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Shifting to intelligent facilities management: pitfalls and strategies

Intelligent facilities management (iFM) can enhance operations and workplace experiences. Successfully implementing iFM may pose challenges.


In brief
  • Many organizations shift to iFM to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, improve sustainability, and address changing client and employee needs.
  • Understanding common pitfalls and potential solutions can help make the transition smoother and can lead to cost savings and efficiencies.
  • Implementation hurdles can include poor data quality, lack of integration among systems and the limited understanding of AI benefits.

Transitioning to iFM has become more than a strategic move for business leaders. It is a necessity. The technology- and data-enabled shift promises efficiency and sustainability. It also involves a “demand response” approach, which prioritizes the improvement of workplace experiences by optimizing the operations of the facility for the benefit of its occupants.

Key components of iFM

 

At its core, iFM is about leveraging technology and data to make informed, proactive decisions about a building or real estate portfolio’s operations. It involves the integration of various systems, such as HVAC, lighting, security and occupancy sensors, into a centralized platform. This allows for real-time monitoring, analysis and control, enabling facilities managers to respond swiftly to changing conditions and optimize resource allocation.

 

Additionally, iFM incorporates predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven insights and automation to enhance operational efficiency and reduce costs. This same data and technology are now required to monitor, report and comply with recent regulatory requirements around sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs.

 

Explore the tabs below to learn more about the differences between traditional facilities management (FM) and iFM.

Traditional FM

iFM

Manual

Automated

Paper-based systems: documentation and record-keeping often done manually on paper

Continuous monitoring of facilities in real time, providing immediate insights into performance and potential issues

Minimal automation, routine tasks that are performed manually

Remote monitoring and management capabilities for off-site control and decision-making

Limited use of technology for monitoring and contro

Traditional FM

iFM

Isolated stand-alone systems

Automation of processes for improved operational efficiency

Systems and components often operating independently without much integration

Integration of various systems for a holistic approach

Lack of centralized data and communication

Decision-making based on comprehensive data analytics and insights

Decisions ad hoc and/or demand response

Traditional FM

iFM

Reactive

Predictive analytics and machine learning to anticipate and address maintenance 

Repairs and maintenance activities typically carried out in response to issues or breakdowns as they occur

Proactive identification and resolution of potential issues before they impact operations

Preventive maintenance based on calendar or frequency schedule

Emphasis on long-term sustainability and performance

Budgets often based on historical data

Traditional FM

iFM

Minimal energy management practices 

Implementation of smart building technologies for energy efficiency, security and occupant comfort

Operating without advanced analytics or optimization

Integration of sustainable practices, including energy-efficient systems and green building principles

Basic operational excellence model

Traditional FM

iFM

Emphasis on cost reduction and efficiency in the short term

Focus on enhancing the experience of occupants through technology-enablement and responsive management

Investments in iFM often justified by long-term cost savings and increased efficiency

Five pitfalls to avoid by taking key actions when transitioning to iFM

Recognizing the need for a more streamlined and responsive approach to FM, many companies have embarked on a journey toward digitizing their operations for the benefit of the workplace experience. By integrating innovative technology and advanced analytics, these companies hope to gain real-time insights into their facilities’ performance, enabling them to make data-driven decisions that can lead to increased operational efficiency, sustainability and cost savings.

But even companies with extensive resources and a firm commitment to embracing intelligent facilities have found that the transition can be difficult. The reasons vary, but our research finds that avoiding five common pitfalls is essential to transformation success. Leaders in iFM have succeeded by taking specific actions. Potential pitfalls and key strategies to address them are presented in the table below:

Potential pitfalls

Key strategies to address the pitfalls

Immature data assessment
  • Failing to gather and analyze comprehensive data or relying on outdated data can lead to inaccurate insights and ineffective decision-making.
  • Poor interpretation of key sustainable factors influences the workplace experience.
Assess current operations and needs
  • Begin by thoroughly assessing your current FM operations. Collect data on resource allocation, service quality, costs, and the impact on wellbeing and productivity. Identify the specific challenges and pain points within your FM processes. Determine where traditional methods and services are falling short and what can be transformed by adopting automated demand response processes.
Inadequate technology integration
  • Poorly chosen or improperly integrated technology solutions result in inefficiencies, data silos and limited benefits.
  • Lack of system integrations prevent use of insights to drive  efficiencies based on utilization.
Implement technology and data integration
  • Procure and implement FM-specific software and tools. These tools should automate tasks, monitor equipment performance and provide real-time data to facilities managers.
  • Validate that data is available and unsiloed. Integrate data sources to allow for comprehensive analysis and insights. This involves connecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices, sensors and existing databases.
Underestimating the benefits of AI
  • Not recognizing the full advantages that AI offers can lead to missed opportunities in enhancing FM efficiency, cost-effectiveness and overall performance.
  • Confidence is lacking with regard to intelligent algorithms, automated decision-making and control processes.
Leverage AI
  • Incorporate AI into FM processes. AI can assist with predictive maintenance, fault detection and enhancement of resource allocation. Use machine learning algorithms to gather insights from data. These insights can help in identifying problem areas and making recommendations and data-driven financial decisions.
Neglecting procurement and IT strategies

Ignoring procurement and information technology (IT) strategies can result in cost overruns, subpar vendor partnerships and inefficiencies in service delivery, as well as hindering the ability to perform accurate analysis for reporting and decision-making:

  • Not bringing procurement and IT into the conversation early to successfully design the entire iFM ecosystem
  • Siloed approaches to sustainability, building operations and workplace experience.
Optimize procurement and IT collaborations
  • Integrate IT and procurement strategies and processes to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Evaluate vendor contracts, negotiate terms and consider outsourcing noncore functions where appropriate. Seek vendors that prioritize innovation and align with the needs of your occupants. This can enhance employee satisfaction and wellbeing.
Ignoring ESG compliance

Neglecting ESG considerations in facility management heightens the risk of mistakes and paints a picture of ineffective operational management:

  • Reactionary approach to incorporating renewable energy sources, energy-efficient systems and environmentally friendly systems
Address ESG considerations

Implement digital systems for record-keeping, compliance tracking and reporting related to ESG standards. Develop an iFM strategy that explicitly addresses ESG requirements and goals. This might involve energy-efficiency measures, waste reduction initiatives, and improving occupant comfort and health.

Why the transition to iFM is inevitable

Despite the challenges associated with iFM, the transition for most organizations is inevitable, given the evolution of technology and societal demands for efficiency and environmental consciousness. Benefits may include:

1. Enhanced operational efficiency:

iFM empowers facilities managers with a comprehensive view of building performance. Real-time data and analytics enable them to identify inefficiencies, optimize energy usage and proactively address maintenance needs. For example, predictive maintenance algorithms can detect equipment issues before they lead to costly breakdowns.

2. Improved occupant experience:

An intelligently managed facility can translate to a better experience for occupants. It can allow for the customization of environments based on user preferences, ensuring comfort and productivity. For instance, intelligent lighting and climate control systems can adjust settings according to actual occupancy patterns.

3. Cost savings and sustainability:

By enhancing resource allocation and energy usage, iFM can lead to substantial savings. Furthermore, it aligns with ESG goals by reducing environmental impact. For instance, intelligent building systems can dynamically adjust lighting and HVAC based on occupancy, significantly reducing energy consumption.

4. Data-driven decision-making:

iFM provides facilities managers with a wealth of data that can be leveraged for strategic decision-making. It enables trend analysis, performance benchmarking and scenario modeling, allowing for proactive planning and resource allocation.

5. Compliance and risk mitigation:

Intelligent facilities systems can facilitate compliance with regulatory standards and certifications. They provide tools for tracking and reporting on various aspects of building operations, ensuring adherence to industry-specific requirements.

Why some companies hesitate

Regardless of the compelling advantages of transitioning, some companies remain hesitant to take the plunge. One key reason is the perceived complexity of the transformation process. The integration of modern technologies and the reconfiguration of existing legacy systems can appear as a formidable task, leading organizations to postpone the move. Additionally, concerns about the initial investment required can be a deterrent, despite the potential for substantial long-term gains in efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

With a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of industry-specific challenges, the EY-Parthenon Corporate Real Estate Consulting team works in close collaboration with organizations of all types and sizes. We start by conducting a thorough assessment of your current operations, pinpointing the pain points and crafting a tailor-made roadmap for implementation. Through experience in technology integration, data analysis and procurement optimization, we help to make the transition seamless, cost-effective and aligned with your organization’s strategic vision.

Charting the course toward a transformed future

The journey toward iFM is not just a step forward – it is a leap into a future of enhanced efficiency, substantial cost savings and operational excellence. As industry pioneer Peter Drucker once stated, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Embracing this transition is not just about staying ahead of the curve; it is about future-proofing your operations and ensuring sustained growth in a rapidly changing business landscape. 

The views reflected in this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.

Summary

iFM represents a pivotal shift in how organizations approach the management of their physical spaces. It is not merely a technological upgrade, but a strategic imperative that drives operational excellence, enhances occupant experiences and contributes to overall organizational success. With the right technology, experience and strategic advisors, organizations can unlock the full potential of this innovative approach and position themselves for a future of efficiency, sustainability and resilience.

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