Could Analytics Alter an Industry?

By Graham Perry

MSc, Director @Datore

As I started to put this presentation and article together, I thought to myself this was a very lofty claim! Considering that the Facilities Management industry is widely recognised as a people driven industry and is always sceptical when anyone talks about technology and its possibilities to alter the status quo.

Then I thought, but as well as being a people industry, it is also a service industry, a risk industry and an industry that survives on exceptionally tight margins. It is in these areas where analytics can really excel, through analysing and informing it becomes possible to reduce risks, inform service levels and improve efficiencies. So perhaps not such a lofty claim after all.

Our industry is at an inflexion point, this has been pointed out by many industry analysts and comes across loud and clear both in the iFM 2019 Trends and Opportunities Report as well as interviews with sector leaders. This inflection is driven by customer demands, procurement processes and technology advancements and some industry commentators believe you will either take advantage of this to alter your supply models or run the risk of being left behind.

So how do you take advantage of the situation, whilst continuing to provide quality services, and be done at an acceptable cost. Right now, the industry focus seems to be on individual client specific solutions with a shared risk on associated costs. This works well to address specific challenges but does not move the industry forward at pace and just reinforces that we continue to lag behind the advances that our customers are making within their own businesses. We continue to be a commodity supplier rather than a strategic insight partner.

So how can analytics help the industry to elevate from this ‘race to the bottom’? The simple answer is by providing the answers to questions that deliver insights, reduce risks, increase performance and improve peoples lives. The questions that we as an industry should be asking on behalf of our clients every day, but the questions that we just seem to fail to be able to articulate. Either we do not know what we should be asking or we don’t seem to understand where to find the answers.

It is only through this kind of insight that we elevate to the levels of strategic built environment advisory, allowing the industry to alter its service models and advise clients instead of working for them.

So, can this be achieved with broader client engagement and at a justifiable cost? More specifically can it be achieved without employing an army of data experts, administrators, analysts and developers; whilst purchasing a variety of software, cloud hosting services and configuration skills. The simple answer here is yes!

Technology has advanced to such a level that it is now very simple to connect multiple databases to access turn complex data into knowledge. To transition and prepare this data for analytical use, as well as to construct advanced queries and reporting dashboards without a technical developer background. This enables the delivery of insight to be achieved through natural language interfaces like Skype and Amazon Echo, whilst machine learning advancement continues to analyse data for insight and anomaly detection without the need for human intervention. All of this can be achieved for less than the salary of a project manager, whilst providing the opportunity to increase revenues, customer satisfaction levels and operational efficiencies.

Which leads us quiet nicely to our final question, why are more FM organisations not taking advantage of these tools to inform their clients? This is probably one of the most interesting questions and it largely breaks down to the fact that these projects are being managed by the IT department rather than viewing it as a customer engagement and improvement opportunity. From an IT perspective analytics is an ever-evolving arena and because of this it becomes a significant investigation and investment into technology, infrastructure and manpower. It also means they are great subject matter experts in IT, not converting data insights into knowledge.  Knowledge your organisation can use to leverage customer experience.

Add to this the confusion that the technology industry creates around data capture, data storage, data transformation, security, cloud, data warehousing, data lakes, visualisation tools, analytical tools, machine learning, artificial intelligence, natural language, etc. It quickly becomes clear that viewing this as a customer centric engagement opportunity, with a fast route to market and even faster Return On Investment; will always treated with scepticism and trepidation.

This should not be the case, especially if you view analytics as just another tool in the FM armoury to effect positive change. Just like developing a new mobile app or introducing a new CAFM system. Analytics retains the opportunity to elevate the entire industry to advisor, rather than supplier and as such does hold the possibility of changing the industry fundamentals.

To do this all we need to do is to start asking the right questions, the ones that our clients are not yet asking, but we as experts should be able to articulate. When we have those questions, it becomes relatively easy and relatively cheap to answer them and to differentiate the FM value proposition.

So how Easy can it be?

It’s happening, It’s Affordable and it could change an industry!

Contact us to do a proof of concept in 90 minutes on your data and see how easy it is to get from data to dashboard and make a start.

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