Facilio-led conference highlights challenges related to digitalisation in FM
The challenge faced by FM companies after having adopted digitalisation, in an attempt to establish measurable value and return on investments (ROI) was one of the key points of a panel discussion during Future Proof, a conference Dubai-based Facilio hosted on March 14 at the Palace Down Town in Dubai.
FM professionals in the region attended the conference. The panelists in the discussion included Fahad Mohamed, Technical Head FM, Deyaar Properties; Andrea Deutschbein, Director FM, EMAAR Malls Group; Stephen Hayes, Head of Facilities and Engineering (MENA), Marriott International and Sangeetha B, Deputy CEO, Al Fajer Facilities Management.
While moderating the discussion, Prabhu Ramachandran, Founder and CEO, Facilio, said: “Today, there is disparity, where few companies are highly digitised, while others are still on paper.” The ultimate digitalisation for real-estate, he said, is when you are able to monitor what’s happening in your building while being placed anywhere in the world.
Sharing her experience on how Al Fajer FM has embraced digitalisation, Sangeetha, said, “Technology has a large part to play in every organisation, and it also a part of our strategy.” Embracing technology, she added, enables FM companies to offer a comprehensive range of solutions. However, one challenge faced is that technology is not being readily accepted by clients as they don’t always see the value and are just looking at the cost factor, she added. “What needs to be understood,” she added, “is the ROI will come after six months to a year, post the adoption of technology.”
Sharing his experience, Hayes said: “We started adopting technology around 16 to 17 years ago and over the years.” We had all the activities in a single tool and would do quarterly reports with real-time reporting, he said. Highlighting the present situation on how the companies use dashboards to give cue into each of the properties throughout the world, he added, “Today, I can click into the property and drill down into the technician working on each property.” For the last three years, he said, we have got into measuring and using QR codes, Wi-Fi and real-time data, which enables us to monitor 250 properties across the Middle East region.
While the overall sentiment on the adoption of technology was positive, Mohamed highlighted that the main challenge was getting the buy-in from stakeholders. “There is a lot of technology available in the market; however, the challenge is in proving to the customer that it will be an added value,” he said. Elaborating, Sangeetha also pointed to a missing link in the adoption of technology in FM and said: “FM is a strategic player; however, what’s missing is that the client has to understand that adopting technology will be a value-add.” Echoing the thought was Deutschbein. She said: “FM is a big player, from both the client’s side and the service provider’s side.” The cost, she said, is always going to be a factor; however, we cannot cost cut for the sake of it, and standards cannot be compromised on.”
Pointing to personal experience, Mohamed added that in the year 2013, the company started off by connecting buildings to a system, which was remarkable. Utilising it, he said, helped remove BMS operators. The site, he added, is remotely monitored. As a result, he said, it also led to data collection. As if echoing Mohamed, Sangeetha said: “The adoption of technology has shifted focus to data collection, and I cannot stress enough on the importance of collecting data.” Elaborating on how it helps with any kind of analysis, she said, “Data helps in improving our services and will help study the ROI.” Elaborating on how Marriott International has been outsourcing the technology within the scope of FM to different teams, Hayes said, “Even our sub-contractors make use of technology, and we train them on how to use the tool.”