By Annie Atlas
Digital transformation, the undertaking on which organizations globally are projected to spend $1.25 trillion in 2019, can deliver tremendous efficiencies and competitive advantages to facility management companies, as JLL noted recently in touting the benefits of end-to-end digital services and apps. “Almost every FM function can be done more efficiently through technology,” JLL says. In terms of compliance, “What used to be a paper-based, long-drawn, costly and labor-intensive process can be made more accurate, simpler and more efficient with technology.”
Gaining immediate real-time visibility across locations can be accelerated by digitizing outdated, largely manual workflows in siloed systems and deploying intelligent tools that connect granular data from the field with end-to-end, enterprise-wide service validation platforms. Many FMs are turning field data into strategic intelligence to produce better business outcomes across the board with solutions that:
- Improve the human experience through stronger, more consistent field execution, faster issue-resolution and more transparent communication.
- Empower third-party vendors to do their jobs faster and more efficiently, signal risk quickly, and become more proactive in servicing buildings and properties.
- Establish a shared view across portfolios. Getting everyone on one platform with one source of truth saves exponential time aggregating data and creating reports from disparate systems and provides exceptional visibility into conditions across locations.
- Inform decisions. FMs oversee expensive and long-term contracts — every decision matters. Having data quickly available to analyze vendor performance, review asset conditions, or drive process improvement can have a critical impact on a portfolio.
- Improve profitability by creating labor efficiencies, controlling operational expenses, enhancing safety, and reducing overall risk exposure
What types of digital services and capabilities provide FMs with end-to-end visibility to realize these outcomes? Here are five that are proving particularly valuable, based on my experience helping global organizations digitally automate and reinvent their field operations in facilities.
1. Standardized daily surveys on mobile. FMs can require their third-party vendors to use mobile apps to complete site audits, end-of-shift reports, QA inspections, compliance reports, etc. Apps designed to give end-users speed and time back enable FMs to document and benchmark vendor performance and SLA compliance across locations in a standardized format. Big picture? Standardizing audits by building type and SLA criteria saves labor hours and provides a powerful way to assure quality and vendor accountability across even the largest, most diverse portfolio of properties.
FMs are adopting apps that feed field data back into central analytics platforms, where dashboards immediately spotlight areas of risk or underperforming vendors. This helps FMs know when to either request additional service or drive increased accountability — perhaps asking them to provide training resources to the right people, at the right time, in the right location, directly through their mobile devices, then show proof that training was completed.
Additionally, FMs can complete the same site surveys independently to cross-check and calibrate self-reported assessments from vendors. This reduces contract risk, optimizes labor, and ensures SLAs are being met while still delivering satisfaction for all on-site.
2. Real-time issue detection and communications tools. FMs need tools for vendors that quickly flag and address potential problems before they escalate. When site supervisors and contract workforces have efficient mobile auditing apps and standardized missions that ensure QA across millions of square feet of real estate, they become the eyes and ears for FMs on the ground. Spotting and communicating building issues to the right partners quickly, like a leaking pipe in the bathroom, a malfunctioning thermostat, or a cracked window pane, can give FM teams a head start on issue resolution. This information enables site managers to create work order tickets more quickly, protecting building safety and the experience of tenants or team members.
3. Photo capture and management. A picture is worth a thousand words, and apps to capture, send, centrally archive, and retrieve images that are date-, time-, and geo-stamped are immensely valuable. Mobile photo management tools help vendors verify a service or task was performed as specified with image reporting. This gives FMs unparalleled visibility into what’s happening at all sites instantly.
When photo management apps are linked to central analytics platforms, field images can populate reports that are easy to segment and distribute to a diverse group of partners with the click of a button. Archiving immense volumes of images or sorting through them in text, email, or servers is a huge barrier for both FMs and vendors using outdated systems and personal cell phones. Storing photos in platforms where they are searchable, filterable, and ready to tell a story removes subjectivity, leads to transparent conversations and speeds problem-solving for all stakeholders.
4. Vendor validation. FMs often wonder how self-reported scores from vendors compare to scores given by the FM team and site managers themselves. Understanding how vendors stack up against each other across locations and geographies, or see their performance in relation to FM expectations is critical to optimizing the business. Apps capable of scorecarding, calibrating and aggregating vendor performance take time and guesswork out of evaluating, validating and benchmarking service providers. Scorecarding vendors helps to mitigate risk, drive accountability, demonstrate value to internal partners, and sometimes even inform decisions to part ways in order to reduce risk for the business.
The visibility gained from scorecarding helps FMs to ensure clean, safe, optimally maintained work spaces. That, in turn, is key to delivering the exceptional human experiences that attract and retain quality employees and delight guests or customers in buildings.
5. Business intelligence dashboards. When operating and servicing millions of square feet used in different ways and with a variety of vendors, FMs need advanced analytics to identify and illustrate micro and macro trends within and across locations. When operational and building data can be collated in central platforms built to visualize data to drive insight and action quickly, FMs can gain critical tools to better service their clients and manage their facilities and vendor partners. Live dashboard-based views into portfolios not only help identify top-performing (and underperforming) vendors, they can also pinpoint problems and risks for specific assets or locations.
When looking for apps and integrated platforms to drive digital transformation in facilities management, one should consider the following: ease of use for end users, quick time to implement and deliver value, flexibility in SaaS architecture to support a variety of business processes and granular data capture, streamlined reporting, easy photo storage, and low-code/no-code innovation.
Atlas is the market director for facilities and commercial real estate at GoSpotCheck, the platform that is reimagining how the mobile workforce works. Before leading the facilities management vertical at GoSpotCheck, she spent over 10 years in the facility maintenance industry in market development roles with ISSA and Veritiv. Atlas consults with executive leaders in commercial global real estate, facilities management, and facility services to improve the human experience for the end customer through digital transformation initiatives.