From managing simple databases to overseeing an entire data centre, mobile applications are quickly becoming a common sight in realm of business.
In addition to cutting down the length of projects or establishing effective quality control, the expectation is typically to achieve reduction of service costs and improve customer service.
“Mobile technology brings the potential for considerable improvement in cost containment and management.”
One FM provider who has already incorporated a mobile application into its business is Emrill Services. In May 2014, the company introduced low-cost mobility software called Business Smart that works with its computer aided facilities management system (CAFM).
The program assists clients in overseeing the productivity of its workforce; ensuring individual tasks are completed to standard. It does this by requiring operators to take a photograph with their device before and after completing their task.
The software also tracks and logs GPS locations of the teams as they complete their respective jobs.
“The mobility solution works well on any given smart-phone platform and is currently being utilised by our technical, housekeeping and security teams to increase efficiency, accuracy, reduce wastage, costs and the time required to attend to a job,” comments Jason Ruehland, managing director of Emrill Services, as he describes the software.
As the interaction between both the CAFM and Business Smart platforms is done in-house, the setup allows the company to manage the software’s security, while maintaining its stability and integrity of data. Additionally, Emrill’s CAFM database collects an immense amount of data from across its active projects.
These can include minor bits of information, such as the start and finish times of tasks, job durations and locations, to more detailed data such as resource utilisation. Once the traffic is collated back at the firm’s head office, data analysts mine the streams, looking for any maintenance related trends. For example, this could be the study of the rate of degration of HVAC units in a facility.
The resulting data allows clients to react to developments on the fly, re-deploying staff where necessary. While not fully-developed by Emrill, the Business Smart software was designed using a combination of a custom-made mobility application and a third party CAFM system from FSI Solutions.
To test and prepare Business Smart for commercial use, the firm invited a handful of its local partners to participate in low cost trials. The process included the installation of both hardware and software at each respective client’s facilities. The learning curve for both Emrill and its clientele was a steep one, but in the end, proved to be invaluable.
“We have tested a vast amount of hardware and systems to find a solution that fits our client’s need for cost efficiency and is at the right price point where we can provide this to our clients without sacrificing quality or efficiency,” explains Ruehland.
As the team at Emrill discovered first-hand, both software and hardware can substantially increase operational costs, to the point that the service itself may become commercially unviable.
Coupled with the need to establish local technical support, it is easy to see why the prospect could be off-putting to FM providers with tight IT budgets. Eventually, as the volume of work increases, and further advances in tech emerge, costs are reduced to a more manageable level.
The option of appointing a third-party developer always remains a viable one however, and it is an avenue that has been explored by some of the region’s FM companies. According to an industry expert, mobile software has shown promise in enhancing supply chain management.
While the managing director believes that the modern market is pushing businesses into enabling their processes for online and mobile to remain competitive, the truth of the matter is that the GCC mobile technology market is still in its infancy. Innovation, is still in the “early stages” where software developers are testing what works best for the market. There is also often a bit of friction within companies seeking a digital solution.
It is a viewpoint shared by Emrill’s Ruehland, who also sees mobile technology in the early stages of its potential. Demand from clients is pushing FM providers to bring more “value and real time visibility of performance.” FM companies will need to embrace mobile technology to achieve more with lower costs. It is a perplexing but necessary step.
“Adapting to mobile technology completely revolutionises the way traditional FM companies operate. This will require organisations to adapt, change and embrace new technology, which I believe will be the biggest challenge for organisations operationally,” says Ruehland.