New technologies and disruptions are affecting the way many companies conduct their business. With these changes shaking up the way companies use their real estate, developing new strategies and capabilities is paramount to facilities management (FM) teams. The Middle East FM sector is undergoing a massive digital transformation. And making the shift to “digital FM” means automating FM business processes. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there has been a tremendous progression towards a new and improved method of accelerating the stages of digital transformation. Using state-of-the-art technology to cater to the knowledge-hungry economy has enabled the FM industry to truly raise its game when it comes to service delivery and their overall standards.
One can already witness next-generation technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are providing us with actionable insights, which result in higher operational efficiency and environmental sustainability levels. In the last few years, experts do believe that they have seen the adoption of smart tools due to their numerous benefits.
The recent pandemic compelled multinational organizations and the resulting corporate momentum to find new ways to serve their customers and communities, driving them closer to automation. Youcef Betraoui, CEO, Land Sterling, says that the digital transition involves different aspects for different enterprises. “It is a progressive redesign about the usage of technologies, people, and protocols by a company to radicalize market efficiency. Technologies that had already been in motion are now being put to good use, AI, for example, is used in evaluating the virus spread data and identifying ways to minimize the spread. Almost all industry sectors are doing business with an inspiring narrative of a radical framework that integrates robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) into their enterprise and workplaces. Previously, the primary target of automation was turbo load efficiency, as other significant advantages of automation emerge. The pandemic has changed the dynamic, particularly in community management structures where human participation is jeopardized due to the virus,” he added.
When we look into the Saudi market, Mohammed Mousa, COO of FM, at Initial Saudi Group, observes that many clients are increasingly favouring integrated and bundled FM services. “Just as everywhere else, this has meant that we increasingly depend on technology to provide access to real-time data and information, much easier 24/7 communications with projects, clients, and contractors and ultimately to increase the quality of services we provide,” he added.
In more specific terms, technology has driven some major changes to the way the FM sector operates, particularly with the industry-wide adoption of CAFM and IoT systems monitored with sets of KPIs and SLAs. “At ISG we believe that technology sits at the heart of any IFM company and this is why over the last three years we have invested heavily in the implementation of world-class technology initiatives,” said Mousa.
Giving a supplier point of view, Glyn Yates, Regional Lead, Middle East, Shepard, in a recent webinar says that the last year did witness an acceleration in the adoption of technology, however, whether it was due to the COVID-19 pandemic or just an increased rate of awareness is something one cannot pin-point it. “Having said that, it is also important to note the kind of value that digital transformation has had on the entire value-chain of FM and driven better standards in the region on the whole,” he added.
The Kingdom is certainly catching up and seeing an influx of options available for service providers. “And one of the key drivers for this is the kind of smart projects and developments coming up in the region,” said Yates.
There have been a lot of key drivers that have led to this change, and a key driver is client behavior itself. With a majority of the clients moving towards outsourcing more of their services are being compared to the trend before COVID-19. “This has created a new challenge for the service providers as they try to meet the KPIs and SLAs given by the client,” said Mousa.
Another key factor is in sync with Saudi Vision 2030. The country is adhering to more sustainable practices and moving towards a greener economy. “This trend is bound to create a shift in the FM market, with services such as energy management being increasingly offered. This has also pushed many service providers to incorporate more technology and innovation into their current FM practices,” explained Mousa.
Technology is no longer purely the domain of major organizations, with ranges of solutions to suit all budgets, from cloud-based entry-level systems, to complete bespoke IT infrastructures.
“Facility Management's economic connotation is to relieve building tenants of issues that are not directly linked to their primary business. By fusing the consistency of available installations with efficient cost management, FM boosts the productivity of the company that uses the building and enhances the employees' job effectiveness,” said Betraoui.
Top technologies that are facilitating the digital transformation of facilities management:
According to economic projections, the next couple of years will be critical for the Facility Management industry. With the growth and proliferation of FM services, innovations based on new market models and digitization will be vital to advancement. According to business analysts, the FM industry is projected to hit USD 945.11 billion by 2025, with integrated facility management being the fastest-growing market (IFM).
“AI-powered consumer experience systems can immediately detect content and knowledge disparities in a community. Based on the cumulative data, a malfunction of a particular device can be predicted by the system to specify a location that needs to be modified to save even more energy and time. AI also facilitates automated engagement with building tenants to a significant degree and promotes a vibrant online community. The FM sector has jumped on board with the mobile media trend as well. Inspectors, technicians, and facility managers can carry their operating systems in the palm of their hands anywhere their job takes them for a software solution that can be found on mobile devices. The transition calls for integration about the whole business organization, including investment, strategies, analysis, benchmarks, and an implementation direction,” said Betraoui.
It is very hard to predict what pieces of technology will have the biggest impact on the industry here going forward because everything moves so fast, but looking elsewhere in the world we can probably make a few educated guesses. But what experts can point out is the best way one can begin your digital journey.
Betraoui explained that a good place to start is to discuss the framework, costs, and future benefits of digitalization, as well as how it can help your business achieve its goals. “You may also work with a service provider that has the resources, technologies, and skills you need. It will also be a huge advantage to have tech-savvy employees who can think ahead and lead the way. These steps require a dramatic change in the way FM is traditionally viewed. It’s time to realize, changes that we could never have predicted became our reality. The world digitalized in the blink of an eye, so it is not just technology that is transforming anymore, we are too!” he summed up.