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Opportunities continuing to appear for increased CAFM usage

Facilities Management

10/05/21 | Rebecca Drewett

FSI European Sales Manager, Jon Clark, answers PFM's question of whether the market has reached saturation point for the use of CAFM systems or if scope for expansion still exists.

When reporting on the FM industry, it is all too easy to look at emerging and ongoing trends and assume that rises in attention levels and popularity mean that these will apply to the overall majority of FMs and service providers.

Following the application of more effort in engaging with independent FMs, however, it can often be seen to be the case that everyone will engage with these at all levels of the spectrum. While some will be fully engaged and up to date with all developments, others may be completely unaware and even express the response that they have no intention of making any changes in the near or even distant future.

This is one of the main reasons that PFM revived the activities of its highly-valued Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) five years ago and continues to engage with members on a regular basis, with discussion points and comments used to direct the magazine’s editorial content. Discussions with the EAB on the subject of technology have provided a wide range of topics, one of the most relevant of which is the use of CAFM and similar systems.

Many FMs and service providers regard these as de rigueur and an intrinsic part of the efficient running of facilities and estates. Additional confirmation of this was provided during our recent webinar discussing how the pandemic and reaction to it will continue to shape workplaces in the future.

One of the main messages to emerge from the webinar was the importance of the effective use of data to ensure that workplaces continued to be run and organised in the best way for the company and its employees. This could be achieved through the gathering of information – typically through the CAFM system – to ensure that requirements such as social distancing and improved working practices are adhered to and that efficiencies are also delivered where applicable.

Another point to consider is the effect that the pandemic has had on the FM sector, with several suppliers of technology reporting that they have seen demand increase throughout 2020 and the first few months of this year. Much support has been provided for the statement that the Coronavirus pandemic has proved to be an accelerator or enabler in many instances and increased or improved use of technology seems to be supported by this point of view.

While CAFM and other complementary types of technology are considered the best means for the gathering and analysis of data in the most effective manner, conversations with industry experts indicate that the use of traditional, paper-based methods - such as spreadsheets and similar - continue to be used by a sizeable percentage of the market. It is assumed that those included in the latter are reducing in number, but there is little concrete evidence to support these expectations.

FSI sales manager Jon Clark provides his thoughts on whether opportunities are continuing to emerge for new users of CAFM systems to engage with this type of technological application. He says that “teams are always going to need the rigour of management, visibility of spend and optimisation of efficiencies, and as long as there are organisations still operating from a spreadsheet – which there are plenty of – there will always be a demand for CAFM systems to be put into place.

“Fundamentally, what we look after is properties, assets and people. Whether teams are back in the office full-time or working in hybrid models, buildings and assets still need to be maintained,” Mr Clark continues.

Space management, people management and the delivery of services with external contractors are all areas that CAFM helps manage, he states. And with a heightened focus on social distancing and forward planning, this technology has never been more integral.

“We’ve seen many big firms make the switch from traditional methods to CAFM over the past year, and the pandemic has been a catalyst for this. Likewise, those who had invested in a CAFM system some 10 years ago and left them sitting dormant or not utilising them effectively, have now engaged us to bring them in line with their growing needs.

“For many, there was this epiphany moment that if they want to see different results, they can’t keep doing things the way they’ve always done them. There is undoubtedly a greater hunger to work smarter, not harder.

“Harnessing technology such as CAFM for your estate and surrounding services is what companies need to start seeing growth, return on investment and, ultimately, vast improvement of the services they provide,” Mr Clark concludes.

Increasing appreciation of the benefits provided by CAFM and similar systems seems to be increasingly set to provide more options for Mr Clark and his peers to further improve their market share in the near future. Whether these opportunities emerge from existing users or those deciding to make the leap from the use of spreadsheets remains to be seen, of course, although Mr Clark’s experience indicates that both are equally possible.

Perhaps another area of consideration is provided by the fast-moving nature of the FM industry and its tendency to see service providers grow from small businesses to medium-sized operations, at which point they are then frequently seen to be purchased by or merged with larger companies. The resulting adoption of their new owner’s working practices will inevitably lead to the use of their systems, in the majority of cases, and provide more instances where the technology involved will need to be upgraded or adapted for use by more people.

Regardless of how the market develops, it seems highly likely that the increased use of CAFM systems will be seen throughout the FM sector. This will no doubt continue to encourage providers with the impelling incentive and drive to improve and further develop their systems to maintain their attraction and the momentum for change.

It is also regarded that the market will continue to display a genuine need for systems that will provide the opportunity for effective introduction of efficiencies that will include both added value and cost savings, as the FM sector continues to support clients in their drive to recover from the pandemic and return to profitable trading as soon as possible.