With many buildings and operations working significantly below capacity during this global pandemic, there has been time to reflect on how Facilities Management (FM) can work better as we approach what we hope will be a new normal.
Everyone has learned to cope with the challenges of social distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing and self-isolating as best we can, and new variants permitting, we are getting back to business.
We are not FM experts, by any stretch. We are outsiders looking in at how facilities management companies in the UK operate, and what reflections, during the downtime caused by Covid-19, will be taken forward to deliver real improvements in service.
One area that we had not thought of, appears to have been glaringly obvious from the inside – using the web to remotely monitor equipment and building, and even asset tagging stock items. The topic is covered under the Internet of Things (IoT) banner, an area which has been growing rapidly over the past few years and is becoming increasingly affordable to all sizes of business.
We had been preparing ourselves for a return to FM conferences this year, to promote what we do, and looking out for IoT device partners to work with, but it looks like we will have to wait until 2022. So, we are spending our time making sure we understand the areas of interest to our audience. One finding that is somewhat less innovative than IoT or the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in predictive maintenance and demand management is: the prolific growth of stand-alone software solutions, databases, spreadsheets and email communications going on their own journeys, when addressing changes in customer demand, whether the customer is internal or external.
We are finding that it used to be best to have a main Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution to provide a “single source of the truth” when managing operations, client billing, resource planning and all the other aspects of FM business.
However, in speaking with operations managers, financial controllers and directors of companies in the UK where facilities management is critical, we found that different disciplines within the business had their own preferences of software applications. They feedback data to the main accounting systems, and use spreadsheets and databases to fill the gaps that the available systems leave. Communications are generally handled by phone and/or email.
There has been a growth in the need for integration of systems as this trend continues. To meet this demand, file transfer systems and application integration mapping solutions have been put in place, to speed up the movement of data, and reduce human input error. There are some great tools around for 2-way processing of data between ERP and disparate systems. There are some very clever reconciliation tools that match transactions and highlight exceptions. These combine to protect the investment in systems and data that have become so crucial to the operations of the business.
IT failure that causes lengthy downtime would be critical if not fatal to the FM provider.
In assessing our findings, we concluded that most FM companies in the UK have not taken the slowdown over the past 16 months to consider when progress down the path of many workarounds will reach its destination. To this end, we would like to share how we, as a multinational business with operations covering several distinct business streams, are approaching the end of our realisation journey, and embarking on what will unite us as a business.
We are confident that we have found the answer, and look forward to sharing our thoughts, our hard-earned lessons, and the solution in our next blog, which will be posted on Monday 31st May.
If you want to learn more about Intalio’s Integrated Facilities Management Software powered by Odoo, join us for our next free online webinar that will be held on June 10th, 2021 and hosted by Andy Scott, Senior Business Development Manager at Intalio, along with Tony Farhat, Subject Matter Expert in Facilities Management Solutions at Intalio Business Solutions.