CAFM as an essential

Paul Bullard, FSI's Business Strategy Director, explains why CAFM has become a mission-critical system for any business in an article for Tomorrow's FM.

Most of us know how to book a restaurant online, use Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. With cloud computing, we can access documents in the office, at home, even in cafes on-route to a meeting. Almost every shop has an app and we expect to be able to use these instantly, wherever and whenever we like.

The development of CAFM has mirrored this. FM functions are now accessible and very easy to use, linking-up and integrating a whole host of services and suppliers to give people a seamless experience. As a consequence, CAFM has become a mission-critical system for any business.

Beyond building services and fabric

Whereas traditional FM would be concerned with the core activities of estates and property services, technology now enables FM to encompass day-to-day operational activities, from what meetings are going on throughout a building to what hot food the restaurant is offering today.

We're seeing working environments where employees walk into a building, tap their ID card and the systems know where they work, which floor, have the lights on ready for their arrival and their phone configured with their personal contacts. This saves a huge amount of time and energy (for the employee and actual electricity). It all seems simple but there is a huge amount of integration and automated process going on in the background.

As its role has expanded to business processes, CAFM has the ability to integrate finance, HR and other strategic management software packages in one interface, along with services provided by external suppliers. This has led to it becoming a powerful organisational tool and an essential source of information for the strategic management and direction of a business.

At the same time, technology is enabling employees to raise problems in real-time. Our Concept Advantage suite of products, for example, have an interactive chat log for raising an issue so employees can put on a public feed that it's cold in their particular working area. If other employees post the same, then the facilities manager suddenly becomes aware of a wider situation, not just one person at one desk on the fifth floor saying they are cold. As a result, CAFM is enabling businesses to run more efficiently, services to be more streamlined and staff to be more productive and engaged.

Mobility and seamlessness

With secure cloud computing, sensor technology and the Internet of Things, CAFM can monitor an environment in
more detail than ever before and FMs can respond to this wherever they are. Mobility and seamlessness are the natural extension of a business's movement into web enablement.

We no longer talk about the traditional client server desktop-type of application for CAFM but something that has a browser-light footprint. This has a major influence on the way we are developing our user interface and the accessibility of our reporting tools. While employees want a mobile and seamless experience of all that FM is, so does the person in charge of FM - they want to be able to monitor the environment, systems and services remotely and be able to take action and publish their reporting from wherever they are.

But the key to delivering effective CAFM is to be responsive. You can have all the amazing tech at your fingertips but it's imperative to make it work for the particular business you are in. A good CAFM solution, therefore, is about configuring and deploying the technology according to the business environment and the business process needs and, for larger organisations, doing this at scale.

As CAFM has evolved from being just about ‘hard' services to essential business processes, the integration of services and the experience of employees in their working environment, so facilities managers have moved
from being a support role as FM ‘operators' to being an integral part of the strategic business team.