The coming of age of the information based society is having profound effect on FM, changing the way we perceive ourselves, how we go about our mission, and how our contribution is valued by others. FM must recognize these fundamental shifts and invest appropriately to position itself as a key contributor to the evolving workplace and by extension society in general.
A Cohesion of Information Technologies
A symphony of new and maturing technologies now interact to make information more available. This convergence of capabilities presents opportunities that extend from nuanced leveraging for those in the forefront to a more pronounced leap for those who have not yet adopted information exploitation as a strategy.
Gartner coined the phrase “Nexus of Forces” to describe the parallel emergence of multiple information channels and value assets. Their definition includes mobile computing, cloud computing, big data and analytics, and social media. While this may be an IT-centric term it is one that FM’s should be aware of and adopting. The IT-FM merge is well documented and understood; certainly it needs no explanation to any FM who is dependent upon IT systems for information and performance of even basic FM duties. Whether you are coordinating conference room reservations and services, managing work flow, or optimizing building performance you are dependent upon information systems that communicate and integrate in seamless fashion.
Add to this the “Internet of Everything” in which machines communicate directly with other machines and systems. I receive an automatic calendar invite for my car’s next oil change when needed. How does that happen? The onboard computer monitors the oil condition based on engine analytics and notifies a central database when the oil life hits 15% remaining. The database then predicts the 5% remaining date and coordinates with another database which houses my appointment preferences, resulting in a calendar invite being sent to me automatically. The first human interaction in this process occurs when I smile and thank the arrival attendant for the cup of hot coffee at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning. By 2020 an estimated fifty billion (yes, 50 Billion) intelligent devices will be linked together, sharing information. In the FM domain this relates to streamlining service and supply chains, improved work flow efficiency, designs based on evidence and analytics, and increased value proposition to the organizations we serve.
Nancy Johnson Sanquist, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Manhattan Software refers to this amalgam of information as the “era of radical connectedness.” It is important that FM’s realize this era is upon us and that inclusion by participation is an imperative.
FM’s Mission: Innovate, Adopt, Adapt
Along with increased information comes a need to improve agility and nimbleness. All of the business intelligence in the world is useless if you cannot take advantage of it in time. Today’s business norm is characterized by my favorite new (to me) acronym, “VUCA,” which stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. That certainly describes my workplace and I suspect yours as well. It is the new business norm. In this environment the ability to quickly understand what is happening, what it means and the range of possible outcomes; and to derive from that appropriate strategies and responses is a core capability.
Gone are the days when FM can operate in a silo focused on transactional excellence. Today’s business environment demands innovation that crosses traditional boundaries. To be successful in this we must function as thought leaders for our organizations and build relationships based in value and benefit.
The key issue is FM’s ability to collect, curate, understand and leverage data. Big data, data from and about virtually everything we do. We need to collect it from others as well, integrate it with our own and share the improved operational intelligence it provides. To do this FM must include data management and analysis as a core competency. Data skillsets should reside inside the FM organization so they are not at risk of being diluted in their FM effort and so they become a true part of the profession, not merely bolt on “accountants” who do not understand the challenges we face or the nuances and opportunity the data illuminates.
Agility and nimbleness are more than just being data savvy. They are derived from mindsets, values and strategies; and dependent upon capability and capacity. They afford us the option to pivot quickly and take advantage of opportunities should we so desire. They are the opposite of “analysis paralysis” and are triggered rather by rapid realization of opportunities based on understanding empirical evidence and the presence of an existing capacity with which to respond. This agility is fundamental to any organization that intends to innovate.
Next week: A look at how traditional organizational roles are blurring and specific actions FM can take to successfully navigate today’s business environment.