Facilities management of government buildings goes digital

Technology is the key to optimizing FM services

In an era of labor shortages, hybrid work environments and ever-changing regulatory standards, facilities management (FM) has become an increasingly complex endeavor. Facility managers are looking to technology to deliver visibility, collaboration and real-time data required to effectively manage facilities in the digital era. 

Federal, state and local government agencies are under particular pressure to optimize taxpayer dollars and to manage their facilities in ways that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, achieve regulatory compliance, and provide a safe, healthy environment for employees as they begin to return to the office after extended COVID-19 shut-downs. Yet many government agencies, which have been slower to return to office than the corporate sector, don’t have the tools to handle changing workplace demands. 

Technology is the key to optimizing FM services and strategies to prepare for future facility needs that could include automation and even data centers for the government sector. Consider four key areas where digital FM helps meet changing demands and optimizes building performance.

1. End-to-end digital services

Almost every FM function can be accomplished more efficiently using technology. From using sensors to detect burned-out light bulbs to workflows using an online platform that informs vendors when repairs are needed, technology automates and accelerates processes while providing greater transparency to all stakeholders. 

Operations can be further optimized with building usage and performance data that deliver actionable insights. For example, it’s possible to understand how and when your space is used or sitting empty, how different workplace strategies could improve utilization—and where excess space could be eliminated or repurposed. The consolidation and analysis of data from across properties enable meaningful decision-making.

2. Workplace productivity and retention

As labor shortages abound, it’s imperative that government agencies offer a competitive, attractive work environment in order to recruit and retain employees. An attractive workplace with flexibility and perks is essential to this new generation, and FM is the business function to fulfill this strategic advantage. 

The COVID-19 pandemic forever changed work habits and employee perspectives on everything from mental health to flexibility in the workplace to definitions of cleanliness. A recent JLL survey found that 63% of the workforce wants to keep the possibility to alternate between different places of work in the future.i

The future of work is characterized by hybrid workplaces, people-centric spaces and access to locations and services that support a balanced, healthy lifestyle. 

This type of workplace necessitates the use of technology for collaboration of dynamic usage schedules, data capture to inform space conversion on an ad-hoc basis, and automated data collection to improve environmental performance. 

3. Energy and sustainability

Government agencies aim to set an example for the private sector when it comes to energy efficiency and sustainability performance. With the growing sophistication of smart building technologies, facility managers can take energy efficiency and sustainability to new levels. 

Technology enables remote operation of systems after business hours. Systems that automatically capture data related to energy and water usage as well as waste facilitate the creation of benchmarks for establishing and tracking sustainability goals over time.

There are also on-demand temperature and lighting apps that office workers can download on their mobile devices to control temperature and lighting in an individual office or zone, rather than an entire floor. This creates a win-win situation where the organization enjoys energy savings while giving employees a sense of control over their environment. 

4. Compliance

A key aspect of FM is compliance, which involves ensuring that everything in and around the building adheres to government regulations and safety standards. What used to be a paper-based, long-drawn, costly and labor-intensive process can be made more accurate, simpler and more efficient with technology. 

Before digitalization, a facilities manager would have to personally close a work order once an inspection was complete. Now, accurate verification can be confirmed with a few clicks on a mobile device. Besides complying with regulations, compliance extends internally such as staying within established budgets. Through digital systems, facilities managers can oversee vendor relationships across different government-owned properties at the same time to remain within budget while real-time data collections allow FM teams to track actual expenses against budgeted or projected ones. 

Crossing the digital hurdle

The digitization of FM yields greater visibility, utilizing data to optimize space utilization, and opening the door to more flexible, high-performance spaces. How can government agencies begin or optimize their digital journey? A good first step is to discuss the process, costs and benefits of investing in digitization, and how it can contribute to the agency’s service delivery goals and bottom line. It is also wise to partner with a service provider who possesses the tools, technologies and experience to guide the FM team through the process. Having employees who are technologically savvy and able to think strategically is also a huge advantage. 

These steps require a dramatic shift in the way the FM is traditionally viewed, but doing so will enable your agency to be more agile and flexible—putting on a path to success in today’s fast-paced digital world. 

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