An ever-expanding tech sector, the Internet of Things, even smarter buildings, and heightened security concerns brought major transformations to the commercial real estate industry in 2017. Many of the facility management trends that we watched take shape last year are here to stay and are changing how we work.
Reinvented, flexible workplace design will force facility managers and property developers to invest in technologies that can help better manage constantly shifting office layouts where assigned seats are a thing of the past. Commercial properties are faced with greater security risks and being able to know who is in your building and where at all times will be critical.
As we begin our journey into 2018 here, are some factors that we suspect will drive the real estate industry in 2018, causing leaders to improve or even overhaul current processes or technologies to keep up with shift.
New Work Environments.
Fully open office spaces are now a thing of the past, along with cubicle farms. These changes are driven by new studies done on what types of work spaces spur collaboration and efficiency vs. what work environments hinder employee productivity. For now, a version of the open office plan is still the winner, but additions for small-group collaboration, smaller private rooms for thinking (not meeting) and hoteling are helping to detract from what are now the obvious pitfalls of large spaces with no walls. Last year, major companies uprooted their headquarters that they have called home for years to new locations that can offer the innovative work environments, and cities like Boston, to attract and retain top talent. Perks are still important, especially for established companies trying to compete with startups for talent, with some companies going the extra mile in terms of office design by including full gyms with free work out classes for their employees.
These changes bring challenges for property managers who are trying to manage these different spaces within a company. From being able to reserve conference rooms with a click of a mouse, to knowing which desks are occupied or empty, facility management strategies and technology will have to adjust just as the facilities have transformed.
Data and Metrics.
Most facility and portfolio leaders like to say they are relying on data, rather than their guts, to make decisions, but most still aren’t using the operational data that facilities produce to drive smarter, faster decisions within the organization. In 2018, my hope is that teams bring it back to the basics, focusing on KPIs that map to specific goals they have to meet, whether that be to improve tenant retention or to increase response times to work orders. No matter the goal, these key metrics that organizations are now focused on help make more informed decisions on how to better run facility operations.
It sounds simple, but developing clear goals and using the technology at hand to to manage organizations proactively and by exception rather than constantly dealing with blind spots or spending hours sorting through data to figure out where to focus. These goals help collect the data you should be measuring rather than all the data you could be measuring.
Unfortunately, a 2017 trend that continues to live on is the threat of security within buildings and offices. These concerns cover not only the physical security of your building but also the security of your data and IT infrastructure. Even though facility or operations teams usually are not solely responsible for the development of security programs, they are on hook for implementing processes to protect their facility and occupants in it. A comprehensive security strategy should cover:
- Employees – How do you manage a potential disgruntled or terminated employee and prevent them from entering the building if they are a potential threat? Once any employee is terminated from a company you should keep a record in your visitor management system that notes that they are no longer an employee. You should also have a process that denies access to any terminated employee who show signs of being disgruntled. Coordinating with security is key to protecting your building from employees that may want to cause harm.
- Threats of Violence – Today these threats can be seen around the world. The facility side of the house must work with security – whether in house or contracted – to prevent activity that could cause harm to their facility or its occupants. Many buildings now have barriers that are designed to prevent these attacks from happening, but there should also be an emergency response plan that security and facilities creates collaboratively (and practices) in case the worst-case scenario happens.
- Data Security – Since the TJX breach a few years ago, we’ve probably seen at least one major breech a week (and that’s a low estimate). Smart building technology is powerful, but it also presents risks. IT teams should know exactly what software, hardware and apps are being used, and what each vendor’s security processes and protocols are upfront.
Consistent training and practice when it comes to security is what makes the difference. A finalized emergency response plan hidden in a shared drive means nothing when an actual emergency happens. Breeches and hacks caused by vendors with loose security protocols are preventable.
If most of your teams and vendors aren’t relying on mobile to complete work orders, inspections and preventive maintenance, make this the year to make the switch. It still surprises me how many properties still rely on paper – in some way or another – to do the facility management basics. Moving to mobile makes faster response times, more accurate data and preventive maintenance that’s more likely to actually get done. Now with Smart Building technology and mobile combined, teams can go one step further, for example, the closest building engineer getting a notification that a certain floor dropped below the desired temperature before a tenant complains or a building round finds the problem. Mobile is now the foundation for the next generation of solutions that will make us more aware of what’s happening in the building.
If 2018 is anything like last year, we’ll see technology in the driver’s seat. Rather than trying to have an application or smart device for everything, the focus will hopefully shift to tying technology purchasing to the goals that teams want to achieve. That means smarter decision making and elevating facility or property management overall.