Facilities Management Trends: The Future of Facilities Management

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The 2020s are an era we have approached with apprehension, excitement, uncertainty and ingenuity as technology races forward at breakneck speed. Software technology is no exception, and facility management software is taking big and exciting strides. FM software helps track, manage and maintain commercial facilities like power plants, factories or rental properties. We asked some experts to weigh in on what facilities management software trends we can expect to see in 2020 and beyond.

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Facility Management Trends 2020

Key Takeaways

  • The main challenges facing FM software advancements are cost, security, adoption and being overburdened by unrealistic customer expectations.
  • The key facilities management trends involved customer experience, data and forming a community focused on the future.
  • There are nine billion mobile connections worldwide: that’s over one billion more phones than people on Earth.
  • FM systems will increase their ability to integrate with other types of software. In fact, this ability is required for 40-60 percent of potential value.
  • The relevance and influence of IoT, as well as AI, will continue to grow in this field with an outcome of better, more predictive maintenance.
  • Experts estimate a potential economic impact of IoT applications of up to $11.1 trillion per year by 2025.

Challenges Facing Facility Management Software

Adapting to the new changes and making progress isn’t easy, especially for industries that are well-established in their ways and have been performing the same tasks or services for decades. As in nature, businesses must adapt to survive, and facility management software is no exception; but a variety of challenges face the developers trying to make it happen.

Cost

Despite utopian science fiction imaginings of the 21st century, we’re not in a postcapitalist Star Trek world: money makes the world go round. Our experts think that people excited to see software everywhere don’t always consider the realities of the associated costs, and that could be a problem, especially in the facility management arena. Tai Moscovich, Associate VP International at BVG India, speaks to personal experience with this Catch-22:

As client requirements become more and more creative, software [designers] will need to shell [out] more and more money in researching and developing the right solutions for both service providers like us and the user interface for our customers. The cost of IT development is never on the cheaper side, and I think the biggest issue software will face is the ability to keep up with neverending development costs.

It’s not just developing the actual software that racks up costs — there’s maintenance, support, updates and other ongoing expenditures that can be difficult to translate to the customer who only sees the price tag. Jeff Kears, Co-Founder of Planning Pod, offers some solutions:

For many facilities, cost and budgets are still constraints … so FMS will need to offer various price points and packages to allow companies to implement software and scale up as their budgets expand and as they see more ROI from the software.

This sliding price-feature scale is a great way for businesses to get a foothold with FM software, and it means that FM vendors have a wider pool of potential clients who can buy their software.

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Security

One of the facility management trends that came up, again and again, is the need for security. Experts think that as our technology gets more advanced, this will become a more significant challenge and a greater need. Jeff Kear sees the rise in integrations as a potential site of weakness:

The need for integration with other software platforms and networked devices will make data security a big issue and concern moving forward, and this is something that all technology companies will need to address in the coming decade.

Brian Gregory, President and Co-Founder of Facilities Management Express, highlights the need for security in the face of increasingly sophisticated attacks:

One challenge that’s always been here but will become more and more important is that security is maintained. The sophistication of attacks is becoming higher and higher, and if we don’t keep pace with that, there will certainly be issues.

Implementation

Another barrier is the difficulty of implementing what may be some facility’s first software solution. Deb Noller, Co-Founder and CEO of Switch Automation, sees the challenge being faced by facility managers and posits a solution:

“The industry doesn’t necessarily have the skillset to be able to go out and confidently make those selections right now. It’s so important that we share educational resources and lessons learned within this industry and diversify the expertise spotlighted at events. Many companies are moving to a digital model, and we can learn from their successes to elevate our collective industry.”

Even if an organization has previously utilized a maintenance or facility management platform, transferring over can kill the implementation of even a well-suited solution. Kears says that “onboarding is also an issue because many facilities have their data in legacy systems (and even spreadsheets) that can be difficult to collect and compile, so this is an ongoing challenge.”

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Facility Management Software Trends

All About Experience

While those outside the industry may think of facilities management software as a simple tool, facility managers know that they spend large portions of their day navigating and working within the system. This increased interaction with software on a day-to-day basis is indicative of the overarching trend of software as a platform. A platform in a software context is a tool within which employees can perform meaningful work. Tai Moscovich sees the shift of software into platform territory as inevitable:

When it comes to the facility management space, I believe it’s only a matter of time before organizations begin riding the wave of putting the entire facility management operation on a digital platform. I think in the coming years, there will be more faith in companies that provide an entire solution under a single roof. Secondly, technology and systems continue to be the topic of discussion at every conference I speak at. Right now, we are all racing towards onboarding new platforms and automating our processes, from daily operations to billing and CRM.

Brian Gregory agrees, and adds user-friendliness to his expected changes:

I also see FM becoming more of a platform, similar to what you might see with Salesforce. All sorts of other products are designed to plug right in and expand the functionality of that product. I think FM functions a lot of the same ways … it’s just natural that it will become more of a platform. As consumers interact with Facebook and Twitter and Google and these other packages, they develop a certain level of expectation … those products are evolving very rapidly so that pressure to perform will be the same for FM software. The focus on ease of use wasn’t (always) something that we saw, and that’s something that has changed over the last few years. Pretty much every major player now has a cloud-based option, which wasn’t always the case.

According to IFMA, 40% of today’s facility managers will retire by 2026, and the next generation of management is going to have significantly different expectations. Deb Noller emphasizes this:

“Without a doubt, user experience is vital for vendors to execute well, particularly for the next generation coming up in this industry. Having used tablets and smartphones from a young age, the next generation will not tolerate anything less than amazing software with exceptional UI. Mobility in software is more important than ever, and the user expects the experience of a seamless interface between their tools (e.g., laptop to a smartphone).”

Did you know there are more phones than people on Earth? Crazy, right? So it’s easy to see why mobile has and will continue to have a big impact on ease-of-use as well. Jeff Kear notices a shift in how users are accessing FM software that highlights the importance of offering mobile access:

The biggest advantage that I have seen facility management software provide to facility managers and maintenance technicians in the last few years is that many software systems now offer mobile capabilities. Not only does this allow facilities to go (mostly) paperless, but it also allows personnel to view current information in real-time and make timely updates on-site, which leads to more accurate data and eliminates transposing from paper to digital. Also, it improves workflow because employees can easily view tasks and protocols (like required tools and personal protective equipment), and it streamlines how tenants or occupants can submit service requests.

This trend towards an increased focus on the ability to work intuitively and efficiently within a system that users are comfortable with is universal across software sectors. As Brian Gregory suggests, this is likely in response to the growing expectations of users. We, as consumers and customers, want to be catered to – the era of personalized recommendations and subscription boxes is a testament to that desire. It makes sense that future facility management software will look to meet that need in users.

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Work Together for a Better World

Integration with other software means that data can be directly transferred between systems, or that the systems work cooperatively in some way. Microsoft Office is a prime example: Office, Excel, Outlook and Word all operate together and tie into one another for use as a single larger, interconnected network. This interoperability is going to be one of the main avenues for progress in the future of facilities management.

Brian Gregory sees integration with other products as a logical next step:

Over the last few years, one of the things that used to be a nice-to-have that’s becoming a must-have feature is the ability to integrate with other systems. It used to be a differentiator; now it’s a table-stake. I think that will continue to become more and more of a table-stake. I expect to see more products integrating with the physical world. There’s a lot of applications for that in the facility management realm.

Chris Wiegand, CEO and Co-Founder of Jibestream, thinks it will be both a boon and a challenge:

The most pressing challenges facilities management vendors are facing are vendor interoperability and extensibility. Having the ability to integrate with a variety of systems is essential in meeting the evolving needs of an organization. As the adoption of IoT and location-aware technologies becomes more mainstream, it will begin to force facilities management software vendors to become more interoperable. Legacy systems will need to modernize to support interoperability and better serve their tenants’ evolving needs and IoT use cases.

Don’t worry: FM vendors aren’t getting the short end of the stick by putting money into integration functions. According to Deloitte, 40-60 percent of the total value of IoT applications relies on interoperability.

 

IoT

AI, Robotics and the Future

I know this is what many of you really want to know. What will the future of AI in facilities management hold? From robot facility monitoring to augmented reality, facility management is making long strides into the technological age. In the future, software providers that are committed to innovation will start to make room for things like AI and robotics. It’s also likely that we’ll see automation features become more heavily oriented towards organic machine learning.

The next generation of wireless protocols is going to change the way we access our workplaces. Near field communication (NFC) technologies are already being combined with IoT networks to create “all-access” passes. For example, imagine carrying around a wireless device that prepares for your arrival as you approach the building.

It assesses your credentials, unlocks the front door, signs you in, and starts your computer before you’ve reached the office. While it’s true that security is going to be a big issue here – there are various vulnerabilities the industry still needs to work through – the same risks already exist with the use of key cards. At least with a wireless device, you wouldn’t have to take it out of your bag or pocket.

Jeff Kear thinks integration and wireless connection will have a huge impact on how FM software interacts with the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as with other software systems:

I expect to see facility management software integrate more and more with other software platforms that facilities might be using as well as tech devices and equipment via the Internet of Things. Most businesses, facilities included, use at least 10-15 separate pieces of software (and usually more), so it’s becoming imperative that FMS integrates and shares data with asset inventory platforms, task management systems, email/text messaging systems for sending updates/alerts and warranty management apps.

In addition, FMS systems will be stepping up how they integrate and interact with networked components like motion sensors for lighting and security, fuel monitors, HVAC monitoring devices, and usage of equipment like fitness machines. These types of integrations will allow managers to more easily view the status of equipment and facilities at a glance and address situations before they become a crisis.

Tasks IoT-Enabled Facilities Management Can Improve

 

These experts aren’t alone: Deloitte predicts that by 2025, IoT applications will have a potential economic impact of up to $11.1 trillion per year! Chris Wiegand weighs in on how this will impact FM software:

Buildings are getting ‘smarter’ by way of both retrofits and new builds. Increasingly, they will be developed with location-based technologies and sensor-enabled systems, such as smart lighting, from the outset, laying a solid foundation for an increase in smart buildings in our cities. The incorporation of location sensors or beacons will become the new standard, mitigating a lot of pain points for facilities management while enabling predictive and preventative maintenance.

These changes, combined with indoor mapping and positioning initiatives, will enable facilities to execute their IoT use cases around asset tracking and management, geofencing, security management, and more.

This real-time connection to the cloud and the world allows FM software to be more predictive as well. Chris Wiegand sees artificial intelligence in facilities management pairing with reporting and business intelligence tools to create predictive prevention of serious facility problems:

More frequently, we are seeing facilities management software becoming more predictive. The large amounts of data made available via IoT applications allow for more effective prevention of maintenance issues and more efficient repairs and regular maintenance.

Being able to process data can prove to be challenging without spatial context, especially when dealing with large complex spaces. This has motivated many providers to integrate location-aware technologies, such as indoor mapping platforms and indoor positioning systems, enabling users to identify, combine, and categorize complex and disparate infrastructure data on a map.

By laying this foundation, facilities are now able to support location-based use cases such as wayfinding, asset tracking, building energy efficiency management, and more, significantly simplifying facilities management and maintenance.

Deb Noller thinks that the main area all this smart tech will affect is data:

“Companies providing services are going to move from a labor-driven model to a digital model with the rise of the IoT and AI. Anything you can implement with the IoT or AI that provides you with data, analytics and insight into what’s going on in buildings will be crucial in this industry. The deepest impact will be felt in using this data to automate processes and remove the inefficiency in the manpower and labor. The good news is that it will unlock an entire new generation of digital careers—freeing up people’s time to focus on creative and interesting projects, instead of wasting time on laborious tasks like data wrangling.”

Smarter machines and buildings make it easier for users to collect up-to-the-minute data and to put that data to work. This philosophy of staying ahead of the problems is crucial to the future of facilities management software. We’ll never achieve a technological utopia waiting for things to break before we fix them!

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Final Thoughts

All of these technologies require the support of robust software solutions. The good news is that, when it comes to automation, developers are already moving at a remarkable pace. Security management, interoperability, increased AI and a focus on the user experience are all on the horizon for facility management. Vendors are already making significant strides to meet these changes and adapt to customer needs and will continue to do so into the technologic age of tomorrow.

Do you have any predictions for facility management trends? Let us know in the comments!

Contributing Thought Leaders

Chris Wiegand

Chris is the driving force behind Jibestream. He started the company with a vision to change the way people engage with indoor spaces by fusing business data with maps. Chris has led Jibestream’s incredible growth from an idea to a globally recognized leader in the indoor mapping world.

Tai Moscovich

Tai Moscovich is the Associate Vice President and Private Sector Business Development Specialist at BVG India. BVG is the largest integrated service in India. It was founded in 1997 to create more career opportunities for rural youth in India. It provides a range of services including mechanized housekeeping, civil and electrical maintenance, logistics, support, fabrication services and more.

Brian Gregory

Brian Gregory is the President and Co-Founder of Facilities Management Express (FMX) located in Columbus, Ohio. After three years of design work on energy-efficient HVAC units for K-12 schools, Brian became a partner in Dynamix Energy Services (DES), an energy performance contracting business. Through the execution of these projects, he discovered the importance that facilities management has on the long term efficiency of buildings. It was this discovery that led to the creation and growth of FMX in 2012.

Jeff Kear

Jeff Kear is Co-Founder of Planning Pod, an online venue event management software platform for facilities to track event/room bookings, assets and details. It aims to offer event planners an easy-to-use all-in-one solution that prevents juggling between spreadsheets, emails and other documents. He has been an entrepreneur for almost 20 years, and Planning Pod is his fourth business.

Deb Noller

Deb Noller is the co-founder and CEO of Switch Automation, a smart building software company that specializes in facility performance optimization. With over 20 years of experience in technology and sustainability, she helps enterprises leverage next-generation technology to optimize their business operations.

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