURCHASING FM TECHNOLOGY – 38 PER CENT INFLUENCERS; 37 PER CENT DECISION-MAKERS; 21 PER CENT USERS’
ENERGY MANAGEMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY
Unsurprisingly, respondents noted energy management and sustainability would be simultaneously the biggest trend and the biggest challenge in the next 12 months. COP26 sent us all a stark warning about the need for urgent action to tackle climate change. Building and construction are responsible for 39 per cent of all carbon emissions; 28 per cent of this is from operational carbon.
Operational carbon includes the energy used to heat, cool and light a building, and falls under the remit of FMs. But as we have already seen, budgetary constraints mean that FMs have little to no additional funds to meet this renewed demand for sustainability.
One respondent highlighted the challenge, saying “technology is great in new or refurbished buildings but to retrofit systems, i.e., HVAC Controls, upgrade LED luminaires to IoT and having the technology to use is unaffordable to the public sector”.
This is perhaps where Building Information Modelling (BIM) could assist, yet only 12 per cent of those surveyed are currently using BIM data. Of those, 20 per cent are using it to improve environmental performance.
The reasons for lack of BIM adoption varied, with common themes around lack of internal resource or being unaware of the benefits. Twenty per cent of those not using BIM now say they plan to in the future, which may point to a more manageable workload following the height of the pandemic and an appreciation of BIM’s benefits for improving sustainability.