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Monday, 21 October

Digital Transformation – Facility & Property Management

Karl Redmond

Digital transformation within the facility management and property (real estate) market requires a new set of skills, thinking and behaviours at all levels, alongside a shift in culture. Pockets of good practice, excellence, innovative thinking in the digital (big data) space exists, alongside the odd plea for greater understanding and learning. Unfortunately, these are usually in silos, short lived and come from those new to the sector or those classed as strategists or techies.

Clients however are consuming more data and asking more question of the information than ever before. The days of static, ‘snap shot’, property / real estate and facility management asset assessments are rapidly disappearing. Instead we are seeing the need for real-time, independent, verifiable data capture that can be continuously assessed, benchmarked, analysed and presented as a ‘single source of the truth’, for the client to utilise, manipulate and embed in to their business strategies and aid in meeting operational targets.

To start bringing ‘big data’, property and digital innovation together - and we have all heard discussion or comments about the Internet of Things (IoT), Building Information Modelling (BIM) and more recently about Smart Contracts and Blockchain – we need to start utilising tried and tested skills; communication, articulation, listening, cooperation, connecting and integrating.

A lack of understanding of the property asset / facilities

The lack of integration between digital, physical asset, operational and business data stems from the lack of connectivity between various client side departments and their respective silos. However, this is significantly exacerbated by a lack of understanding of the property asset / facilities and how it meets and fits the business need, usually as a result of transactional thinking and a ‘command and control’ approach from some. There exists the technical competence and know-how to bring together all supporting business information systems and physical asset data sets, to help meet the client requirements, short and long term.

Difficult Clients

I sometimes hear the expression ‘difficult clients’, but I don’t believe many clients deliberately set out to be “difficult”. It is surely more about what drives behaviours... I have met clients living in fear, surrounded by uncertainty or drifting along in ignorant bliss, as well as those who are more assured and in control – but anyone who feels they do not have access to relevant, accurate and up to date data needed to understand their business better is bound to feel vulnerable. As mentioned previously, those same clients are asking more direct and pertinent questions as a result of the growing amounts of data before them. Those same clients are becoming more certain about what it is they want and they are no longer drifting along wondering what the ‘art of the possible’ could look like. Real estate, property and facility management clients are beginning to understand and piecing together data themselves and like ‘data volumes’ their number and ambitions are growing.

Different Challenges

I recently read a report that stated “In the UK, we add less than 0.5% to the value of our existing asset base each year. As such, the greatest efficiency gains are to be had in asset management, combining physical and digital systems to create truly smart infrastructure. This presents different challenges for owners of existing assets – who need to connect legacy systems to unlock operational efficiencies, and new owners created through major projects – who want to deliver best-in-class performance, fit for the next 50 years, in a rapidly changing technological landscape.” Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure & Construction et al. (2016).

With growing pressures on all clients there is a need for greater ‘big data’ understanding, analytics and usage, and the property / facility management sector cannot sit in isolation and hope to survive.


We need to ensure existing property assets and facilities are assessed, measured, monitored and cared for in a more sophisticated manner so they enjoy usefulness in line with our own life spans and beyond. Digital transformation and innovation - big data, IIoT, Smart Contracts, Sensor Technology, Smart Asset Management, BIM/GSL, digital MRO - agendas are not going away or replacing anyone, they are there to underpin and support what we do by overlaying data sets, digital-physical-commercial-biological and more. We have an opportunity to radically improve and optimise the performance of all property and facility management programmes by linking digital/physical data sets, something we will all benefit from.

So how do we overcome the challenges that we have created and are responsible for? Should we make time and resources available for the ‘new comers, strategists and techies’ so digital innovation and implementation can have a real chance to aid the traditional, highly regarded services, built environment professionals have to offer? How do individuals, stuck in bad habits, practices and with archaic cultural views, ask for help or learn how to ask the dumb question?

It is time for “traditionalists” to learn some new skills, which is not beyond any of them. They have demonstrated technical and professional competence for many years and, as an industry, we cannot afford to lose the experience many of them have in abundance, - they all have a capacity to engage in the fourth industrial revolution...........DATA!

Picture: Karl Redmond MSc, Associate at Rider Levett Bucknall

Article written by Karl Redmond MSc, Associate at Rider Levett Bucknall


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