From reactive firefighting to proactive business enablement
While the duties of facility managers appear to be changing rapidly, many still see the role as something akin to a roll-up-the-sleeves firefighter. This ‘hands on’ stereotype can have a knock on effect to your reputation and standing, and contrasts with the evolving data analysis and application part of the role. In reality the new FM can juggle both, while providing data input to C-suite that affects everyone on a more intrinsic level.
Too many businesses still suspect that the outlay on planning and data gathering tech will be prohibitively expensive, forcing FMs into a reactive style of management. And this ‘boots on the ground’ mindset can naturally extend to FMs themselves, whose primary role is often attending to callouts around a complex.
This is not only a misuse of the advanced software available to FMs, but a course that risks them being left behind by advancing technology. Developments involving BIM, IoT and a demand for flexible workplaces mean the role of the FM is being revamped and upgraded.
You shouldn’t have to wait to hear about a complaint. Instead, FMs should ensure that they are empowered to proactively identify potential problems, and able to generate solutions ahead of time.
The most common approach to FM is tending to problems when they reach a critical juncture, allowing systems to be run into the ground. This can seem like a necessary course of action, as most FMs are inundated with calls beckoning them to various duties. There’s a lingering sense that the role should prioritize dealing with problems, with data analysis of secondary importance.
The issue here is that if systems go down at the same time, you end up perpetually fighting fires. And all the time systems are down productivity is affected, with the most serious issues rendering an entire building (or even portfolio of properties) inoperable.
Without assessing all criteria and data, potential problems might not be that obvious. Illness is not something an FM would necessarily factor in until they see a data correlation, such as sick leave in an office space and the conditions of that space.
Take the example of keeping tabs on broad future issues like antibiotic and antibacterial resistance. An email or blog post alerting you to this issue might not be taken seriously, but your data could soon prove it to be a real factor, potentially requiring new cleaning routines. Combining the BMS with BIM and other means of big data acquisition can spot these trends, and let you put measures in place well ahead of time.
Dedicating time to proactive planning and risk assessment will cut down on these constant call-outs, freeing up more time in future for other less practical duties. The potential savings on downtime and longevity of hardware could result in significant cost savings for the business, as well as making your life significantly easier.
It’s also important to note that being reactive to problems doesn’t just mean physical issues such as machine or system failure. Equally crucial are other environmental factors such as lighting or soundproofing, which directly impinge on occupants’ ability to work.
The end goal involves mastery of a whole suite of technical solutions. Adopting and using BIM efficiently in conjunction with your BMS can let you overlay data on a 3D map, viewing live data about pipes or cables in a manner which makes maintenance easier.
Big data and machine learning will let you make the most of the IoT, spotting trends in complex datasets. There’s even a place for simple feedback from building occupants. This combination of data analysis and direct feedback will enhance your ability to schedule maintenance through the CMMS, logging incremental wear and tear with ease.
Until then, the best approach for busy FMs is to make the shift more gradual. While you’re learning how to use the many facets of a complex BMS, installing temporary sensors can provide immediate feedback for actionable change.
Simple ad hoc solutions such as micro-polling – the use of airport style tablets or buttons to rank satisfaction with a particular area or service (e.g. bathrooms) – are basic but effective. Getting creative with data collection can minimize direct involvement. No wandering around with a clipboard allowed – let the data come to you!
This should all be part of a gradual shift. Most FMs still work on an input-based approach, relying on reports coming in to then go and solve problems. The bare minimum now is an output-based approach, with systems gathering data and suggesting solutions in advance.
The ultimate target is an outcome-based philosophy, where this data can be gathered, analysed and applied at the highest level to hit KPIs. Once your time is freed up from just fixing things, you can expend more effort on developing means to rate and improve UX, with visible day-to-day benefits for the whole organization.
Training to use these new software solutions has numerous short and long-term benefits. Given the way facility management is moving towards greater integration of sensors, machine learning, and the automation of certain technical elements, data analysis and planning will form the bulk of the role going forward. Getting to grips with this now will set FMs in good stead, as well as making present and practical sense.