Digital transformation
  • 23 Jun.2021
  • 4 min read

Digital Divide in FM: How Facility management teams can fill up the Gap?

by Chanchal Chadha



It’s already 8:40 AM, you are 10 mins late to the office and you don’t have your car parked in your garage. 

What will you do?

You will probably book an Uber to the office?

But what if uber is not showing any cabs nearby? Will you wait for it or just take a conventional taxi and get a ride to the office?  

Although that detour sounds a little nostalgic in today’s WFH environment I am sure you would still take that taxi to reach the office. As we all would do the same. Why? Because reaching office asap is your priority and it does not matter how you reach there.    

This is one of the simplest examples of the “Jobs to be done theory”.

Clayton M. Christensen, A business consultant who developed the theory of “disruptive innovation” once said

“When we buy a product, we essentially ‘hire’ something to get a job done. If it does the job well, when we are confronted with the same job, we hire that same product again. And if the product does a crummy job, we ‘fire’ it and look around for something else we might hire to solve the problem.”

This is even more applicable to our professional life as every task or project we handle should make a positive impact on our organization. Every innovation should create value for our customers or stakeholders otherwise it does not make business sense to continue it just for the sake of it. 

When the discussion around innovation and digital transformation in FM is buzzing everywhere, some nasty revelation came across from the survey conducted by the property services specialist DMA Group. Although 68 percent of facilities management professionals felt confident knowing where smart tech could save money, time, and improve service delivery quality, Around 27 percent of respondents reported that their organization’s FM/property teams are unlocking the full advantages of smart technology in the business process automation.    

So it’s evident that there is a gap in understanding how technology can help a facility management professional to do his job efficiently. According to IWFM’s report ‘bridging facility management’s digital divide,’ that gap needs to be filled by improving the ‘digital literacy’   

Why is there a digital divide?

Facility Management is a people-centric business. Although hard services manage the buildings and run behind the show scene, it’s the soft services and customer relations that keep them moving. Just like any other conventional profession, FM professionals were habitual to managing facilities in a particular way as it has proven the right way to do business for a long time. 

But since the inception of Cloud services, changing perception towards comfort and environment FM would have to think upon issues they had never thought before. Not every facility management firm could adapt to this sudden shift in business perception leading to the digital divide.

Ways to improve digital literacy?

According to the Egyptian academician Maha Bali, Digital skills focus on the ‘what and how’ of the problem whereas digital literacy focuses on the ‘why, when, who, and for whom.’

Understanding how effectively a CAFM application can be used is important, having complete knowledge of what goes behind the digital twins is impressive, but knowing when it is suitable and feasible to my facility is real digital literacy. It can be learned and adopted by following a few simple steps. 

Questions you should ask before taking any digital initiative

  1. What value does that initiative create for us and to the people we’re doing it for?
  2. Has it been successfully implemented anywhere else?
  3. Are we doing it because it adds value or because we’ve always done it before?
  4. Is there any alternative to this initiative? Is there a better way to achieve expected outcomes?
  5. How other sectors (non FM) are perceiving this technology? 

These questions are necessary to be answered as they focus on the outcomes of the initiative. Such questions help in understanding users’ perspectives.

Facility managers are great at managing customer expectations, contract negotiation, Budgeting & administration work. But expecting them to understand critical asset-related issues or ways tenants are interacting with the building’s core functions (workplace data) could be too much to ask for. For that exact reason, there are technology firms that can identify and understand the problems which FMs are missing out on and needs that might be addressed through digital technologies.

How does a technology firm address the problem statement?

For a tech firm, solving a client’s problems is the only way to gain more business from that client, hence it comes naturally to them to master the art of framing the problem.

There are three components of that process,

A) Persona B) Journey mapping C) Jobs to be done.

Persona represents that stakeholder’s perspective of the situation, his expectations, needs, and ambitions. For Example, a Facility manager fits into different characteristics than the O&M head or Procurement lead. Journey mapping is the timestamp of his interactions with the different functions of the facility. It captures all the tasks he carries out on a typical day. In the end, when it comes to Jobs to be done, it is a clear understanding of the expected outcome from his activities and what needs to be done to achieve it.      

So before implementing any application FM team should ensure that who is going to use that application? How will he interact with it and how will it ease out his work? Fortunately, digital partners can take up that work from FM teams.  

Digital partners can collaborate with FMs to find out such niche areas where they can offer unique solutions to their clients and create a business case around it. Digital technology companies can offer fresh insights and practices from their understanding of the problems and use cases across the sector. By applying agile project management skills they can come up with a Minimum viable product (MVP) to solve that particular problem and then scale.

Technology partnerships can be a smarter and cost-effective way for progressive FMs to understand which technology is suitable for them, how to leverage it into their existing stack, and gain a competitive edge in the market. 

Has your FM team ever applied JTBD theory to come up with innovative solutions?If yes, share your experience with us here.  

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