THE MAGAZINE FOR THE BRITISH INSTITUTE OF FACILITIES MANAGEMENT | 21 APRIL 2011
FM MWorld MW www.fm-world.co.uk
TECHNOLOGY & SOFTWARE
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CATHY HAYWARD EDITORCOMMENT
CONTENTS or our latest supplement, we return to the burning issue of facilities management technology and software. Inside, we examine some of the specific aspects of how technology and digital solutions can make big differences across a host of FM functions. We trust that even the most dogged technophobe will discover something in the following pages that will bring them up to speed as to the types of services and functions that today’s FM can approach with a modern application. Freelance journalist Kevin Stanley explores virtual worlds, such as Second Life, and their application in an FM context (page 4); while Martin Ferguson, an expert in cloud computing, who spoke about the topic at the recent Th!nk FM conference, gives us the lowdown on what we need to know about cloud computing (page 8); sponsor Service Works Group talks about how technology can be used to create a more productive and effective workplace (page 10).
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Virtual worlds FMs are turning on to Second Life Cloud computing Moving business processes online
Computer aided FM How innovation is driving change
This supplement was published by redactive publishing ltd 17 Britton Street, London EC1M 5TP Tel: 020 7880 6200 Website: www.redactive.co.uk
“WE RETURN TO THE BURNING ISSUE OF FACILITIES MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY AND SOFTWARE”
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FM SUPPLEMENT TECHNOLOGY AND SOFTWARE KEVIN STANLEY
Digital lives Virtual worlds such as Second Life are more than just entertainment. This and similar programmes can be very effective in visualising environmental and management issues, as well as gaining feedback from potential building users, finds Kevin Stanley
irtual worlds offer users the chance to experience 1:1 scale 3D models of planned and existing real life spaces. Users can look at, explore and interact with these virtual spaces. Daden, a virtual worlds and artificial intelligence (AI) solution provider based in Birmingham, offers consultation, design and build services. In the virtual world known as Second Life the company has created a number of spaces, from Birmingham City University’s Millennium Point campus to its most exciting project to date – the Library of Birmingham, which is due to open in 2013. “Birmingham
City Council contracted us to deliver an interactive virtual model of the new library, primarily to support community engagement, to inform the internal fit-out and to investigate the potential of a mixed physical/virtual library space,” explains Soulla Stylianou, client director, at Daden. “Architect’s images, plans and drawings were used to build the virtual Library of Birmingham in situ on ‘Centenary Square’ in Second Life as a tool for library staff working on the new development as well as to allow the public to explore the new library in the virtual world. “The three dimensional aspect
The possibilities of using a virtual space are almost endless. Factors such as practicality of room layouts, accessibility of toilets, meeting rooms, stairs and lifts, can all be assessed
of the virtual library makes it ideal for planning many aspects of the new library – training for issues like evacuation, health and safety, and security are obvious starting points,” says Sue Round, facilities manager for Birmingham Central Library. “It’s great that my FM team will be really familiar with the new building long before it opens,” she adds. Virtual worlds really do offer users a chance to see a plan in virtual real-life. They provide organisations with the ability to show stakeholders what a new building will look like and feel like and, for instance, where people will be sitting. It’s simple to appreciate that this is much more effective than showing a client a few carpet swatches or some floor plans or artist impressions. But it’s even more impressive than that, says Stylianou: “Within a virtual world, objects can do
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A Second Life simulation of the yet-to-open Birmingham Library
AN FM PRESENCE IN SECOND LIFE he Centre for Facilities Management Second Life has been hosting seminars online since April 2008. The Centre for Facilities Management Second Life also has a meeting space presence in Second Life on the Manchester UK sim, where anyone can drop by to simply say ‘hello’ or participate in debates.
What is Second Life? “Second Life is an open-ended experience, and our customers use it in a wide variety of ways, including entertainment (eg playing games, attending live music performances, role-playing), creativity (eg designing virtual fashions, scripting animations, filming machinima, building 3D environments), socializing (eg watching movies with friends, chatting in voice or text with people from around the world), education (eg learning a new language, roleplaying historic scenarios, examining 3D models), enterprise uses (eg 3D prototyping, training, meetings with remote workers), and much more,” explains Peter Gray, a spokesperson from the Linden Labs Press Team. “In 2009, the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago used Second Life to show employees how to evacuate patients in an emergency. The virtual version of the hospital was created by a contractor using blueprints and photographs as well as images from Google Earth.
things – doors can open, lifts can go up and down and screens can show video or live web pages. You also have the option of showing more than one configuration of spaces within a build which allows you to ask for feedback on the configurations. Anything is possible depending on what the client wants to do. A virtual world can truly bring proposed projects to life,” enthuses Stylianou. There is also a definite element of cost saving involved in the use of virtual worlds to create virtual versions of buildings to enable people to become familiar with their future surroundings. “Any project that involves moving people to a new space creates a level of fear of change and territoriality. Visualising the new space in a virtual setting helps people to deal with and resolve the impact of the change, prior to investing in the real world IN ASSOCIATION WITH SERVICE WORKS GROUP |05
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FM SUPPLEMENT TECHNOLOGY AND SOFTWARE KEVIN STANLEY
construction – whether it be a functional change in work flow, changing accommodation standards, or pilot testing new workplace strategy concepts,” says Meredith Thatcher, president, of Thatcher Workplace Consulting, a Canadian agency delivering workplace strategy, FM and project management consulting services. “Few people are skilled at reading a 2D drawing and visualizing it, in 3D in their minds eye,” she says. “What intrigues me about virtual worlds is the ubiquitous access (which is also, ideally, less expensive) for stakeholders and occupants without relying on the CAD/BIM operators to ‘walk’ them through. Ultimately this should improve the final design, speed up the process, reduce the number of surprises and reduce the overall cost of construction. This puts power into the hands of the people paying for, using and interacting with the facility,” says Thatcher. Indeed, the possibilities of using a virtual space in this way are virtually endless. Factors that can be assessed include practicality of room layouts, accessibility of toilets, meeting rooms, stairs and lifts, suitability of external pathways – and the most sensible routes between buildings; many of these factors are especially important when considering disabled users. “Not only can disabled users be brought in-world, but project staff can also explore the build by wheelchair to make sure that the build is fully accessible,” says Stylianou. “By creating a virtual model and letting users explore it, it is possible to get answers to the very practical questions of how a building will be used that can potentially be overlooked by most current techniques. Problems can be identified much earlier, reducing build time and saving the cost of rectifying mistakes.” Virtual site and building models
have been in use by the business community for almost a decade and are often referred to by industry users as building information models (BIM). There are different forms of BIM models. The include massing models, photo realistic models and production models, the latter used by architects, engineers, contractors, suppliers and facilities managers for use in the design, analysis, fabrication, build, commission and operate phases of the building’s lifecycle. Intelligent building objects such as exterior/interior wall types, doors, windows, mechanical, electrical, furniture equipment can contain significant data provided by the manufacturer that can be used to analyse building performance, estimate costs or be rendered to look like much the same as a photograph of the finished product. “Having end-users view a 3D photorealistic BIM model is a major leap in productivity compared to the traditional method of providing 2D floor plans,
FM QUICK FACTS
per cent rise in repeat monthly logins to Second Life in 2009-10
number of average monthly repeat logins in 2010, as compared to 526,000 in 2007
hours spent in the virtual world by the average Second Life user, as of January 2011
The Library of Birmingham, as realised in Second Life (above and top right)
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Users contemplate a virtual version of the University of Birmingham in Second Life (left)
By creating a virtual model and letting users explore it, it is possible to get answers to the very practical questions of how a building will be used
elevations, renderings, furniture and equipment components that the future occupants who are not in the building trades have to conceptualise,” explains Andy Fuhrman, director, at customer solutions strategy, Cisco Smart+Connected Communities. It stands to reason that if virtual worlds can do all of this that they can therefore be used to simulate disaster recovery planning and business continuity planning exercises such as flooding, and fire. “Virtual worlds can certainly be used for emergency evacuation planning and hazardous material tracking, with access by the first responders so they know what’s in the building (hazmat type, quantities, adjacencies) enabling them to better plan where they’ll set up their command post and triage centres,” confirms Fuhrman. So what are the applications of virtual worlds in terms of training and networking? “HOK Architects is using Cisco Unified Communications and
video conferencing, video display screens and whiteboards for virtual collaboration work sessions including building information models. Virtual worlds allow participants to work, train and learn from remote locations. It reduces travel costs and greenhouse gas emissions, while increasing productivity,” says Fuhrman. So the advantages and applications of virtual worlds in the FM sector are well known and numerous as well as being used across the world. However, it will always be important to remember that there is often still no replacement for living and connecting in the real world. Jelle van der Kluit, a consultant to the Advisory Facilities Management Twynstra Gudde facility in the Netherlands, wrote a report for the Dutch magazine Facility Management in early 2007. His thoughts at the time were that Second Life could certainly be useful in the FM sector. However, four years later he does not really believe that Second Life has lived past its own hype. “I believe that most companies, such as Randstad and ABN Amro Bank left Second Life. There is a shift from a true virtual world (like Second Life) towards, web 2.0 applications and social media (Facebook, Twitter) to be directly in contact with customers,” he explains. “In the Netherlands, we see that while FM companies have registered accounts they are not very active on Twitter. A small number of consultancies and FM suppliers are using Twitter to share FM information and thoughts,” explains van der Kluit. “My advice for FM companies would be to get away of any virtual world. It’s important to be real and authentic. Get ‘online connected’ to your market and customers by social media and get ‘offline connected’ by visiting the market and your customer,” says van der Kluit. IN ASSOCIATION WITH SERVICE WORKS GROUP |07
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FM SUPPLEMENT TECHNOLOGY AND SOFTWARE MARTIN FERGUSON
Cloud computing is here, but what exactly is it, how is it going to affect the FM industry and which organisations are well-placed to capitalise on the opportunities?
he ‘cloud’ may seem like new-age jargon, but it is a simple concept. The term refers to the use of an internet-based service to support a business process. A powerful example is Microsoft’s Exchange Online. It represents both infrastructure and software as a service (IaaS and SaaS respectively) – the buzz words you may have heard of.
Why is it a revolution? For the first time, it gives small and medium businesses access to the enterprise systems previously only available to large (and in some cases huge) organisations. There are clear business benefits. It’s quick, easy and cost effective to deploy (unlike traditional systems and processes); you can reduce (and almost eliminate) the need for IT specialist support; and you can establish automated business processes – all of which offer great potential to add real business value and reduce operating costs. In essence, you can design, develop and manage services rather than manage infrastructure and software. A typical example is
collaboration. Academic institutions are looking to the cloud (albeit a private cloud) to provide collaboration services to its researchers. They’re no longer thinking in terms of infrastructure and software (this is a commodity they can buy from a multitude of vendors) – they’re thinking in terms of service: identifying specific requirements and customising a core service to deliver a functional real-time collaboration platform for users across the world, without any concerns about the maintenance and reliability of the service. Information technology has gone beyond the ‘any colour you like so long as it’s black!’ approach. Why do we suggest the FM industry is best placed to capitalise on this opportunity? Firstly, as an industry, the FM sector is well versed in managing third party suppliers, delivering against stringent SLAs and, most importantly, the FM industry is used to reacting to business needs, tailoring services as customers’ needs change. The cloud levels the playing field and is effectively leading to the commoditisation of IT.
A company no longer needs highly skilled IT specialists in house to maintain infrastructure and software. The existing resources that are dedicated to analysing and improving business processes can be redeployed to design new, more efficient processes which can utilise the enterprise-class cloud infrastructure and software. Clearly, early adopters have an opportunity to gain competitive advantage and, because cloud applications are infinitely scalable, it will enable your processes and systems to grow and change as quickly as your business does, and open untold new opportunities. Pedimenta’s managing director, Nicola Russell, says: “Even if your clients are not immediately planning to use a cloud solution, it pays to keep abreast of developments. Literally, billions of pounds are being invested,
by the big boys (Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and Google) and many small businesses and start-ups. It promises to shake up the way business is done. “Feature-rich online collaboration applications are re-writing the rules of business engagement – with clients and the supply chain,” concludes Russell. What about the threat to your business by savvy organisations within your own industry who have already started to adapt their business processes and business models, and in some cases start new businesses to exploit the opportunity? If the edge you have over your competitors, currently, is better systems and processes, your past investment in traditional IT will have likely played a part in providing this edge. What if this were no longer the case? What if you were stuck with an inflexible system and processes
Cloud applications are infinitely scalable, enabling your processes and systems to grow and change
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provide you and your customers with business continuity: the availability of your core business applications and processes in the event of any disaster, anywhere in the world, anytime. Again, the FM industry is best placed to advise their customers and take them on the journey as you understand business continuity.
The types of service
Generally, you can contract for cloud services at three levels:
and your competitors were not? Whole industries are being wrong-footed because they are stuck with dinosaur processes that are no longer serving them or, critically, their customers. The business need for agility and speed is greater than ever before, and those encumbered by out-of-date business models based upon legacy technology platforms are at a great disadvantage. Think it’s just a problem for big business? Small and medium organisations are arguably at most risk: squeezed by bigger organisations with improving processes to fulfil smaller and smaller orders; and squeezed by new competitors, from within the UK and overseas, who may have figured out a more efficient path to market and/or how to improve customer service.
The opportunity In a nutshell, it’s about better business systems and processes and lower cost, with the flexibility to pick and mix applications (software that run processes) as the need or opportunity arises. Here are some typical characteristics of cloud services:
Little or no start-up cost and no capital investment ● Suck-it-and-see: usage based – often with no fixed commitment ● Can be scaled up and down according to your needs ● Rapid deployment (unlike traditional systems and processes) ● World-class infrastructure and data management ● World-class data security ●
Obviously, compared to local servers, software applications and IT support – you have potentially much lower costs. Also, rather than fixing the server, upgrading software or dealing with the latest virus or hard-drive crash – you can actually focus on your business. We only need to go back to December last year to understand the relationship between traditional IT systems and processes and lost productivity. The big freeze saw businesses lose millions if not several billion in lost productivity, simply because people couldn’t get to work. Cloud services can be accessed anywhere where there’s an internet connection, and thus
1. Infrastructure as a service Grids of virtual servers, storage and networks 2. Platform-as-a-service Allows developers to focus on application development and not worry about operating systems, infrastructure scaling, and load balancing 3. Software-as-a-service Applications with a webbased interface accessed via web services and Web 2.0. Examples include Exchange Online, Windows intune, Google Apps, SalesForce.com and social network applications such as Facebook. If your clients are small and medium businesses, they’ll probably be considering software-as-a-service with, perhaps, a couple of custom applications. Larger organisations will be looking at both software-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service, unified mobile communications and collaboration.
What are the risks? Always make sure that you get what you are paying for. ● Service levels – understand the service levels you can expect, especially for response times, data protection and data recovery times. ● Compliance – in theory, cloud service providers can meet the required level of compliance
for data stored in the cloud but you’ll need to take care ● Data ownership – do you own your data once it’s in the cloud? You may think the answer to this question is obvious, but it’s essential to get it in writing ● Data mobility – can you share data between cloud services? If you switch or end a cloud service can you get your data back?
Are your customers ready? Replacing systems and processes is a major decision for mature organisations. The cloud can literally change your customer’s business model, with all that involves. We argue that it’s better for you and your customers to look at the opportunities – and threats – than to be caught off-guard by existing and new competitors. It isn’t just hype – cloud computing is happening. Billions of pounds have been spent on these new services, and companies are benefiting from the services as you read. Martin Ferguson is programme manager at Pedimenta. Ferguson has over 10 years experience in delivering applications and services in the telecommunications, web based services industry and the healthcare sector.
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FM SUPPLEMENT TECHNOLOGY AND SOFTWARE MARK KIRKHAM
The future in your hands
to increase transparency and optimise levels of customer service.
Efficient and green
Advances in computing and handheld technology have ushered in a new era of flexible, mobile FM, finds Mark Kirkham
he facilities management department of most sizeable organisations will have a computer aided facilities management (cafm) or computerised maintenance management (CMMS) system, to control functions such as planned and reactive maintenance, assets and space management. But to consider FM technology simply in terms of the functionality is to limit the possibilities that IT can offer. Smart businesses are those that have embraced technology, leveraging its full potential in order to enhance staff output, maximise productivity and ultimately drive business success. This is no more true in any area than FM, where today’s FM is challenged with both optimising the working environment for building occupants and meeting business demands for improved cost efficiency and increased performance. Modern cafm applications embrace the latest web and mobile
technology to offer a centralised solution which is accessible by facilities staff, external contractors and building users, via a web browser, regardless of their location. This enhances a company’s ability to manage assets and service delivery in multiple locations via one fully integrated solution. It supports centralisation or relocation of FM operations, such as a facilities help desk, and removes the reliance upon local facilities teams in each geographic location. Web-based FM systems also serve a central role in improving communication and raising the profile of the FM department within the workplace. Critical operational FM data is made available, on-demand, in realtime, to users in any location. Staff within the workplace can be granted ‘self service’ access to the cafm system to view the progress of maintenance jobs that they have logged. In the case of FM service providers, this level of access can be granted to their clients
With the installation of a mobile cafm solution, maintenance tasks can be dispatched directly to the handheld device of remote staff, with the result that the maintenance workflow becomes timely because all parties involved have instant access to data. Supporting documents can be attached to electronic work requests and accessed from anywhere, eliminating the time involved in sourcing a document that would traditionally have been stored in filing cabinets. Via their mobile device, contractors and engineers can request spare parts, provide a detailed report of time and materials and close a job, all without ever touching a sheet of paper or picking up a pen. Reporting is another area of the facilities operation that greatly benefits from being paperless. Any comprehensive cafm system will offer reporting functions which can query FM data, generate reports and automate workflows in relation to specific business processes, to support the needs of legal and regulatory reporting. In addition to the environmental and efficiency savings, web-based solutions offer the potential to reduce the costs associated with IT hardware maintenance, as well as reducing facilities managers’ reliance upon internal IT staff. The hosted software model, or, as it is commonly known, SaaS (software as a service), offered by many technology suppliers is one such offering. SaaS outsources the management of FM software applications to the software vendor, who are responsible for hosting and maintaining the applications and data in a secure environment. This allows businesses to access the latest FM technology via a web browser without the need to invest heavily in IT hardware, and without
being heavily reliant upon internal IT departments, since all support and maintenance is provided by the vendor. SaaS also provides a comprehensive solution to support disaster recovery strategies as well as a cost-effective solution without the need for capital investment. Today’s workforce has high expectations around flexible working schedules and their overall work environment. For the employee, a key concern when selecting a potential job can be whether that employer supports flexible work patterns such as remote or home working.
Flexible working Web and mobile Cafm technologies have allowed FM professionals to leave the confines of their desk computer to work in an efficient, mobile and paperless real-time work environment. By integrating cafm, bookings and space management technology, facilities managers are able to effectively plan workspace for employees who do not require full time office accommodation. Webbased tools support hot-desking strategies enabling staff to book desk space or meeting rooms for the days that they are required to work in the office. This can be flexibly controlled with the FM system so that any given employee can only book a workspace located within a certain building, floor or other geographic region. In a further level of convergence, FM and BMS (building management system) technology can be integrated to ensure that heating and lighting are automatically switched on when a flexible workspace has been booked, and switched off once the space is no longer in use. Facilities managers must continue to embrace the tools and technology at their disposal if they are to effectively anticipate and meet the needs of a demanding workforce.
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Technology & Software supplement 2011