How facilities management is moving into the on-demand era

New digital platforms are coming to the fore in facilities management – and they’re set to shake up traditional ways of running a building

June 28, 2019

Building maintenance and repair services are getting a digital overhaul with the rise of on-demand platforms for hiring specialist help.

Businesses, increasingly accustomed to booking everything from catering to additional workspace as and when they need them, are now looking for the same instant access to maintenance and other workplace services.

A new generation of digital marketplaces like JLL’s FacilitiesFlex or WeWork’s Managed by Q are enabling in-house facilities managers to procure services of pre-vetted specialists from cleaning to and IT support and building security.

“Facilities management is becoming more complex as buildings’ operations get more complicated and require a growing range of specialist skills to keep them in good running order,” says Anindya Biswas, Digital Transformation Lead at JLL.

Rather than overseeing on-site teams or outsourcing, on-demand platforms offer a way for companies to fix issues as they arise. Individual employees, for example, can submit requests for services or repairs, while in coworking spaces, on-demand facilities management could be a streamlined means for companies leasing space to hire workers such as receptionists.

A new way of doing business

Traditionally, facilities management choices have been dictated by a company’s size. Whereas many larger organisations opt to outsource, the subscription fees can deter smaller businesses, says Biswas. With on-demand platforms, companies can pay per service without a subscription fee, or subscribe for premium amenities.

“For many companies, making the costs of facilities management more flexible and more accessible is a welcome change,” he says.

Plus, with more offices taking on flexible space, often in different buildings, today’s facilities managers increasingly need to organise operations across a company’s portfolio.

 “Digital marketplaces are simplifying existing ways of working as they act as the hub for all transactions. This offers a unified view of workplace processes and better control of operations, resulting in better control of the budget,” says Biswas.

They’re also helping companies to get the best people for the job, rather than just relying on long-standing relationships. One key feature is the visibility of information, according to Biswas: “The platform guarantees quality and compliance that the unorganised sector cannot deliver.”

Progress reports are instantly accessible, and businesses can view the fees and reviews of high-quality providers at once, rather than calling around for quotes.  

Servicing modern offices

As employee wellbeing and the ability to work flexible hours become increasingly important in the workplace, it’s driving a sea change in how businesses approach facilities management.

“There has been a significant shift in focus towards workplace wellbeing. Where facilities management was once driven by cost reduction, it’s now driven by how to improve the user experience,” says Biswas.

With workplace experience repeatedly shown to impact employee productivity, facilities management is becoming more focused on creating an optimal environment for people inside.   

 “The biggest benefit of these platforms will be the insights gathered from data on a building’s operations,” says Biswas. This is especially significant in smart buildings embedded with sensors to track such metrics as air quality, equipment condition and room occupancy.

Changing roles

As on-demand platforms streamline tasks such as hiring the best services and tracking progress, the responsibility of facilities managers is likely to expand.

“The analytics on on-demand platforms will allow facilities managers to think more strategically about how the building can operate better, rather than constantly reacting to crises such as repairs,” says Biswas.

For example, automated tracking of equipment service dates and condition would allow facilities managers to plan predictive maintenance, minimising downtime and lowering repair costs. They could also work more closely with HR on boosting employee engagement through insights into how well the building is operating.

For now, these on-demand platforms are in their infancy, but they could take over traditional management models as the sharing economy moves from being a disruptor to being the norm within real estate.  

“Smaller players will be the first to start adopting these on-demand services, because of the ease and flexibility,” Biswas says. “Eventually as the platforms become more widespread, larger organisations will follow suit.”   

And for facilities managers, taking care of micro-services at the touch of a button means they can stay focused on the bigger picture to keep buildings at their best.