Just like Zoom, Skype and other technology-driven products and services neglected by the world before Covid-19 pandemic, facilities management industry and practitioners are hardly engaged by people and businesses. Non-recognition of the primary place of the industry in effective operation and value delivery to every stakeholder is common among the public establishments in developing countries than in the developed world.
In Nigeria, for instance, it is hard to see FM companies managing public infrastructure across the country. This was the reality before the pandemic. However, when the pandemic struck, our analyst notes that some states and the federal government engaged FM companies for the maintenance and management of infectious diseases centres. During the first and second wave of the virus, FM professionals and others in the built environment were frontline workers.
The critical roles played during the two waves and still being played by the professionals across the world informed the choice of “Celebrating FM: standing tall beyond the pandemic” as a theme for 2021 World FM Day, in tribute to a sector that became highly visible due to its crucial role in controlling the pandemic. The roles were not played without unexpected challenges, which nearly grounded operational efficiency of most companies and professionals’ adaptation to the emerging realities from all sides. Companies with the capacity and ability to overcome critical uncertainties were able to create and implement a number of strategies.
Then, one of the professionals argue that “What is critical now is that when business goes back to normal, players and professionals need to amend some of the ways of creating and delivering value in the old normal.” With this position and those expressed by concerned stakeholders during the celebration of 2021 World FM day in Nigeria, our analyst notes that FM industry and practitioners are facing augmented realities. The pandemic has made them realised that managing facilities without technology integration is impossible in a world with emerging and unexpected infectious diseases. Covid-19 emergence also points to the fact that FM brands and professionals cannot do without immersive facilities management practice earlier discussed by our analyst.
It is good that the industry is helping other industries and stakeholders winning the war. However, to stand tall, it needs to be more alive to emerging individual and organisational changing behaviour towards the pandemic.
Leverage Emerging Technologies
One of the key strategies for standing tall in the context of the augmented realities is the use of technologies. “FM professionals must leverage robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) for better outcomes,” Shina Atilola, the head of retail and consumer banking at Sterling Bank said during one of the events marking this year World FM Day in Lagos. For the technologies to deliver as expected, players and professionals need to increase their technical skills and knowledge.
Knowledge Co-Creation and Sharing
When the skills and knowledge are acquired, playing a solo game in terms of applying it will not help the industry. The skills and knowledge must be co-created and shared, especially with the emerging practitioners. The selection of Mentees from Lagos State Technical Schools, 500 level Estate Management students and Masters in Facility Management students from University of Lagos, and artisans by one of associations in the industry is a good development and an indication that stakeholders are ready to advance the emerging professionals towards post-pandemic augmented realities. Collaboration with other professional associations in the built environment is also imperative since FM industry feeds other industries in their quest of delivering value to clients.
Investment in Research and Development
Investment in research and development remains elusive in the industry. If this continues, standing tall post-pandemic would be difficult. This is premised on the fact that constant innovation towards meeting the needs of the augmented realities cannot occur without adequate investment in research and development. In one of the previous articles, our analyst notes how lack of sustainable processes and competent hands are impacting innovation.