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Getting practical: A guide to the journey to Smart

As we gear up to tempt people back into the office and look to smart technologies to get our buildings safe and user-ready, Steve Jarvis gives some practical advice for Facilities Managers

From demands for increased building performance and real-time data to the provision of great staff and client experience through on demand services and real-time data, the job of a facilities manager has expanded significantly in recent years. When combined with the trend towards flexible infrastructure to support greater agility and new ways of working as a result of Covid-19, the job just became a lot more complex.

Businesses are now crying out for smart technology solutions to help deliver safer and even more flexible change of use working environments. We are talking about building ‘enablement’ through smart technology. From an increased need for entry security and access solutions, facial recognition, touchless systems, voice control, people and density counting, through to video conferencing, resource booking and utilisation, dynamic allocation of floorplates and enhanced climate control… the list goes on.

The challenges for facilities management is how to think ‘Smart’ when delivering a new or refurbished building. Here are a few check points to help you in your journey to Smart.

Starting blocks

You need a vision for your building. You need it built into your IT, AV and Smart Building strategy. You need budget allocated to it. You need the strategy converted and integrated into a programme of deliverables as part of the overall build programme. You need IT project management to watch and protect your budget, timescales and deliverables. These are just a few of the elements that need to be considered before a smart strategy is implemented. We have identified five key tips to help guide the journey to smart:

  1. Start early: get Smart built into the concept brief as early at the initial architectural phase. This will help ensure that priorities and budget can be allocated.
  2. Protect your investment in the building with a forward-thinking physical infrastructure that can futureproof you against further changes. Think of layering, you can’t really have the icing without a cake underneath.
  3. Know your limits: make sure you fully understand the potential and limitations of any technology and systems that you are considering or may already have in place.
  4. Integrate to achieve commonality across floorplates and a ‘single source of truth’ for your data for ease of management.
  5. Define responsibility and accountability for Smart.

What to avoid

When starting the journey to smart, it is perhaps most useful to understand what not to do to avoid making critical mistakes before the journey has even begun. These are the key areas to avoid:

  1. Avoid starting at the end or in the middle of the journey. If you drive the business case for smart from the user level, you risk not getting the necessary budget, capacity or integration capability.
  2. Try not to assume your IT team understands building applications and systems integration. A specialist in digital and physical systems integration should be able to supplement your in-house knowledge.
  3. Avoid being rushed to select a plethora of individual point solutions. They may not integrate well and the risk of them getting out of sync with each other is high.
  4. Don’t underestimate the challenge. Pulling together the “end game” for a Smart building is a significant undertaking without the relevant skillsets.

What to remember

  • Move away from traditional departmentalised thinking. You must join everything up as part of the overall programme.
  • Watch out for undefined budgets – get the investment and appointment of expert advice locked in early!
  • There is more than one pathway to a Smart Building and your journey will be unique.
  • The way we are working is constantly evolving and you need a smart platform to match your workplace strategy and your building estate, not someone else’s!
  • The earlier the better, but it is never too late and existing buildings can achieve a good level of smart with some well thought through retrofitting.
  • There are a number of key decisions to make to align outcomes with expectations and maximise value from smart technologies that are meaningful to you and can adapt to your situation. Cordless can advise on the areas to consider in your journey to smart whether you are a tenant, landlord, or developer and are upgrading an existing workplace or relocating to a new building. With a clear picture of what you have now mapped against what you want to achieve, the smart decisions you choose can be right, appropriate and most importantly, accountable.

Every organisation will have different use cases and business processes and expect different outcomes. The right combination of tools and technology will revolutionise what can be achieved – with wellbeing and flexibility fully supported by a smart building architecture.

Like to talk about smart technology and the return to the workplace? We’d love to. Say hello@cordless.co.uk