Content management expert Howard Frear reviews the benefits of digitally-powered FM approaches
Over the past few years the standard Facilities Management (FM) model has shifted – and in significant ways.
No longer does the contribution of the Facilities Manager end up relegated to what are seen by rest of the C-Suite as low-level, maintenance concerns. We’re seeing FM as more and more of an issue for multiple environments, both corporate and public space, from the shops to the Town Hall to the civic centre to the Mall and the tower block.
As a consequence, integration with other business processes and high-level involvement by upper management is becoming the rule, while the scope of the job, from deep engagement with procurement to partner contract handling, continues to expand. So now the FM leader – or the firm trusted via an outsourcing relationship to fulfil the role – must have deep visibility into the minute-by-minute state of affairs they are entrusted to service. All properties need to be properly scrutinised, and all documentation relating to the current build state of those facilities needs to be on hand and easily accessed.
Accessible and up to date
That matters for a range of reasons, and full data is needed to complete the required workflow. That’s all the way from when a modification is required such as an extension to a property like a rebuild or renovation, the architect, engineering company, contractor or regulator must be provided with the correct up-to-date information for the site, while of course should disaster strike, the necessary drawings and designs need to be provided promptly to emergency services so they can efficiently provide their services.
Mistakes, confusion and out-dated information will cause delays with projects, and in extreme cases could even result in the loss of life, and grappling with disparate information sources and systems while battling to keep project information accessible, secure and up to date for all stakeholders is a struggle all too familiar for most facilities managers.
The conclusion is clear: in order to meet these challenges, the well-equipped Facility Manager needs to be increasingly moving to a more digital back office and building strategies of workflow optimisation.
A digital FM platform
Why do we say digital? Do we mean everything only ever happens in software now – that no-one ever mops a floor or cleans a hospital any more?
Not at all. We mean that FM needs to move, like other industries, from health to banking, to the world of paper-light business processing.
For a start, the sheer volume of data generated has expanded dramatically, as the requirements of health and safety, building laws and regulatory compliance have created vast amounts of documentation that must be dealt with on a daily basis, as well as stored and kept up to date. It’s simply not realistic for the FM team to be the holder of all that corporate memory on paper.
The simple fact is that at the speed of business we operate at in 2017, paper is just too slow a medium. It massively helps to collate and centralise all of the documentation relating to the current build state of your properties and facilities onto one secure digital platform.
That immediately creates a central information management resource from which to carry out more advanced workflow and change management. And your corpus of business documentation must be available, ideally, on a single platform that allows all your FM business information to be accessed, viewed and mined in real-time.
Can document management help?
This can be best achieved using a modern document management platform, capable of dealing with a multitude of document and file-type formats. Done right there’s also no need to kick off a major IT project, meaning FM practitioners can take control of their data and start to build a digital strategy right out of the gate.
Naturally, such a system also serves to support the traditional functions of facilities management, allowing a degree of automation within the department.
A digital FM platform will also provide greater access for stakeholders (clients, partners, sub-contractors) on the site, who can be offered a useful self-service portal to provide controlled access for viewing and reviewing documentation as soon as the changes are approved, regardless of their physical location. (Indeed, ultimately self-service has to be the route of travel, with a portal or intranet providing controlled access to make everything safely and easily available.)
Given the need to satisfy compliance and legal (all your health and safety management responsibilities), every facilities manager is going to have to embrace a level of digitisation beyond mere record-keeping to keep the public safe, too.
It’s a fact of life that there are fires, accidents, health, safety and environmental risks. Facilities Management is rife with important legal and data protection issues you have to handle properly, and with care and attention.
Again, such vital FM processes are best handled digitally, or you could end up struggling, with important evidence lost or misplaced. Issues of compliance are taken care of by a single enterprise information platform that not only logs and stores all records, but also schedules checks and flags urgent matters to help keep you on top of things. This will be a real aid to the facilities management team leader if and when issues arise.
Leveraging the opportunity of automation and AI
To sum up, a.
Such enhanced FM will mean your job becomes more about adding value than chasing paper – plus you can be reassured that your organisation is always protected against any health and safety issues and ready to deal with any building regulation changes that may arise. And finally – being digital will enable you to work closer with other parts of the business as we all start to perform the digital transformation necessary to make the most of the opportunities of automation, AI and robotics.
Now is the time to move your FM contribution towards a more efficient and influential future.
The author is Sales and Marketing Director at the UK subsidiary of ECM leader EASY SOFTWARE www.easysoftware.co.uk