Moreover, these new models and processes are only adopted if they are more aligned to our behaviour as human beings: Just Eat avoids a crackly phone call with the local takeaway; AirBnB makes premium accommodation more affordable; Uber overcomes our aversion to standing in the rain.

Most CAFM technologies are not designed in this way. CAFM systems formalise and accelerate processes that existed on paper before the invention of the PC. And those processes are not aligned to our natural behaviour as human beings. Very few of us could claim it was in our instincts to record data comprehensively at all times, or to focus on data capture when many people and tasks require our attention. Equally, we don’t instinctively trust a faceless system if we can’t see how it works, and we won’t engage with a system if it doesn’t offer us incentives to do so.

Because CAFM systems make data capture optional; because they require manual data entry; because they allow editing at any time; because they hide key details from some stakeholders; and because they are not engaging to use – the information in CAFM systems is almost always inaccurate.

“Without an underlying management process and its

audit trail, finance are left with no way to accurately control or analyse spend.”

Inaccurate data is not a useful measurement of anything. As every management student knows, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. A CAFM system with inaccurate data will hamper the effective management of an FM programme.

But all is not lost. Just because there is no Uber or Just Eat in FM doesn’t mean that the industry cannot benefit from what startups have to teach us. The disruptive startups’ principles are simple – a single, mandatory process, automated data capture, appropriate transparency and an engaging user experience. These are all principles that can easily be applied to technology in FM. Doing so enables the industry to gain the full benefits of digital technology.

The first step is to understand how people behave when interacting with a specific technology or process. That means recognising that people take the easy option; that incentives are more effective than sanctions; and that people trust nothing unless they have good reason to.

The next step is to ask whether specific technology remains effective when people exhibit these behaviours – as they inevitably do. There are four key questions to ask:

Is data capture automated? Very few people will voluntarily enter more data than they are required to. That means that task details held


on CAFM systems are often sketchy at best. But careful process design can automate a great deal of data capture – examples might be using geolocation to capture arrival and time on site data, or a workflow app that opens the smartphone’s camera when a photo is required. And the internet of things offers a whole new level of automated data capture, able to gather and analyse information about M&E assets without human intervention.

Is the workflow mandatory and uneditable? Where some data entry is unavoidable, the workflow can be designed to make entry both easy and mandatory. Examples of this might be as simple as using tick boxes, rather than free text entry – but fundamental to success is making sure that the workflow cannot progress until an option has been chosen. How do we make sure that the right amount of thought goes into that decision? By making sure that data cannot ever be edited, we can build trust and auditability, and ensure that users will never enter data without thought.

Is the interface engaging, and is the right

outcome incentivised? The addictive qualities of social media are well documented and the principles of notifications and gamification are now used to incentivise behaviours in a myriad of more functional apps. The ‘red dot’ of a new notification is a tiny thrill; raising one’s personal star rating becomes a little personal objective. These principles can be very easily applied to technology in FM – even on a desktop application, a message and notification is significantly more likely to be read and acknowledged than an automated email.

Can everyone see all the detail that may be

useful to them? Part of the appeal of apps like Uber is that those waiting for a service can see exactly where it is, and when it will arrive. In FM, completing a task is often more complex than getting a vehicle to a location – so those waiting for assistance must be able to see the entire process involved in getting it to them, including when sign-off is required from elsewhere in the organisation.

Such transparency must extend to management as well. There are, of course, several apps that work like Uber for contractors, by removing intermediaries from the transaction. However, these are not effective in controlling cost, quality or compliance. Without an underlying management process and its audit trail, finance are left with no way to accurately control or analyse spend.

These four questions offer the chance to benchmark against the principles of successful consumer technology. If the answer to any of these questions is a negative, then that may provide a clue as to why technology is not delivering the gains that were hoped for – and offer a guide as to what to look for when seeking a more effective replacement.

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