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How CAFM has transformed with the changing world


01/10/20 | Rebecca Drewett

FSI takes a look at the paradigm shifts of the last 30 years in an article for PFM.

For those outside of the facilities management industry, CAFM means little in terms of the impact it has had on their lives. The reality is very different. While many innovations in software are widely recognised for shaping and contributing to society, CAFM is often unheralded for its support of FM teams in their tireless pursuit to make workplaces run like clockwork, remain clean, comfortable and compliant, and provide a seamless experience for employees and visitors from entry to exit. It’s for these reasons that it remains the unsung software hero of the everyday.

From its humble beginnings during the Electronic Data Processing (EDP) era, to its present-day abundance of intelligent features, CAFM has grown to meet the developing problems of a changing world and create an altogether smarter way of working. Here, we take a deep dive into its inception and growth over the last 30 years.

The origins of CAFM

The digital origins of CAFM dates back to the 1980s. Or, if you look closely enough, you can identify its distant descendants way back in the 1960s if you consider space allocation and cost management’

But it’s the arrival of Microsoft operating systems in the 1990s where we started to see significant, rapid developments take place. CAFM’s initial calling was focused on space management; its appeal coming from ensuring companies could determine the ROI of every square metre. With every inch plotted, management could calculate how much revenue they would need to generate to cover these costs.

While its growth was driven by financial motivations, many further benefits kept companies investing into more comprehensive CAFM solutions. FSI’s Concept 300 was one of the first pieces of software to be developed on Microsoft’s platform, and transformed the early textbased iterations of CAFM and re-aligned them with the modern capabilities of Windows.

Before CAFM was created, the facilities management industry was laden with manual processes. Everything was timeconsuming, recorded in a book, on paper or on a T-Card System (which remarkably still exists today). This consisted of a physical chart placed on a wall, containing cards that stated when an asset would be maintained – it would be checked and ticked off manually as each task was completed.

This formed the basis for these computerised systems, where the T-Card System was brought on-screen. The ‘system’ would be self-contained on the database, and if you wished to share it with another team member, you would have to physically connect the two machines with a cable to share the information.

While CAFM had space management covered, CMMS was the up-and-comer in the maintenance side of things. Eventually, CAFM would incorporate all features that a CMMS boasted, becoming a comprehensive, rounded space management and maintenance solution.

6 factors that have stimulated CAFM’s growth


Manual systems prior to CAFM proved very primitive and logistically challenging. A key driver for more digitised systems was the globalisation of companies with aspirations of increased efficiency and supporting greater asset volumes. The globalisation of businesses meant a renewed need to cope with scale and expansion, and subsequently created a need for standardisation. It was a time for innovation, and as companies became global, this was a key driving force for CAFM’s growth.

While there are varied motives for introducing CAFM, the underlying purpose is usually to cut costs. Globalisation and business growth forced businesses to re-evaluate their manual processes and adjust these to ensure hundreds of thousands of assets were maintained and compliant. Holding paper records wasn’t just inconvenient – it would cost them significantly more time, money and physical storage.


Times of financial uncertainty have actually pushed the need for and growth of CAFM systems significantly. In these times, businesses want to get the most out of their existing assets, be it their staff, physical assets, or properties. Because this is exactly what CAFM is designed to do, its presence became increasingly prominent during recessions. Not only does CAFM help optimise the efficiency of people, processes and assets, but it enables companies to make substantial savings.

Going mobile

The panic over ‘big brother’ and being watched has been and gone. Nowadays it’s commonplace for practically everyone in modern societies to own a mobile phone. The need for on-the-go in facilities management means mobility is now a necessity. The benefits of being able to react in real-time from a digital device far outweigh the risks of old Orwellian misconceptions. FSI GO, the mobile CAFM solution, was developed back in 2013 to empower engineers to do their jobs more effectively. Prior to this, the technology wasn’t geared to accommodate a mobile solution, and demand simply wasn’t there.

Changing perceptions

CAFM has helped to elevate the FM industry as a whole, making it a more accessible, understandable profession. Teams once hidden away in the back office are now sitting with MDs talking strategically about cost efficiencies and savings across their facilities.


CAFM has shifted FM industry mindsets away from asset-centred, hard service perspectives. Now, as workplaces focus more on people and providing a positive end-user experience, CAFM has led the way in both soft and hard service provisions. FM providers are able to validate their high level of service with data when pitching for new work. Historically, this would have predominantly focused on finance and time. Today they can incorporate end-user satisfaction or the average time it took them to escalate a problem from a self-service employee app. CAFM is now used as much to support recruitment and retention as it is for asset maintenance and budget management.

Need for agility

Businesses are no longer working to 9-to-5 anymore, and as they evolve FM needs to evolve alongside them. We’re at a time when the industry is changing significantly, and the need to be proactive and reactive is equally as important as planning ahead. The types of buildings being maintained will be different. End-user expectations are rising. Rules and regulations are affecting how FM operates. Teams need to adapt to survive, and that’s why CAFM continues to take the spotlight.

What does the future hold for CAFM?

The world has always moved at pace, but the last 30 years has seen technology drive demand for faster, smarter and more automated delivery. FSI is proud to have helped innovate CAFM during this time of acceleration and to provide a benchmarked solution for Space and Workplace Management Solutions for the CAFM/IWMS market (Source: Independent research firm Verdantix).

The near future is as much focused on IoT and mobile as it is on the transition to smart evolution. CAFM systems such as Concept Evolution will be working to offer recommendations, trends and advice to FM professionals based on real-time and historical data. This will help teams make high-level, informed business decisions.

In the past CAFM has been very much about teams prompting the system for information – the future is about systems working proactively for you. Even for something as simple as logging a call, CAFM systems should evolve to advise you on how best to escalate that issue based on past experiences.

As companies change and priorities shift, CAFM needs to be agile enough to accommodate them. FM service is ever-changing; it’s not 9-5 anymore. FM is having to react to a changing environment, and CAFM is the only solution. For 30 years FSI have focused on the very core of what drives the FM industry, and innovating in areas that add real value for service providers and owner/occupiers. CAFM has transformed the way the world works and businesses operate; what we have seen from Concept Evolution and similar software is just the beginning.