FM: It’s not only about assets, it’s about people

Stephanie Bentley

Prop Tech Product Executive, Data and Information Products Group (RICS)

As the rate of technological change increases, it is up to all professionals to demonstrate their value. Facilities management (FM) professionals are of no exception. At our recent Strategic FM Conference, we heard from industry leaders on some of the latest technology and how FM professionals can remain relevant.

Quality over cost?

How can FM professionals demonstrate their value in an industry in which priorities are consistently changing?

Kath Fontana, ISS, suggests that new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and integrated approaches like that of BIM, are moving the industry from a focus on cost to a focus on user experience.

For example, with over eight billion devices now connected to the internet, it is far easier to align products and services with other support services within a building. Clients are coming to expect a seamless experience that is both cost effective and efficient.

The only thing that’s certain is change.


You can be the best FM professional there is, but when you get to the top, you need to be able to understand managing people and other parts of the business.

In other words, as the focus of the FM industry moves away from simply providing the lowest cost for services and towards providing the best user experience, facilities managers will need to have a wider skill set.

Better communication skills are required in order to understand the needs of clients and effectively communicate the strategic value added to organisations through FM.

Collaboration with other areas of the business may be required in order to provide a truly positive user experience, which means developing an entirely different set of skills.  

The need for standards

Almost every aspect of our lives has become digital.

With this increased focus on user experience comes the increased need for a global FM standard. Anyone working within the industry is encouraged to engage with the ISO 41001 consultation, a proposed international FM standard.

WELL was also mentioned as a useful tool to advance buildings and the FM profession. Demonstrating seven categories for wellbeing, from air quality and light through to comfort and nutrition, technology can assist with helping people work, live and perform at their best.

People occupying a building are responsible for 90% of the total cost, therefore increasing wellbeing is not only beneficial for individuals themselves, but also for businesses as a whole. Herein lies an opportunity for FM professionals to define their client’s objectives, select the technology that will help them achieve those objectives, perform analysis and optimise the asset, in order to provide real value.

Open innovation & collaboration

As mentioned earlier, an IoT managed facility is providing lots of opportunities for collaboration between occupiers, service providers, building end users and landlords.

These are technology projects but people are at the heart of them.

Sensors can tell you where to park, monitor lunch time queues and book seating areas. Cognitive AI systems can answer generic questions, book taxis for customers and inform about how a building was used that day in order to establish cleaning schedules.

Digital twins are helping to make sure that anything that is built today can be operated, maintained and replaced in future in the most cost effective and efficient way.

Although there remains challenges around long term projects like that of the restoration of the Palace of Westminster, technology is helping to design buildings that are future proof. Furthermore, these digital versions of reality are assisting with the day-to-day management of assets.

There is often a difference between the as-built and as-designed models. You can’t manage an asset if you don’t know what you have.


No one solution will solve everything

Different stakeholders have different needs. Open data is going some way to resolve this issue, allowing people to choose which problem they’d like to resolve and then collaborating with others to implement a solution. Privacy and security remain a challenge so end-to-end encryption, activity auditing, hardened cloud infrastructure and security processes are critical.

Technology cannot be foisted on clients

There needs to be a degree of board level support (top down) as well as support from individuals and smaller parts of organisations who are willing to try new things (bottom up). Investment in new technology will come from a range of places but ultimately if ROI can be demonstrated, people will invest. It’s up to technology companies to demonstrate how and why they are solving a problem in order to encourage people to engage.

The industry might not change overnight but in 10 years’ time it'll be unrecognisable. We need to use technology to move from a focus on cost to a focus on value.

Want to know more?

Find out how artificial intelligence could impact on the built environment:

Comments (1)

  1. Business disruption via technologically driven process innovation and the corresponding evolution of the workplace experience, location and services to adapt to these changes must be of keen interest to us all. Traditional conversations are no longer relevant. The conversation must be about enabling the business (ie. our value proposition), but first we need to understand the pace of change and what defines value to business.

    We are inescapably transitioning into a more distributed, automated and digital economy. In particular, digitization, the Internet of Things (IOT), artificial intelligence (AI) and the use of robotics in process automation are profoundly changing the way in which work gets done and, over the next decade, will transform mobility, health care, education and government as well as banking, retail, and insurance, among other industries.

    Real estate and facilities strategic role will elevate in this environment. Our capacity to innovate and execute complex solutions will be vital to business … and ultimately get us the 'seat' we are seeking

    As an industry sector, the most important thing we need to understand and incorporate into our work are judgments about how fast these, and other, technologies will change business models and workplaces. Then we need to assess the functional and configurational implications for the businesses and clients we serve.

    Although computer technology and robotics have been around for more than 60 years, society is just now seeing significant shifts in the way that mainstream work is getting done in nearly all workplaces, a trend that will have near-term effects on the space that we build and occupy. The pace at which the technology has improved and the rate at which the costs have decreased are unprecedented human achievements. Advances in all forms of engineering, from sensors and logistics to material science and programming, are laying the groundwork for the next wave of human ingenuity.

    Process transformation with the establishment of distributed social and economic platforms, distributed ledgers and communications systems co-working alongside robots and AI, will present significant opportunity and challenge for our sector.

    Bruce Barclay Bruce Barclay, 28 July at 17:11PM

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