Concept Advantage apps - appliance of science aids CAFM development

The latest step in FSI's Concept Evolution CAFM system, Concept Advantage apps, democratises the effectiveness of FM.  FSI discusses with PFM magazine.

FSI has released a suite of apps connecting FM to the wider business community. These single purpose user-focussed apps will encourage those using them to engage with their workplace, contributing to the success of the facilities.

This Concept Advantage suite of apps extend FSI's Concept Evolution CAFM solution by socialising FM processes, making them technologically accessible to all of a site's users, and in doing so, presenting Concept Evolution as a mature digital component within the business world.

The suite creates a shell of familiar appstyle accessibility around FSI's Concept Evolution CAFM solution, as well as being compatible with existing installations. Single-function apps offer much wider reach and faster processes for reporting, requesting (booking) and responding to FM matters.

Putting consumerised FM functionality into the hands of all those who work in, or in other ways use, CAFM-served premises reflects the leading-edge of FM software development. The app approach can devolve FM beyond the expert domain of FM managers, operatives and IT specialists who have the traditional responsibility for FM operations and can therefore cause FM to be viewed as having something of a reputation of being a function in its own silo. The effectiveness of FM can now be democratised - put directly into the hands of all those who also happen to be on its receiving-end.

The apps have been conceived to combine three elements to deliver consumerisation: CAFM and the FM functions - and business management systems with which FM is increasingly convergent; app characteristics now familiar to tablet and smartphone users - increasingly deployed in bring-your-own-device environments, rather than on company-issued hardware; mobile and wireless communications, emergent technologies (internet-of-things, voice user interfaces, machine-to-machine and artificial intelligence) and expert trend forecasts for technological evolution over the coming 10 years;

Their purpose is to engage all those who work or interact in other ways as part of the communities existing within a CAFM-served premises.

Raising FM's profile in the business ecosystem
This approach recognises the increasing awareness that FM demands a raised business profile. FM performance can influence significantly the satisfaction levels of all workplace communities (including visitors: suppliers, passengers, patients, customers) within a site. It can be seen to affect the likes of HR issues such as employee satisfaction and retention, and customer perception and loyalty.

These, in turn, can bear heavily on overall corporate well-being and brand-image. Viewed as such, the dominant fix and clean activities within FM - and the creation of innovative, new, app-driven services - can be seen as business-critical, as a means-to-an-end in influencing organisational success.

FM outsource providers and major corporate end-users can take advantage of a customised branding feature that is integral to the new suite of apps. This provides the opportunity to present a highly visible profile to the widest of user bases; a direct communications tool capable of conveying positive associations relating to the demonstration of commitment, innovation, connectedness and value to the workplace communities exposed to the apps.

The apps are purposely intended to draw all other influencing parties into this enabled world. Employees, suppliers, customers and the general public using or interacting in any managed private or public space can help contribute to the success of facilities, increasing the likelihood of the best possible experiences for all. The target end result is that loyalty is strengthened, along with the desire to return to the site for future positive experiences.

Engaging workplace communities
The psychology behind the app concept is that it can do away with the mind-set that a user must enter a separate FM world to do FM things. Single purpose functionality eliminates the often-needed requirement to drilldown through layers of multi-functionality within legacy CAFM software applications - and often that may require training or seeking the help of an expert third party FM administrator or Helpdesk. The intuitive nature of an app, to-hand on a smartphone, provides all the convenience of instant, on-the-spot use (possibly before the issue slips from the mind) and reduction in the back office overheads relating to training and having expert personnel on-call.

Using a phone app (perhaps to advise Hospitality that a washroom tap is faulty, or to pre-book a visitor to a building) designed around a common user experience and familiar user interface, and that sits alongside others - for emailing, web-browsing, Amazon, Candy Crush etc - is set to become second nature.

Incentivisation is envisaged as a key process in encouraging the take-up and maximisation of app usage. For instance, people reporting faults or incidents could receive benefit by way of prize draws for their actions, or be given a loyalty reward for, perhaps, every tenth report received.

Such techniques, and the ease of acquiring and using these apps, are key to maximising the extension of the user group and so the benefits from the resulting expanded level of engagement and feedback. Local authorities (consider town centre management), public transport facilities, hospitals and colleges/ universities clearly demonstrate the value from buy-in by the widest range of user communities possible. Mass take-up of issue reporting apps will result in benefit for all from optimal housekeeping, maintenance and use of facilities. Booking and buying-type apps allow maximised opportunity for people to make convenient (and, where relevant for the operator, profitable) use of the services available within facilities.

Apps that democratise - and disrupt!
Technologically, this app approach is forward-looking. Though smart phones, tablets and PCs still dominate the app-bearing world at present, this development is designed to evolve into the immediately emerging era of wearable devices, intelligent non-human assistants (such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa) plus voice interaction directly with intelligent environmental controls and other devices.

The initial suite of apps focusses on more conventional report, request, book and buy functions. Chatlog (a social helpdesk) and Our Say (a suggestion/feedback tool), with strong socialising elements, are in the first app portfolio, along with the self-explanatory Register a Visitor. However, once in circulation, feedback from the user base, in combination with new technologies and the ever-widening range of other, integrated, corporate systems being embraced, is anticipated to bring increased opportunity for development of new, more disruptive apps.

These will be apps that will help to breakdown the existing conventions and traditional methods of carrying out hard and soft FM activities. In a similar manner to the way drones have disrupted the accepted processes for surveying building exteriors, yet-to-be-conceived apps will cause a rethink of the way many FM tasks are performed. Consider even the trivial issuing of a voice request for the nearest robotic vacuum cleaner to come and clear the carpet of crumbs immediately following a particularly biscuit-heavy meeting! 

FSI says this suite is set to democratise and disrupt conventional FM. This app approach makes it possible for all the stakeholders at a location to contribute to the success of the facilities they inhabit and the organisations which occupy, own and manage them.

FSI Global plc is a market-leading group of companies. Since 1990, FSI has been a major influence on CAFM and workplace technology for the built environment, delivering a truly versatile business tool. With offices in the UK, Australia and Dubai, and an international partner network, FSI is a
global-leader.