The IFMA World Workplace conference provided a fantastic opportunity to observe and examine how professionals from around the world are dealing with the challenges of workspace management. With more than 6000 delegates and industry suppliers from across Africa, Europe, Asia, Australasia and North America, it was quickly apparent there are universal challenges - ageing facilities, reducing budgets and the continuous drive to improve performance and efficiency. It was encouraging to discover New Zealand and Australia are at the leading edge of solution development in many areas.
Barriers to Boardrooms
One of the most surprising observations was the existence of real barriers between facility departments and the C-suite in many organisations. The perception was that few allow FM professionals to participate in decision-making at the executive level. Whether driven through legislation or government initiatives, New Zealand and Australian organisations have long since recognised the importance of facilities and FM professionals in delivering positive organisational outcomes.
A number of the educational sessions dealt with the development of strategic facilities plans (SFP), preparation of compelling business cases, and selling the benefits of effective lifecycle management to the C-suite. New Zealand and Australia do appear to be well advanced in these areas, particularly within public sector organisations. The development of SFPs, or Asset Management Plans as they are often known in New Zealand, certainly document and communicate the links between physical assets, strategic business outcomes, and the associated long term funding requirements.
Big on BIM
Unsurprisingly, Building Information Modelling (BIM), Big-Data, and Analytics all featured in multiple and interconnected sessions. The clear message is BIM is here to stay, and a number of North American organisations are already specifying BIM as a requirement when creating new facilities. Throughout the conference, many examples illustrated the benefits of adopting BIM through a whole of life approach. They emphasised the importance of facility managers being closely involved in specifying BIM requirements and monitoring the associated deliverables during design and construction. In this sense there is an ongoing requirement to build knowledge and capability within the FM profession, particularly around BIM as a process rather than simply software, rendered 3D models, and clash avoidance.
My final observation was the increasing presence of integrated facilities management software solutions. While the big software providers were well represented in the exhibition hall, there were also a large number of individual software providers offering integrated best-of-breed solutions. Cost, flexibility, and performance appear to be the factors driving organisations towards the integrated approach as a viable alternative. ESRI was potentially the best example. Its exhibition stand supported not only its own GIS product but also products from three of its own clients, each with the embedded ESRI GIS layer as part of their solutions. The associated eco-system provided an almost end-to-end facility management solution – from space planning and monitoring to operation maintenance planning.
IFMA World Workplace Conference will be hosted in Denver in October next year. It provides a great opportunity to develop knowledge and networks, and return to your workplace with fresh ideas. It would be wonderful to see a few more Kiwis and Aussies there.
Review written by David Long