Facilities managers continue to look for the most innovative ways to improve asset longevity and lower spend. Preventive maintenance, data-driven decision making and managed project rollouts have significant facility benefits, but where the actual work lies is changing. In response to recent events, organizations flocked to move workers off-site, enabling a new infusion of remote management into all activities. While society works to return to the pre-pandemic flurry of activity, a new problem hints that remote management may indeed be the new age of facilities management in action. Will people be ready to return to a physical location if working remotely is an option? Amy Malmstrom of FacilitiesNet explained the conundrum further:
“It could be challenging to draw people back to the workplace after the convenience of working at home, where the dress code is always casual. Most Facility Managers have long since expanded their evaluation checklists to include features like indoor greenery and water bottle filling stations, along with inspections of the HVAC systems and lighting fixtures. Now, it becomes even more important to take a thoughtful approach to well-being concerns. It’s a good time to retool those building checklists and evaluations to make sure facilities are not just operating efficiently, but also helping people feel safe, welcome and healthy, especially as they return to work.”
Challenges of Remote Management in Today’s Facilities
Remote management comes with existing challenges to digital transformation. Companies must have the IT resources to offer off-site work. Cybersecurity is a priority, and even with the best-laid plans, physical workers are still necessary. Meanwhile, buildings continue to age, and in fact, many of the challenges of embracing remote capabilities in the new age of facilities management lie within building age. As explained by Matthew Ganser of Facility Executive:
“Currently, nearly two thirds of buildings in the U.S. were built before the end of the Cold War, and most lack the foundation for regular and seamless control systems upgrades. Given that buildings aren’t updated with the frequency of our iPhones, that means their control systems aren’t being updated either. Because of this, many properties are still using legacy control systems that weren’t designed with remote operations in mind.”
The New Age of Facilities Management Relies on Data and Connectivity
Instead of trying to fix everything at once, managers that wish to embrace the new age of facilities management must have the tools and resources in place to collect, apply, and act on data. It is also important to recognize the difference between applied data action in the essential versus non-essential landscape. Applied data means knowing what to do with it. Actionable data means the information reveals what is necessary to achieve a given outcome. It’s the age-old principle of predictive analytics, and the new age of facilities management relies on using data to know what happened, what will happen, what should happen, and how to prove that actions taken had a positive impact.
How to Embrace Remote Management
To return to work successfully and enable continued use of remote capabilities, facilities managers should follow these tips:
- Implement a modern, analytics-inclusive CMMS.
- Leverage the talent management, read vendor vetting and training, value of third-party service providers.
- Use data to understand activities and needs.
- Re-examine building priorities.
- Upgrade infrastructure controls to enable digital management.
- Re-evaluate field service vendors to verify vendors follow applicable sanitation and safety measures.
- Retool the facilities management playbook to include remote review of work and further increase use of data.
- Think about non-COVID-19 areas of improvement too, such as recycling programs and encouraging healthy behaviors.
- Be transparent to your staff and customers.
Put the Power of Remote Management to Work in Your Facilities
Facility Managers have a unique opportunity. They can prove their companies have customers’ and employees’ best interests in mind. However, failures to use data and embrace the new norms of social distancing and safety will only alienate the organization. Each company needs to embrace remote management wherever possible for now and the foreseeable future.