Concept Advantage apps - technical expertise in the FM market

The increasingly app-based world in which people live and work is the driver for FSI's new next-level enhancement of its Concept Evolution CAFM system, with Concept Advantage.  FSI discusses with FMJ magazine.

Concept Advantage takes a radical approach to the functions of FM. A growing suite of simple, single-purpose smartphone/tablet apps are being launched as a natural extension to Concept Evolution.

Into the hands of the people
These apps embrace the enabling technologies that are now established - including smartphones, mobile and wireless communications, the internet-of-things, machine-to-machine intelligence - to deliver consumerised FM. They are aimed at engaging all those who work or interact in other ways as part of the communities within premises where Concept Evolution operates as the CAFM system. Their purpose is to help to further dissolve the boundaries that have tended to box FM into a silo of responsibility; the (almost) exclusive domain of FM managers, maintenance engineers and IT nerds!

Concept Advantage sets out to devolve FM beyond this core of managers, operatives and suppliers who have the traditional responsibility for FM processes. It offers much wider reach and faster processes for reporting, requesting (booking) and responding to FM-related matters. Apps for the effectiveness of FM can now be put directly into the hands of all those who are on its receiving-end.

Engaging corporate communities
Concept Advantage recognises the increasing understanding that FM performance can impact significantly on the wellbeing of the workplace communities that occupy a premises. It can be seen to affect the likes of overall corporate wellbeing, organisational brand perception, customer service and HR issues such as employee retention. Viewed as such, the dominant fixing and cleaning functions of FM - and the creation of innovative, new, app-driven services - take on a new criticality, as a means-to-an-end as influencers of organisational success.

For the FM outsource providers and major corporate end-users of Concept Evolution, a customised app-branding feature is part of Concept Advantage. This provides the opportunity for a raised profile among the wide app user-base; a way to directly demonstrate innovation, connectedness and value to the community being served.

Concept Advantage apps are 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 via the apps, increasing the likelihood of best possible experiences for all - to help foster loyalty and the desire to return for future experiences.

Gaining user buy-in
The psychology behind the app concept is the elimination of the barrier that demarcates, for a user, the notion that they must enter a separate FM World to effect a transaction. Single functionality eliminates the often-needed ability to drill-down through layers of multifunctionality within traditional CAFM software applications - or to get an FM administrator/Helpdesk to do it for them!

A phone app - to advise Hospitality that a washroom needs its floor mopping, or to pre-book a visitor to a building - that embodies a common user experience and familiar user interface and sits among the myriad others - for emailing, web-browsing, Amazon, Candy Crush etc - becomes just another, second-nature enabling tool for the user. This is FM brought up-to-date; into the age of
millennials and beyond.

It may be appropriate to incentivise app users to encourage usage. For instance, people reporting faults or incidents could receive benefit by way of a monthly prize draw of all those who make a report, 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. Local authorities (consider town centre management), public transport facilities and colleges/universities clearly demonstrate the value from buy-in of as wide a user group as possible. Widespread take-up of issues-reporting-type apps will result in mutual benefit for all from optimal housekeeping, maintenance and use of facilities. Booking and buying apps allow maximised opportunity for people to make convenient (and, where relevant for the operator, profitable) use of the services available within facilities.

A revolution for FM
Technologically, Concept Advantage is totally forward-facing. Though tablets, smart phones and PCs still dominate the app-bearing world at present, this development is designed to carry forward to the immediately emerging era of wearable devices, intelligent non-human assistants (such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa) and voice interaction directly with intelligent environmental control devices and others.

Concept Advantage will be integral to new implementations of FSI's Concept Evolution and is also backwards compatible with existing Concept Evolution deployments via an enabling process.

The initial suite of apps is dominated by more conventional report, request, boo and buy functions. Chatlog (a social helpdesk), Register a Visitor, and OurSay (a suggestion/feedback tool) are in the first app portfolio. However, these will sow seeds for feedback and ideas from the user base which, in combination with new technologies and a wider range of other, integrated, corporate systems being embraced, will bring increased opportunity for development of new, disruptive apps. 

Apps will help the break-down of existing conventions and traditional ways of effecting hard and soft FM. In a similar manner to the way drones have disrupted processes for surveying buildings, yet-to-be-conceived apps will challenge the status quo in FM task performance. Consider even the trivial issuing of a voice request for the nearest robot vacuum cleaner to come and clear the carpet crumbs immediately following a particularly biscuit-heavy conference room meeting!

With this app development, the age of consumer FM has arrived!