According to the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM), “technological innovation is accelerating” and therefore it is crucial that workplaces and facility manages are able to harness the combined power of data and technology to optimize building efficiency.
This was a hot topic of discussion at this year’s Facilities Show, where Service Works was invited to join the panel debate: ‘Technology as a force for change – we are all technology companies, aren’t we?’ Held in the Workplace Technology Theatre, the discussion aimed to address current trends and how technology will shape the FM profession in the future.
Transparency and Connectivity
“What is underrepresented in our industry is process change,” begins Mark Tyson, Head of Occupier Engagement & Service Delivery at Legal & General, as the panel launched into a discussion about how utilizing quality data in partnership with new technology can drive positive change for FM.
He continued: “The problems we face are generally maintenance, lack of data and lack of transparency. This isn’t a complicated industry but unless the tech is clear about the problem it’s trying to solve, hand in hand in hand with the process changes put out around it, we will not be able to move forward.”
Responding to Tyson’s statement, Hazel Bedson, Strategy Director at Service Works Global, highlighted that system integration and connectivity between different departments is paramount to improving facility management operations and keeping data accurate.
“What we really need to consider is the integration between the different systems so we are not working in silos and duplicating our efforts. Having them work together holistically will deliver maximum benefit for businesses.” She remarked that in particular HR and IT departments should be working closely with FMs, particularly with GDPR and smarter technologies coming to the forefront. As devices such as smart watches become more widely adopted in the business context, there is the imperative need for policies to control what level of personal data is captured. Information such as location and health data should only be used where they offer clear benefit to a business – and the details must be explicitly communicated to employees.
Ethical Perspectives on Technology
Talk turned to sensors and about what data should be extracted from them for managing building assets. Panelist Amie Pirie, Senior Workplace Strategist at GoSpace elaborated: “I think sensors are brilliant as long as they’re carefully monitored and reporting is restricted so you’re not targeting individuals. We have been thinking of altering sensors in the workplace for ethical reasons – people don’t like the feeling of being monitored when they’re physically sitting at their desk.”
Adding to Amie’s sentiment, Simone Jarvis, Workplace Services Consultancy Development Director at Ricoh commented, “With sensors, we need to ensure transparency by communicating to staff why we are using them in the first place. Once you’ve got the communication and trust, there shouldn’t be any problems.”
Optimism for the Future
Despite what future tech may hold for FMs, most of the panel felt optimistic about how they will embrace change, agreeing that ‘good data’ and teamwork was a key driving force to shape positive change across the industry. The audience at the debate was also canvassed for their opinions by the moderator, Ian Ellison of 3edges, with the consensus largely positive about the ways in which FM can transform the workplace.
“Getting and manipulating the right data out of these FM systems is important, and while FM software vendors can help with this, FM teams are evolving to include data specialists. The right data at the right time will help FMs make the right decisions, drive strategy and become more efficient at what they do,” Hazel concluded.
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