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Welcome to the digital revolution

Author : Amanda Vlietstra

23 September 2022

Exciting innovations in software have the potential to transform the FM sector...

Technology has been responsible for a seismic shift across the facilities management sector. It was software that enabled the move to remote working during the pandemic, when face-to-face meetings were replaced by Zoom or Teams calls, and Slack and other messaging systems replaced gossip by the watercooler.

Now, as the pandemic recedes, it’s clear that these technological advancements won’t be rolled back any day soon. As Col Kitchen, Performance and Technical Manager at independent engineering and services business NG Bailey IT Services told PFM: “The 2020s have seen the rapid digitalisation of all businesses and it’s clear that the investment into software technology is only going to continue to increase as the decade continues.

He continued: “Initially, the focus originally was ensuring business continuity but over the last 12 months we’ve seen a shift with businesses keen to embrace digital technologies that support innovation and growth.”

For NG Bailey IT Services, this has led to the development of their Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. One of these, MyInsight, enables organisations to have a better interface with NG Bailey and for their teams to develop solutions using low or no code in a secure, scalable, user-driven environment. “This has not only created benefits in terms of transparency and efficiency between our business and clients, but has actively led to the delivery of new services which transform what’s possible in connectivity, data management and analysis,” Mr Kitchen explained.

Data-driven transformation
Certainly, the ability to use data in this agile way is truly transformative. Long gone are the days when there was a ‘one size fits all’ approach to building management; now software can help optimise buildings to be as efficient as possible. This is particularly useful in today’s world of work, where workspaces are expected to be agile and able to facilitate a hybrid and flexible-working workforce. Online room booking systems have helped make meetings more organised and effective, and can improve cost-efficiency by allowing rooms to be ‘powered down’ when not in use; by helping facilitate hybrid and flexible working, they can also improve productivity.

in security software have reduced the need for an on-site physical presence at all times, with some using AI to improve the quality of the security data – removing unwanted alarms, for example – and giving the business’ property and assets another level of protection.

Automating routine tasks
Job management systems such as BigChange can help to improve both the customer journey and the employee experience by implementing software to automate routine tasks. A complete job management solution, The BigChange job management platform incorporates customer relationship management (CRM), job scheduling, live tracking, field resource management, job finance and business intelligence, in one simple to use and easy to integrate platform. It is currently being used by building services company Forth to improve the management of over 10,000 combustion, air conditioning, mechanical and electrical assets for customers, ranging from the Royal Household to global real estate firms.

Sarah Jones, Systems Process Manager at FORTH, told PFM: “Prior to BigChange the work of our engineers and the financial management of jobs was completed using a variety of tools. Whilst this was right for us as a much smaller operation, it did not provide the ability to manage specific servicing records, and consequent remedial works, of every asset we look after. It was also inefficient and hampered our ability to deliver specific servicing information to clients.

She added: “Having looked for a solution for approximately two years, BigChange was the only one which combined all of the elements of job management we were looking for, together with strong asset and financial management capabilities.”

Of course, the beauty of software is that there’s a range of solutions out there to suit the needs of all types of different companies, big and small. Even for SMEs with smaller budgets – in face, perhaps especially for them – investment in the right software platform is often a cost-effective way of optimising workflow and improving productivity and profitability. 

Another company operating within the complete job management sphere is Okappy, which uses social media to seamlessly connect customers, employees and contractors through its Portal+ Connected Field Service Management Programme. Jobs can be assigned, by the click of a button, to employees or subcontractors, and everyone can see what is happening, as it happens. “It’s this idea of creating a connected approach so that there’s a seamless flow down from the order maker to the technician,” Richard Harris, MD of Okappy, told PFM. Over 100,000 connections have been made on the Okappy platform, pointing to a truly collaborative future – and Mr Harris points out that the connected, collaborative approach enabled by software means that different platforms can be integrated to create a bespoke workflow solution. “It means companies can do what they do well, and keep it focused, but connect to other applications,” he said.

Energy efficiency
One thing that’s at the top of the agenda for many – if not most - companies that operate within the FM sector is the need to minimise energy expenditure. Indeed, digital technologies that solve the two main problems currently facing the FM sector, and the business sector generally – the energy crisis and the staffing crisis – are likely to be welcomed with open arms. The good news is that smart technologies currently offer some respite for the former – as well as supporting innovation and growth.

Arloid, a software company founded by Sergey Shalunov and Vladimir Pushmin, uses AI technology to adjust any building’s management systems, identifying how to optimise equipment in the best way, and delivering up to 30% savings in energy consumption. The arloid.ai software came to the market in 2018, and as well as being a cost-effective solution for businesses and facilities managers alike, it’s also planet-friendly – the energy crisis does, after all, also require developed nations to reduce their energy consumption.

Arloid.ai is currently being used in countries all round the world, in buildings that include malls, office blocks, hospitals – and even places of worship. Going forward, Mr Shalunov and Mr Pushmin say they “expect to release additional products that complement this one”, such as using AI to detect specific problems with specific devices.

It’s clear that, as the business world becomes ever more data-driven, software is going to play a key role in this evolution from an analogue to an ever-more digital world. And, with new and exciting developments on the horizon, including the potential for AI to take on bigger roles in our lives, it will certainly be interesting to watch where this takes us.


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