Preparing Facilities For The Inevitable Digital Transformation

Start by understanding the big picture of digital transformation, and how to harness these innovations for facilities.

By Bryan Christiansen

The continuous innovation in digital technology means that the world as we know it, is changing rapidly. Although smart devices are becoming remarkably smaller, they are able to keep organizations, their business processes, and the users that interact with them seamlessly connected. All this is thanks to digital transformation — the use of technology to radically improve your business operations across the whole organization.

According to an article in MIT Sloan Management Review that summarizes the information gathered after interviewing 157 business and IT leaders across 15 nations and 50 companies, there are nine elements of digital transformation. These elements are classified under three key areas. Thus, business leaders (including facility managers) need to be mindful of these three categories which were identified as:

  1. Customer experience
  2. Operational processes
  3. Business models

Whether facilities are ready or not, the need for digital transformation will catch up with them. Here is some advice on how to prepare your facilities for inevitable digital transformation

Research and Understand the Trends. Start by understanding what’s going on and how to harness these innovations for the facility. Many of the devices, software, and services you’re going to need are becoming increasingly easier to deploy, while still offering astounding abilities to measure conditions, react to them, and generate useful reports. Some areas you’d want to pay attention to include:

  • Big data analytics which can help your establishment uncover hidden patterns and gain important insights especially in the areas of market trends and customer preferences.
  • Intelligent automation that can improve processes by predicting needs and creating overall better value and results.

Demonstrate Strong Leadership. Several sources including the MIT Sloan Management Review (mentioned earlier) and the Korn Ferry Institute point to the importance of strong leadership to drive the digital transformation process. MIT Sloan goes further to state that the best companies in the transformation process are able to combine digital activity with strong leadership.

Digital transformation will affect every facet of your facility, and the leaders that will coordinate this process must have a clear vision and the willpower to get results. In essence, they must:

  • Thoroughly understand the facility and be in a position to make complex decisions;
  • Take initiative and manage execution of predetermined steps; and
  • Be flexible, adaptable, and able to influence people.

Adopt a Big Picture Approach. For digital transformation to work, it must be a core component of your facility’s corporate strategy. Unfortunately, any transformation that will have lasting effects will take some time to implement. Thus, the temptation is to quickly opt for an emergency approach to digital transformation that focuses on isolated process improvements rather than a holistic plan.

However, to be sustainable, digital transformation requires a well-planned, big picture approach that covers the technology, processes, and people of the facility in question. Ideally, there should be an exchange of data across all departments and teams that will provide valuable guidelines on the existing business culture and current workflow. Such information will come from the IT unit, the maintenance team, customer care, etc. This will form the foundation for planning your digital transformation.

It’s also important that employees have the necessary skills to support your digital transformation agenda. They are the ones that will directly implement the strategy from inception and keep operations running smoothly even as new technologies are implemented. More often than not, the process will fail without their input.

And business leaders know this. In fact, Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) reports that 73% of CEOs believe the lack of employees with key technical skills poses a threat to business growth. Of course, digital transformation is an integral part of business growth. To overcome this hurdle, determine where there are gaps in your team’s skills, then invest in training to close any shortfalls.

Get Stakeholders to Buy Into the Vision. Stakeholder management remains a critical element in the success of any venture as the lack of stakeholder engagement is one of the main reasons for unsuccessful enterprise technology project implementation.

Your stakeholders are any individuals, groups of individuals, or organizations that can affect or be affected by your activities. For instance, customers, business partners, vendors, your neighbors, and employees. Obviously, no one will remain unaffected by this process of transformation. Therefore, all stakeholders need to understand the “why” of the process, the role they will play, and be committed to it.

Audit Your Assets for Digital Transformation. Are you interested in smart buildings? Great. But how adaptable are the buildings in your portfolio to smart technologies? How much modification and reconstruction would be involved? You’ll also want to consider the age of each building and where it is in the asset lifecycle.

An audit of your facilities including items on your assets inventory that you intend to make “smart” is an essential part of this process. Typically, such assets would include those with the most energy, cost, and performance impact like lighting and elevators.

What are the benefits of digital transformation?

The return on investment in digital transformation of your facilities is seen through overall lower operating and energy costs, reduced maintenance costs, higher asset valuation, and better user experience. As more and more facility managers realize this, your facility will need to embrace it soon to survive in a highly competitive environment.

digital transformationChristiansen is founder and CEO at Limble CMMS, a Lehi, UT-based provider of mobile first CMMS software. With its offering, the company strives to improve facilities maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.