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The way that commerce building environment systems are controlled are starting to be more directly focused online. Heating & air, ventilation, lighting, security and other functions associated with commercial properties will all interact with central servers in the very near future.Systems currently being utilized to identify building needs such as temperature adjustments and service orders will start to facilitate auto-response generated data and provide a better look at individual business performance.Many of these software upgrades are a long way off, but it asks the question, what type of skills will facility managers need in the future? What skill set and education will need to be picked up in order to interact with automated facility management software.

According to Rogier Roelvink, a Melbourne-based associate director of built environment professional services provider Turner & Townsend, a critical area of opportunity revolves around not so much gaining new data but rather in learning how to make better use of existing data which is already being generated through facilities management systems.

Plotting data on a software’s timeline using infrequent intervals may infer a pattern which was close to normal and even close to optimal. With closer examination of the data at frequent intervals of 60 seconds or less, it may be revealed that the machine could be switching itself on and off, providing substantial savings on utility cost and maintenance. Other areas of opportunity revolve around growing levels of expectations on the younger workers in relation to their work environment. Facility managers will start to move more rapidly away from a tangible focus of asset management and toward a more strategic focus of facilitating and even delivering an environment where employees will want to come in and work. Facilities managers are able to make greater use of the provided data in order to quantify the investment in FM-related areas. They may be able to put forward a more compelling business case for investments they deem necessary in order to elevate the level of their functionality and strategic development.

In terms of skills, facility managers will need to broaden their levels of knowledge in an increasingly digitally driven environment. The ability to provide an analysis of data generated by the built environment will also be a necessary skill of a facilities manager. They will need to compliment traditional expertise with broader skills in areas such as data analysis, accounting, law and marketing. This skills will need to start being included in standard FM training.

Steve Brant, general manager of the Australian and New Zealand operations of AEC project management software outfit Aconnex, says the emphasis of FM will shift away from urgent repairs as sensors from the building management system become increasingly integrated with the systems of suppliers and the need for repair of specified parts increasingly triggers automated responses at supplier warehouses.

There will also be less need to conduct exploratory activities, like removing sections of walls unnecessarily when conducting repairs and maintenance as sensors will learn to interact with programs on smartphones and tablets to alert the facilities manager about exactly what is going and where it may be stemming from.

In an iconic retail outlet in Sydney for example, a budget of around $1.5 million which was allocated for a specific area of maintenance was completely blown on survey work after building management was unable to locate the cause of the problem. In a similar situation in the digital built environment, Brant says, the facilities manager would be able to pinpoint the precise location of pipes and other services using a BIM model on his or her tablet or smartphone along with sensors within the wall itself.

In terms of new skill sets some expect new technology to be able to be easily understood by existing people within the field to offset training costs.

Facility managers going forward will need to have a clear understanding about the biometrics of the workplace and how to communicate it at an executive level. Facilities managers will need to go beyond ensuring that cleaners and contractors arrive as expected also fully integrate themselves in the technologies of the buildings data.

People employed at this position who used to run large operational businesses (to run FM) will need to be reflective of the assets of the portfolio in which they run. They are going to need tools that are able to make value out of the data that is created from these systems, processes and biometrics and turn it into something that is reportable, which is a generally higher level of skills that is currently being used in the facilities management job description.

The internet use of this software will have a significant impact on the facilities management outlook going forward. Those that can grasp the opportunities which it offers should see the corporate value of their role grow exponentially.