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How technology automates and empowers facilities management strategy

Sep 8, 2022

From our Thought Leader Contributor, EY.

Guest post by Joel Hirigoyen, Senior Manager, Ernst & Young LLP

Technology offers a platform for business leaders to reimagine their facilities management (FM) strategy, creating a workplace that improves employee productivity and enhances operational efficiency. There is an opportunity to advance the physical, mental and social wellbeing of building occupants, and to ultimately drive down lifecycle costs.

Progressive business leaders now see their spaces as living, breathing assets of the company that require continuous monitoring and assessment in order to address needs as they evolve. Hybrid models are quickly becoming the norm, compelling employers across all industries to think about how the post-pandemic workplace should operate and how technology can inform that vision. The EY Future Workplace Index¹ found:

  • 84% of respondents are adjusting their future plans for office space and real estate use.
  • 48% are redesigning offices with a heightened focus on collaboration and networking.
  • 42% are assessing new technology associated with employee health and safety.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives are additional key considerations to the new FM puzzle as businesses strive to promote health and wellness while also reducing their carbon footprints. Strong FM leadership can help a company make sense of all these variables and develop a cohesive, customized strategy to maintain an environment that supports ESG and the needs of those working in the space.

Technology drives building performance

Today’s FM strategy is interwoven into the way a company and its workspace function. Real-time communication through building technologies, occupants and the cloud enable a company to harness data and use that knowledge to continuously monitor and improve the occupancy experience. Rather than relying on disparate information sources and stand-alone technologies, a focused FM strategy creates a platform to build predictive analytics and modeling tools that support a more consistent work environment for employees. If one side of the building gets more sun in the morning, the company can program the blinds to be closed during that time. Automated tools can be set up to monitor climate, lighting, maintenance and cleaning schedules, and other routine needs. But that’s just scratching the surface of how a tech-driven FM strategy can drive performance, as well as boost employee attraction and retention.

Technology process automations meet new requirements of operational excellence across four key areas:

  • Safety – How do you ensure an optimal and safe environment (physical and virtual) for your customers and workforce?
  • Security – How do you safeguard your assets – facilities, employees and customers?
  • Maintenance and inspections – How do operational procedures provide assurance of strict compliance with standards?
  • Business continuity – How can organizations maintain resilience and plan for quick response to an interruption?

In these uncertain times, a consistent and reliable work experience is as important as ever. Technology improves the transparency of a building’s performance and, when necessary, allows for agile pivots. It uses both current and historical data to inform decision-making and creates value through integrations. FM strategy can be continuously adjusted to meet needs as they arise, ensuring that the focus of occupants is always on the task at hand, and not concern about the environment in which they are working. Real estate becomes an extension of a company’s brand. It’s not just bricks and mortar, but an integral component of the organization. Through smart technologies, buildings are structured to reduce energy waste, protect the environment and contribute to health and wellness. And when they are integrated into a company’s FM strategy, they support employee attraction and retention, and lead to a better environment for everyone who enters the space.

FM talent is sorely needed

One of the looming challenges to FM is finding qualified professionals with the right experience who can identify and leverage the right technology tools for their clients. FM in particular has been challenged by the steady decline in trade skills being taught in schools. The good news is that skilled trade education is poised to make a comeback as more students question the value of investing in traditional four-year colleges and consider the shortages in the labor market. But for now, the current FM talent landscape is aging out and the available technical expertise and knowledge is falling short of what the market needs. Clients are looking for technical skills, combined with analytical capabilities, to provide real-time solutions that can address and support their on-demand operating requirements.

The new era scope of FM stretches beyond “keeping the lights on” and the “set it and forget it” operating approach to managing facilities. The ideal FM professional brings a strategic, long-term, value-add mindset to their work. They utilize analytics, engage in dialogue with people at all levels of the organization to better understand organizational culture, and craft recommendations that meet the immediate and long-term objectives of the organization and its stakeholders. One FM approach that can take time to bear fruit is to groom leaders in your organization who have the acumen to manage. Provide them with opportunities for continuous education, both in how a building functions and the ability to think and act strategically. If that’s not a road you want to pursue, outsourcing is a viable option. The ultimate key is finding those you can make connections with to increase the value of your space to the organizational objectives — and the benefits it can provide to boost productivity with your workforce.

Article references:

  1. “How can your workplace be as flexible as your workforce?”

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.

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