The FM as a guardian of huge volumes of information

Data is the lifeblood of the digital economy – capable of giving insight, deepening relationships, and a tool for informed decision making. However, not many organizations have the capabilities to manage, extract and protect the value in these data.

This article discusses the challenges and potentials that new industry-altering technologies (IoT, AI, Machine Learning, etc.) would present to the Facilities Manager (FM) – the enormous amount of data that will be available to the FM and the challenges of managing and extracting value from them. It also discusses the invaluable insights, data will provide on how assets, the workplace and its people perform.

The focus of this article is centered on:

  1. The nature of big data and how it can affect strategic business decisions; and
  2. A study carried out by Urgent to indicate the readiness of the FM Industry, whether it has the confidence, skills and tools to take advantage of the trend.
  1. The Nature of Big Data and how it can affect Strategic Business Decisions


What is Big Data?

Data is any sequence of one or more symbols given meaning by specific act(s) of interpretation. Data (or datum – a single unit of data) requires interpretation to become information (Wikipedia.com). Data is however, considered Big Data if it has the following:

  • Volume: The data set must be in large quantities, often measured in terabytes and petabytes.
  • Velocity: The data is created at an extremely rapid pace.
  • Variety: from a wide range sources and through numerous formats.


Big Data for the Built Environment Professional

For the Built Environment professional, Big Data can provide enormous insight into how profits can be made from Land sales; more efficient management of the assets, building and people; adequate capture and analysis of property information – this includes energy data, space utilization data, surveying, etc. There are a whole lot of possibilities for the FM with Big Data especially in its ability to provide the FM with new Preventive and Predictive capabilities and ensuring the accuracy and consistency of the building information.

On owning the data
It is imperative that organizations establish a Big Data policy and regularly dialogue on the ownership of data, and the visualization tools that presents it. This is because in every workplace, there exists a multitude of stakeholders vying for the ownership of data i.e. Transaction data, Assets Description Data, Assets Management data (Life-cycle maintenance data), etc.  As is the case, support services such as the IT department, Finance Department, and Property Management Department will be vying for ownership of the these dataset.

Given the above, and considering the dramatic development of Information Technologies, the IT departments will bleed into every departments including FM – this will forcing well-established professions such as the FM to change and adapt their processes.


On Protecting the Data

According to Deloitte, Data is an organization’s most valuable asset. But findings have come to suggest that there has been an increased number of data misuse, misplacement and mishandling. This is largely due to the democratization of data – this has given more people including criminals and ill-skilled persons access to data. This can lead to interference with critical operations and opportunity to those who intend to steal sensitive information to cause chaos. Hence, the FM must be versed in compliance issues, etc. for handling personal (and organizational) information.

2. The Survey

In 2018, Urgent, in partnership with FM news and i-FM carried out a 30sec survey aimed at capturing responses for 5 simple questions. The number of respondents summed up to 108 people. The questions asked, include:

  1. Does your organization have a big data policy?
  2. Is there a clear data ownership policy in your organization?
  3. If required, would you be able to harness the power of big data without support or additional training?
  4. When it comes to handling personal data, are you aware of all the risks and regulatory requirements?
  5. Do you have the capability to turn the data into helpful business insight?

Concluding Statement

The Survey came back with little over 15% having any knowledge of a Big data policy in their organisation – this in itself, is indicative of the fact that the industry is yet to embrace the Big Data technology and its potentials, but must.  This is due to the speed of technological progress; data has the potential to be a transformative tool for facilities managers as it empowers their roles with a much more sophisticated range of capabilities. It is however, evident, given the survey carried by Delloitte, that the present FM industry (and can be worse for the Nigerian FM industry) is ill-equipped and ill-prepared for such advancements.

This article, in many ways is a wake-up call to the Built-Environment professionals. We must take charge of the opportunities presented by the technologies stated above, while putting behind petty office politics.

Egbunike Celestine
Head IT