We’ve written a lot about new technology recently—from exciting trends in lighting and security to HVAC and building controls—but what should you seriously consider before investing in it? How can you be sure it’s worth the time and money?
At NFMT 2019, the facilities education and training conference held in Baltimore, one informational session sought to answer those questions. Todd Moore, national director of facilities solutions for ARC Technology Solutions, led the discussion about best practices for purchasing new technology, solutions and software.
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First, he says you should ask yourself four questions:
1. How mobile is my team?
Are you already using smartphones or tablets? If you’re not using mobile devices, consider the challenges (such as lagging response time) that this creates for your team.
2. How nimble is your team?
Are you still using technology from the ’90s?
3. What’s slowing you down?
In the facilities management environment, Moore says he still sees plenty of paper out there. Fifty percent of his clients, he says, are in a paper-only environment, where things like blueprints aren’t digitized. “That just blows me away.”
4. What technology does your team use that’s actually useful?
From servers to OneDrive to an asset-tracking system, consider what you’re already using that’s proven to be effective.
“When you look at all of these factors, it all keys into one thing: productivity,” Moore says. “How productive is your team with the information, software, platform or solution that you’ve got now?”
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Factors in New Technology Purchases
To really narrow down how to successfully purchase a new piece of facilities technology, ARC conducted a survey to identify the key factors. Completed at the end of 2018, the survey utilized responses from 229 facilities professionals who had recently been involved in the purchase of new technology.
The research found that the vast majority of facilities teams purchase technology to improve productivity and customer service; and 52 percent of facilities teams purchase one piece of technology or less every year.
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From the survey, ARC was able to identify five success factors when buying new tech:
1. The product is easy to use.
“If it isn’t easy, people aren’t going to use it,” Moore says. “We’ve heard that time and time again. These folks will give it one shot: If it takes too long to find something, if it’s too difficult to log in, they just simply won’t use it.”
2. You can do a pilot of the product first.
Would you buy a car without test-driving it first? Would you buy a solution without trying it somewhere first? By piloting the technology, you’re able to see if it provides the value it promises. Without testing it, chances are you won’t learn of any drawbacks or inadequacies until it’s too late.
3. IT is involved in evaluating and approving the decision.
When talking about a lot of the modern technologies that are out there, such as the cloud, the IT department should be involved. They might be tough conversations, but often, Moore says, IT representatives are excited to hear about new mobile-based opportunities. It’s fruitful for them to do cloud-based and risk assessments.
“IT is more likely to have open arms when it comes to dealing with something in the cloud, something that’s been done on a mobile-first basis instead of a connector per say that may go back and forth,” Moore explains.
4. The product includes a mobile app.
“Just about everyone has a smartphone,” Moore says. Because of this mobile environment, it’s increasingly important to have an app that you can download onto a device and have your information with you all the time. This is especially useful for younger people entering the facilities workforce.
“If I ask someone [newer] to go service an air handler in my 3-million-square-foot hospital, do they know where that is? Do they know the make and model of it? We don’t need to teach them how to do their trade. We do need to provide them with information about what it is we’re giving them to do. And unless you’ve got a mobile app, it’s likely going to be very difficult.”
5. The budget approver is involved in the technology evaluation.
It’s not always about the bottom line for the budget approver, Moore says, but about the value the technology can bring. Make sure these decision-makers see the value in what you’re trying to do or improve.
The Bigger Picture
Overall, the survey found that new mobile technology has a plethora of benefits for facilities teams. According to ARC’s research, it can:
- Improve your team’s productivity
- Improve customer service
- Improve emergency preparedness
- Reduce costs
- Reduce legal and financial risks
The survey also concluded that when using mobile technology, facilities teams completed 30 percent more work orders. With proven stats like that, purchasing new technology that’s right for you seems worth every penny.
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