When software ate the world and changed facilities management

Facilities manager with laptop calibrates equipment

In August 2011, Marc Andreessen, venture capitalist and co-founder of Netscape, wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal, “Why Software is Eating the World.”

The piece was a rallying cry and score card tracing software’s unstoppable arc as a disruptor and transformer of entire industries, among them transportation, retail, financial services, energy, education, and entertainment.

Andreessen’s essay title was accurate.

Amazon’s ecommerce technology devoured Borders’ brick-and-mortar world. Netflix’s streaming technology consumed Blockbuster and its loathsome late-charge business model. Disney had to buy Pixar, a software company, just to remain relevant in animated films—an industry Disney invented and dominated for nearly 80 years.

Software technology changed facilities management, too

Facilities management (FM) was a prime target for technology innovation. Software automation eliminated paper-based workflows and repetitive tasks. Data, benchmarks, and insights proved more reliable than opinions and anecdotes when addressing critical FM decisions, like whether to replace or repair essential equipment.

Looking ahead 10 years, Andreessen expected a “dramatic and broad technological and economic shift” where software would take over large swathes of the U.S. economy.

Today, there are a dozen technologies assisting facilities managers (FMs) and corporate real estate (CRE) professionals. The alphabet soup of abbreviations for these solutions is confusing even for practitioners: CMMS, IWMS, EAM, CAFM, BMS, FMIS, ERP, AOM, etc.

Nevertheless, these software solutions help FM and CRE pros better meet the responsibilities of their ever-expanding job roles. At the same time, software adds yet another expectation—and job requirement—for FMs to be technology conversant.

What Andreessen got right and wrong

Andreessen correctly foresaw the seismic shift toward technology, but he either missed or was just silent about the rise of “software as a service” (SaaS), which made the wholesale spread of technology possible.

Freed from the costs and clutter of purchasing and maintaining their own software assets, SaaS customers could focus instead on creating value. They bought the benefit the software delivers, not the assets.

SaaS software, now a standard in facilities management, makes FMs more productive by freeing them from the clutter of repetitive, time-consuming tasks. Reclaimed time can be used to focus on complex problems, which may be solved by advanced software features, like AI, BI, analytics, and insights.

In 2011, Andreessen could not have foreseen the looming generational shift in facilities management where 50% of existing FMs would retire between 2018 and 2026.

FM software will ease that disruption. FM teams are more productive today precisely because of innovative software enabling them to do more in less time, often with fewer resources.

Conclusion

Andreessen did get the essential part of technology right. Software ate slow-moving, technology-averse businesses and replaced them with ones that solved common problems more quickly, more cheaply, and with better user experiences. Think Uber, Amazon, Square, DoorDash, and many others.

Innovations in facilities management, whether for workflow efficiencies, sustainability, energy management, mobile apps, or integrations, are all software-based.

Perceptions of facilities management are shifting from cost center to value driver. Higher FM operational and financial performance, driven by software, benefits the entire company.

Next steps

To learn more about the impact of technology on facilities management, especially related to FM job roles, check out our new white paper, “Technology Advances Are Changing Facilities Management Roles.”