Last week, I flew to Melbourne to attend and speak at the 2020 Facilities Management Summit, where the focus was on digital technology and human experience. Here are my four top takeaways from the conference.
It was really encouraging to see that for facilities managers, the focus on sustainability is only increasing. There seems to be a strong desire within the industry to make a difference and improve the sustainability of our built environments, aligning with the business and existential imperative to do so.
However, often the problems being thrown at facilities managers are extremely difficult to manage, and they don’t always know how to solve them. Facilities, technology, and workplaces are changing rapidly - transformations in mobility, both in different modes of transport and in the EV market, are so fast-paced that it’s hard for facilities managers to keep up. Similarly, the growth in flexible and remote work poses a challenge in how to utilise space efficiently.
I expect to see a huge amount of both challenge and innovation in the next few years as these changes progress and we transition - sometimes bumpily - toward more sustainable built environments.
Apps and technology aimed at improving tenant experiences continue to evolve at pace. New software programmes from the likes of CBRE and JLL allow owners and operators to stay engaged with their tenants in real time, making problem-solving quick and efficient.
An exciting example of this at the Summit is the AI-powered chatbot RentalHeroes, which reduces the time spent on basic tasks like understanding the details of a complaint, booking appointments and approving quotes. Using digital technology to streamline processes and increase efficiently was one of the major themes this year, and it’s great to see examples of that technology which can improve experiences for both facilities managers and those they take care of.
As both a moderate coffee addict and someone who’s always short on time, another highlight of the Summit for me was seeing the evolution of the office coffee machine. You can spend a good few minutes twiddling your thumbs and waiting for the pot of coffee to be ready, which isn’t the best feeling when you have an endless to-do list.
So good news! A coffee machine with app integration is now available. You can order a coffee within the office, and then pick it up when it’s ready. This is bringing efficiency into the minutia of working life - and it was extremely cool to see it in action.
I would be remiss not to mention the ways that parking and efficient use of space tied into the Summit, especially in regards to the huge rise in flexible and remote working that offices are experiencing. Flexible, modern work hours are great for both people and businesses, and at the same time they create management complexities.
When people have more flexible, variable schedules, it creates a much higher need for smarter facilities management tools. If only seventy percent of a workplace’s employees are in the office, it makes sense for businesses to only provide enough work and parking space for seventy percent of people. But often, staff are either never in the office on Fridays, or always in the office on Fridays - and when some days are busier than others, that puts a strain on desk space, car park space, and meeting rooms.
Management tools like Zoom, Skedda, and of course, Parkable, are helping facilities managers to cope with this trend by making it easier to book, share, monitor, and assign space between people. The ability to capture data with IoT sensors and platforms also makes the job of facilities managers easier in this area, so there’s no need to make decisions based on iffy assumptions.
What makes a great business? For many of us, the answer is not only about supporting a great idea, but also about having a great team of colleagues to work with.
Lack of staff parking is a major bone of contention. Time wasted cruising for parking, and earlier starts by employees racing to win limited parking, take their toll on worker wellbeing. This is even more pressing with flexible working.
Last month, our Parkable UK team attended the Engage Employee Summit in London.