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Meeting the needs of the post-pandemic working environment

12 October 2021

Changes driven by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is requiring software developers to update their offerings to meet the demands in the changing workplace setting.

With many industry observers describing the Coronavirus pandemic as an accelerator or enabler, following the completion of projects that would normally take several years in a matter of weeks and months, there has additionally been a greater understanding of the benefits provided by software technology.

This has followed on from the growing awareness seen throughout the FM sector in recent years of how technology has been enabling a growing number of FMs and service providers to “work smarter, not harder” in many areas.

The linking of systems and businesses has provided considerably increased clarity in multiple instances and assisted those using these systems to achieve the ideal outcome of both improving service levels while delivering reduced cost in the best cases.

Following the many and various changes within the workplace resulting from a large percentage of the UK workforce transferring to working from home over the last 18 months, FMs and service providers have been seen to rely increasingly more on their software systems to support colleagues in their new working arrangements.

This seems likely to continue for some time, particularly with the hybrid working method predicted to become the norm for many businesses, and the use of software technology will be essential for many to receive the correct levels of support to enable them to remain productive in any working environment.

Further comment on this topic is provided by Systopia group managing director Chris Lyons, who says: “There has been a lot of developments in hospitality software technology and based on what we’re seeing there is a real shift in behaviour amongst consumers following the pandemic with regards to order and collect systems.”

Pre-ordering and click and collect became common place during the pandemic, he continues, and it seems this trend is likely to continue. He describes this method as a far more convenient experience for the end-user, who does not have to stand and queue and can instead view the menu online, place their order, pay online and simply come down to collect their items at the pre-booked time.

This reduces queues significantly and negates the needs for any cash to be handled. “We’re also seeing much higher demand for the introduction of smart working practices – so workplaces introducing apps that enable their workforce to book a desk or car parking slot for example.

"With many offices embracing hybrid working practices, adopting tech that enables this more flexible approach to the workplace makes sense.

“In addition, we’re seeing the return of face-to-face meetings again, and with that is also the interest with in-room ordering technology; systems that enable meeting delegates to order their beverage and food choices via a tablet or smartphone and have them delivered direct to the room.

"There are many benefits to introducing in-room ordering – it reduces waste that so many offices used to see where large cafeterias of coffee would be left to go cold, be thrown away and then replaced with another, it gives delegates a more superior menu choice such as cappuccinos, lattes, herbals teas or even cold coffees, and it’s a quick and convenient experience.

“In addition – and this has been brewing for many years – but the use of cash has pretty much gone now. It was in steady decline far before the pandemic, but the past 18 months has surged this change forward even more so.

"As a result, e-payments are simply expected now which is being seen via FMs introducing apps and technology that allow their establishment, and services within it, to be ordered and paid for entirely by card or smartphone,” says Mr Lyons.

Peacock Engineering enterprise sales manager David Robson states that world-class, high-quality FM is ever more reliant on the software solutions used to underpin operations.

“Consolidating technologies and having multi-tenanted solutions make fiscal sense, but only if the solution fits tightly with business process and data considerations,” he says.

“Improved toolsets are now able to deliver ‘focused user experiences’. Most enterprise users are consumers of technology; ease of use, look and feel, the intuitive nature of applications is what really counts, rather than the back-end system.

“With this in mind, the question is why should field service applications be any different? FM solutions need to offer guided workflows which strip out unnecessary content and streamline the processes to be followed by field operatives,” Mr Robson continues.

“This improved adherence to policy enables more work to be done with higher levels of accuracy, lowering the cost of each service request completed and increasing the profitability of client contracts.”

Improvements to new technology are not confined to the field; a range of web-based experiences should be role focused, immediately releasing value and transforming cost control. These include helpdesk, supplier and customer applications that unlock the processes to allow seamless application for payment for customers and suppliers, guided click through diagnosis, customer access and more.

“In summary, consolidation of technology, integration, focused user experiences with logical guided processes are going to factor heavily for those FM companies looking to improve their customer retention, win rates and profitability,” says Mr Robson.

Increased levels of convenience for users of software technology will be the aim for the vast majority of developers and the success of their efforts is likely to be seen in increased levels of uptake. Within this is the all-important aim of allowing facilities users to remain as productive as possible in all areas.

There has been considerable conjecture in recent years of the potential of software systems to assist with all aspects within each facility as described by Mr Lyons, ranging from those attending and working within them on a daily basis, whilst also providing high levels of support for those visiting on an occasional basis.

In the case of the latter, this could see an individual provided with directions to the facility and then assisting them with accessing the correct area and guiding them to the meeting room reserved for their visit. Those working within a facility on a daily basis – or a mixture of days in the office or working from home – can additionally be guided to the desk they will be using on the day, while also providing them with contact with their team members.

The comments of Messrs Lyons and Robson above can also be seen to be working within this and providing all team members with the convenient ordering and supply of food and beverages to avoid wasting valuable time in queuing or travelling backwards and forwards to the catering level of their building.

Although industry experts continue to state that both more awareness and investment is needed to ensure that each facility is working at its smartest, there are growing levels of evidence that the realization of the benefits provided by software technology is spreading throughout the FM industry.

The challenge within this, as always, is ensuring that the best solution is selected and implemented correctly to ensure that the best use of the system is delivered. Once this has been achieved, FMs and service providers should quickly see the positive outcome and the all-important data to show the return on investment.


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