Smart Buildings: A Continuous Transformation in the FM Industry

Jared See • 07/08/2019

This is the third in a series of three articles on the subject of “Smart Buildings”. The first told the story of how the future of facilities management lies in integration. The second looked at the implementation model for effective facilities management. Here we will take a deeper dive into ongoing transformation within the industry.

It’s Not About the Tech

In the previous article in this series we looked at the importance of establishing a strategic framework for digital transformation implementation in Facilities Management (FM). Driving towards a smarter and integrated workplace management, smart buildings pivot on the agile collaboration of FM services, businesses’ processes, and the evolution of PropTech and digital innovation more generally.

I can’t stress enough that organisations have to first cut through fundamental issues including existing cumbersome processes, address the lack of commitment to change, and be very clear about digital skills requirements. Leaders have to first engender a desire for change, to streamline processes, and adapt to the digital trends which are crucial for the success of digital transformation. These are the fundamental building blocks for digital transformation within organisations.

Staying Relevant

Leaders play a very critical role in driving digital transformation. The apex of leadership including Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Digital Officer (CDO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Operations Officer (COO), and Chief HR Officer (CHRO) must be clear in its objectives and understand thoroughly the goals for any transformative initiatives. A successful strategy is one where the leaders bring together people, process and technology, accelerating digital adoption within an organisation.

A successful digital strategy should foster a culture of innovation, first internally amongst FM professionals within the organization, and then externally through partnerships with start ups and partner industry associations. Such collaborations can also deliver governmental support here in Singapore in support of smart nation building efforts.

There are numerous opportunities for FM service providers to tap into the diverse technology solutions being piloted in other industries. This is critical to stay tech-focussed and enhance digital processes to help property owner clients maximise smart building operational efficiencies in areas such as energy optimisation. These in turn create a quality environment for the occupants and end users. It’s also important that FM service providers devise metrics to measure success and identify gaps with a view to innovate and solve issues.

The Transformational Cycle

It’s critical that tech delivers relevant services to clients. Digital transformation calls for change and a streamline of processes, even policies. Technology acts as a catalyst, and only after stakeholders have bought into the operational process changes needed.

Every layer of the FM process operations has the opportunity to use tech to improve efficiency and productivity. FM service providers should look at an end-to-end finance and procurement process that gives a comprehensive view of capex and investments in tech, contractor, and vendor management against revenue generated from delivering the tech solutions to clients. Today, many service providers have raced ahead to adopt the latest technology to impress clients, forgetting that the back-end systems need to be enhanced to speak to each other, to be integrated such that data from the supply chain work streams are mapped against the finance systems.

For example, the integration of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) including Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems with Smart Building Operation platforms drive effective collaboration between suppliers/contractors, FM service providers and building owners, thus streamlining end to end processes for any FM product and service delivery. This way, FM service providers can build a sustainable eco-system of checks and balances that is precise and accurate. At that level of precision, data collected provides deeper insights about the service provider’s balance sheet, which in turn translates to improved decision making.

With a clear understanding of cost, service providers are in a better position to assess growth opportunities. Some may choose to enhance service delivery for e.g. applying human and hospitality centred design. Others may choose to innovate with advanced machine learning capability, to move from a reactive to proactive and predictive mode of maintenance regime. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Prescriptive Actions capabilities have already been tested in those complex application areas requiring precise outcomes, real-time responses, and in handling risky operations.

In short, every business should examine along the FM service chain where technology and service innovation could effectively be applied, looking at the finer points of FM service demand through to the point of delivery.

Owner Bottomline, Occupant Comfort, Provider Productivity

Smart buildings draw together the stakeholders, processes, innovation and industries to form a smart, secure, reliable, collaborative, and connected eco-system to solve today’s FM business needs and problems while bracing for future challenges ahead.

At the core, building owners are looking for a solid bottom line, the users and tenants are seeking the safe and optimal environment to work in. FM service providers and managers must continue resourcing for the best and most efficient ways to deliver their services.

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