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Next generation technology for FMs

11 February 2020

Running and operating buildings is complex, risky and can sometimes be expensive. Maintaining the building itself, says Steve McGregor, group MD, DMA Group, as well as ensuring the safety and wellness of your occupants, whilst remaining compliant and efficient is tough enough – especially when things go wrong.

People who operate buildings and facilities have a lot on the line. For anyone tasked with this responsibility, we know it’s not easy.

Now let’s consider the challenges associated with having multiple suppliers across one portfolio. With no central point of contact, no one supplier takes overall ownership of your building, meaning it can be harder to pinpoint who to call when something goes wrong.

Then there are the challenges of managing, storing and retrieving paperwork and e-records that demonstrate compliance with complex legislation that changes faster than the seasons. Not finding what you want, when you need it, is frustrating. And when disaster strikes, there isn’t always the luxury of time to hunt for documentation and certificates. 

Being personally responsible is a heavy burden. We get that. And we understand that facilities managers want stuff done by teams they trust. For us, it is vital to explore all avenues when it comes to driving value. Technology is one of these avenues.

You see us

Across all organisations, large or small, there is one commonality that links us all; the need for greater efficiency and transparency when managing data. Compliance is top of the tree for FMs and we are now seeing greater adoption of cloud-based platforms and handheld technology which provides real-time building information. FMs need this vital information at their fingertips. And as investors continue to grow their property portfolios, we are witnessing a shift in how they expect to access that data – anytime, anywhere, on any device and at no cost!

In building and engineering services maintenance, we have identified a significant number of tasks and processes that can be automated, some using AI. Historically, even the simplest of duties required property managers and landlords to archaically make contact several times with account managers, helpdesks and service personnel. Booking an engineer, for example, would involve multiple phone calls between those parties, not to mention all the phone tennis tracking each other down.  

One of the benefits of smart tech, and the transparency that comes with it, is knowing you’re getting exactly what you pay for. Automating processes to offer customers more flexibility and choice when it comes to how they engage and manage their service provider(s) or inhouse FM teams is also a bonus. Digitalising the supply chain will enable customers to get closer their service providers and the person who actually delivers the service. It will also promote best practice and consistency across independent service providers. 

Tech for FMs' sake

At DMA Group, we are developing a smart technology ecosystem that’s increasingly automating our day-to-day processes, including the interfaces with our customers, people, suppliers and service partners. Our driver? To achieve greater levels of customer service, as well as fuelling our relentless pursuit for greater efficiency.

We’re not just investing in tech because it’s a hot topic but because it’s the only way to drive transformative innovation. For DMA, becoming a successful, tech-enabled FM innovator, depended upon us having a focussed investment strategy supported by real tech-expertise. So, unlike any other service provider of our size, we appointed a highly experienced CTO to ensure we built an agile, future-proofed and scalable solution that will disrupt the market. What’s more, we are investing over 30% of our income to make it happen.

We have also developed BiO, our online platform to communicate with our customers, our in-house teams and our partners to support our Life of Building service, an integrated solution to save time, money and reduce risk by removing the need for multiple contractors. The platform provides a single point of storage for all building related information, giving our customers, our team and our partners a single transparent view of all the buildings and service assets within them. Displaying status and condition, maintenance history, statutory compliance and employee documentations, and all planned preventative maintenance as well as reactive call-outs, it shows what we are doing every moment of the day and gives our customers complete peace of mind that we’ve got everything covered. 

To prioritise our customer calls, and to appropriately divert other calls, we’ve launched a smart phone system that instantaneously recognises our customers and automatically routes them to our customer care team. Our suppliers and partners have a menu selection to connect them to our business support teams. So whether our customers contact us via BiO, email or a call we manage and track everything via one single system. From here we capture data and statistics to provide reporting, manage performance and improve our service. 

Our delivery strategy involves giving our service partners no-cost access into our operating systems via intuitive apps as if they were our own people, to realise huge customer benefit, including standardisation and consistency, transparent compliance reporting, administrative efficiency and real-time two-way data transfer. By supporting our partner’s service offers, simplifying and automating their processes and supporting their technology adoption, not only do we build loyal partners, but we both share in the resultant success. 

Final word

Technology is helping FM firms automate systems and processes to simplify and streamline property management for building owners, occupiers and managers with complete transparency. Not only does this save time, but it positively impacts the bottom-line of their business and reduces risk by removing the need for multiple contractors. To deliver optimal service and cost efficiencies, FM firms must keep up with the relentless and inevitable march of technology at every level of delivery. Using the latest smart technology – and, more importantly, using it well – will revolutionise the way the FM profession manages any planned and reactive services, however it is delivered.