Guest Column | July 18, 2017

Digital Transformation For Facilities Management

By Gerard O'Keeffe, CEO and Co-Founder of GeoPal

Digital transformation

Digital transformation may be all the rage at the moment, but it comes with a multitude of questions and challenges of its own. We believe that Digital Transformation can be achieved by making People, Processes and Technology work together.

Key definitions

To put it simply, digital transformation is the use of technology to radically improve the performance of enterprises.

As for Facilities Management (FM), it is a multidisciplinary field devoted to the proper operation of all aspects of buildings including: Security, Cleaning, Landscaping, Health and Safety, Fire Safety, Maintenance, Testing & Inspection and Asset Management. It is mostly associated with the administration of office blocks, shopping complexes, arenas, schools, convention centres, hospitals and hotels.

Outstanding challenges in Facilities Management

Now that we have defined these two key concepts, let’s see what are the typical challenges that FM companies are often faced with and how those can be tackled through Digital Transformation:

  • FM enterprises are under pressure to reduce costs and add value to the core business of their client organizations, typically the building owner or developer.
  • They need to achieve continuous operational efficiency improvement through service and technological innovation.
  • FM enterprises are required to manage many safety related issues. Failure to do so may lead to injury, loss of business, prosecution and insurance claims.
  • There is a need for service delivery consistency by ensuring each service team member performs to the same standard and follows the same processes.
  • Client organizations demand Proof of: Service Delivery, Attendance and Health and Safety compliance via regular reports.

Now that we have the most common challenges nailed down and even before any possible solutions are suggested, FM companies would have to decide what their KPIs are. To quote H. Harrington:

Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it. (1)

Depending on their most pressing needs, here is a snapshot of the top KPIs used by Facilities Management companies:

  • Gross Facilities Management Costs per ft² of Gross Floor Area (GFA)
  • Operational Costs per ft² of GFA
  • Capital Costs per ft² of GFA
  • % Churn Rate of Customers
  • Number of End User Complaints

Assuming these top KPIs are being measured on a regular, consistent, basis it is possible to benchmark the results against a peer group.

Going back to the initial challenges that we had identified and now armed with benchmarking, we can start tackling each of them individually.

Goal: Service Excellence Consistency. KPI: % Churn Rate of Customers

Service excellence is a key driver of customer retention and increased profitability.

Managers need to ensure that each service team member is performing to the same standard and following the same processes. Compliance in this regard has become much more feasible through technology, in particular by using mobile workflow apps. These intuitive mobile apps guide service teams through the elements of a service visit workflow, ensuring consistency each time.

Goal: Increased Profitability KPI: Operational Costs per ft² of GFA

So mobile apps can ensure process compliance, which will lead to consistent service delivery, but how do you increase operational efficiency – getting more productivity from your service teams? This is where the Internet of Things and real-time intelligence relating to your business comes in.

Many service tasks and inspections are driven by fixed rotas. Cleaning, security and maintenance tasks are most often done in a pre-planned way based on standard time intervals. The challenge is to drive your service business dynamically, based on need rather than on fixed time intervals.

Internet of Things sensors placed on the assets being serviced or monitored provide this real-time data on the condition and performance of assets, be they mechanical or electrical equipment, buildings, facilities or environmental spaces.

IoT deployment also allows for a proactive service model to be put in place, which can increase asset availability by up to 19% and by extending an asset’s lifetime, it will reduce its lifetime cost.

Goal: Increased Profitability KPI: Capital Costs per ft² of GFA

Another real world example of digital efficiency comes from measuring average hours per work order. Management can see which individuals and which teams are performing best. With greater accountability and additional focussed training, we have seen average labour hours per HVAC work order decrease from 4 hours to 3.2 hours, resulting in a 19% productivity gain.

Goal: Legal Compliance and Defensibility KPI: Number of End User Complaints

Personal Injury claims are a major cost for FM companies. Digital transformation can help in this regard. How? Mobile technology plays a major part in ensuring that all incidents are attended to within the agreed SLA and that all incident details are similarly recorded through on mobile, providing irrefutable proof of service. With reduced end user complaints comes a decrease in churn and incremental customer satisfaction.


Again, the essence of Digital Transformation is the convergence of three essential elements: People, Processes and Technology. Technology can and should be leveraged to deliver further transparency and accountability to people, and to ensure processes are streamlined and adhered to.