Changing Technology in Facilities Management

It goes without saying that the world is not the same as it was twelve months ago, and the future is not as secure as we thought. The pandemic has robbed us of something most of us took for granted. 

Certainty (or at least at the levels we accepted).

And in an uncertain world, there is a requirement to be resilient. To be able to adapt to new information and to quickly overcome new challenges. This is something which we in FM are accustomed to because the vast majority of facilities management companies operate alongside some of the most dynamic sectors in society. 

But in recent months, we have been tested like never before. 


“Necessity Is the Mother of Invention”


“What can technology do for you?”

If you had asked us this question in 2019, we would have told you a very different answer to today.

In 2019, all we had on our wish-list was a handheld damp meter and a new laptop. 

We never could have envisioned the need to order contactless thermometers, specialised PPE, or even the changes to our vocabulary brought on by Covid-19. How many of us can say we regularly used words like ‘social distancing’, ‘quarantine’, or ‘face-mask’ in everyday conversation prior to February 2020?

Which is why the title of this section is called ‘Reinvention’. 

It is defined in the Oxford dictionary as the ‘action or process through which something is changed so much that it appears to be entirely new’.

And there are some examples of this that are more prominent than others. 

The Phone Call

The first telephone call was made on March 10, 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell, when he transmitted a call to his assistant, Thomas Watson. The first words were reportedly,

“Mr Watson, come here. I want to see you.”

Now how many of us, especially acclimatised to office life, have said something similar? In the one-hundred and forty-four years since the first phone call, not much had really changed.   

And then, 2020. 

With the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the dynamics of the ‘phone call’ changed dramatically. It was no-longer about inter-office communication, but about networking a vast array of individuals who were otherwise ‘disconnected’ by working from home. Disconnected from co-workers, disconnected from friends. Disconnected from the company itself.  

And we have had to reinvent the conversation to match.

Over-the phone conversations have always had advantages and disadvantages over emails, and both have been indentured into office life for decades. But the recent paradigm shift has identified a third, missing niche. At least, it was missing for us. 

The video call. Zoom!!! (or other equally able portals).

Making video calls allows us to see the happy smiling faces of our staff and clients. It lets us feel more comfortable telling a joke or indulging in a bit of banter. Those one-hundred and forty-four years formalised the phone call in a way that makes many of us uncomfortable to hold a prolonged conversation, but since March 2020, the video call has equally revolutionised the way we communicate, at least in our office.

We are now able to make and receive video calls with our staff, with our operators in the field, with our clients, customers and suppliers. We can now hold a more personable conversation with all parties in a way that was previously missing from the FM industry, because it was not previously ‘the norm’. 

We can also say more, and achieve more, than we ever could before. 

The Quotation

The facilities management (FM) industry is dependent on freedom of movement. Movement between cities, between towns, between homes and offices. And while the pandemic has certainly compromised this ability, through embracing new and old technology we have overcome it. 

There was a time, back in just 2019, where attending each site in person was almost mandatory. Utilising google earth and other GIS software we can now give out more accurate quote’s ex situ. This, coupled with advancements in camera and camera-phone technology, allows us and our clients to take more detailed photos, again eliminating the need to visit sites in person.

And as a by-product of this, there are two other benefits. 

The first is simple timekeeping.

Increasing our use of technology has allowed us to better organise our time. By not needing to send out one of our operators to quote for works, it is as simple as sending them somewhere else where they are needed more. Embracing the technology already at our fingertips (and in our pockets) has allowed us to reinvent the way we go about our day. 

The second is that we can also make more informed decisions ex situ and be able to focus on activities which add value to the business.

We now have the time and infrastructure to streamline training and enhancing our employee’s experiences. If other companies follow suit, by the end of 2022, there could well be fewer people working in the FM industry, but those who do will have greater technology-augmented expertise. 

The third and final benefit, is to the environment. Our Environment. We have to find better and easier ways to do business. I love Sir David Brailsford mantra of, ‘improvement by marginal gains’. If we all, improved something by a small percentage in the way we treat the world we live in, the world would be a better place for it. I suppose that would count, in the ways we treat the environment, the ways we treat each other, the ways we treat our minds.  

The Way We Think

So, I suppose the important thing that technology has helped us reinvent is the way we think.

We have learned we can do more with less. By thinking wider, deeper, more inventively and with what academic’s call ‘Blue-sky’ thinking.

During the first world war, pilots of early aircraft were not issued with parachutes, to ensure the pilots did their duty to the end. This did not change until a year after the war ended, when the government realised that a good pilot was worth more than the plane. 

And the same can be said of businesses. 

None of us could have envisioned the effect the pandemic would have on us. But now we, and many others, have begun to see the value of a parachute. A plan ‘B’, to protect our most important asset. 

Our people. 

This parachute principal takes the form of technology. We have taken great strives to ‘future-proof’ our office, by introducing new virtual desktops and E-works, our online database. Our purchasing system is software based. Our health and safety systems are software based. Our design capabilities are software based. We have fully embraced the digital age, where before we had a hybrid system. The new technologies we are incorporating into our day-to-day operations are making paper obsolete.

Maybe with a future view towards the greater use of technology, we can continue to improve.

Stuart Farnsworth BSc (Hons) MBA CIWFM

Managing Director

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