2021 tech trends in facilities management

Manual processes, on-site visits for checkups and repairs, paper documentation, and spreadsheets have worked for many facilities management (FM) teams for decades, but the shift to streamlined processes powered by technology accelerated massively this year.

In March 2021, JLL commissioned Forrester Consulting to survey decision-makers who influence facilities and/or corporate real estate decisions within their organizations. According to the study:

  • 87% expect to invest in facilities and/or real estate management technology to help ensure the health and safety of employees and visitors
  • 59% expect to increase investments in workplace technologies to improve the efficiency of their facilities operations
  • In the next six months
    • 42% plan to invest in occupancy sensors and analytics
    • 36% plan to invest in touchless/contactless technologies
    • 31% plan to invest in asset management software
    • 26% plan to invest in maintenance software (64% have already invested)

What’s accelerating technology adoption?

Just about everything in the workplace is changing. Even how people use the workplace will look very different than before the pandemic. Collaborative and social spaces will see increased activity and need more frequent cleaning. Individual workstations will be spaced out and reserved in advance. Employees will be screened before they enter the building. Assets, systems, processes, team members, and service providers will cycle between dormant and overdrive as offices re-open (and potentially close and re-open again). FM teams need the technology to quickly adapt to these changing conditions in order to survive and thrive.

The FM technologies of 2021

Building IoT

“IoT” refers to physical devices and sensors that connect with other devices and systems via the internet, allowing you to monitor and control them from anywhere. FM professionals are investing in smart, automated devices that monitor almost everything: occupancy, HVAC, lighting, doors, water quality, air quality, cleaning, etc. Sensors, which generate data in real time or nearly real time, facilitate a dynamic maintenance model, instead of a “set and forget” approach. Equipment that’s used inconsistently will operate less predictably, so relying on human observation—visiting sites monthly, quarterly, or annually and manually entering and sharing data—is no longer sustainable.

Though costly, your initial investment in IoT sensors will ensure smooth operations and could pay for itself many times over, depending on your specific implementation.

Data, analytics, and business intelligence (BI)

These IoT devices will generate an abundance of valuable data. You can know how long a room was occupied, how many people were in it, what the ambient temperature was, and even if the occupants were social distancing. Anything you measure can trigger an activity. Those measurements can then be aggregated, analyzed, and used to inform strategic decisions.

A business intelligence (BI) platform—ideally, one built specifically for CRE—brings all your FM data together, in a single view. That data, integrated with your FM systems, allows your team to use insights to take immediate action. And as historical data accumulates, the BI platform will begin to offer predictive actions you can take to save time and money.

Mobile apps

Though mobile technology is hardly new, the apps associated with facilities management technologies save more time today than they did just a few years ago. A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) with a mobile app for technicians not only allows them to service an asset without any paperwork but to also record associated photos and provide proof of their service. The amount of tedious paperwork and miscommunication this resolves is game-changing.

A CMMS connected to a hybrid workplace app allows employees to quickly submit a service request or report a problem, track progress, and more—from their phones, wherever they are. Empowering technicians and staff to be reachable and process work orders in the field or on-site means no time is lost waiting on emails or faxes to go through. Work is performed faster, and employees are more satisfied.

The FM industry is changing, and to adapt and survive in 2021, you need IoT, BI, and mobile apps. Want a guide for entering this new age of tech? Download the Facilities management has entered the IoT era white paper.