The Move to Mobile In FM

Do you know any Luddites? In the early 1800s, the original Luddites destroyed power looms and spinning frames, then-disruptive new technologies that threatened jobs in the British textile industry. Nowadays, the term refers to people who oppose new technology.

It’s easy to get the impression that facility operating staffs are filled with Luddite Baby Boomers — skilled mechanics and technicians who aren’t interested in learning new technologies. Before that stereotype gets applied too quickly, however, consider the facility department at Frederick County Public Schools. When tablets were provided to facility staff, some senior staff members were among the strongest users.

That example is good news, because mobile devices are here to stay in facility management. As Executive Editor Greg Zimmerman’s cover story in the March issue of Building Operating Management shows, they offer important advantages. A new generation of mobile-optimized interfaces is making cell phones and tablets just as powerful as laptops and desktops for managing buildings.

Facility managers with large portfolios are leading the way in the use of mobile technology, according to a Building Operating Management survey. Of facility managers who reported their staff currently use smart phones or tablets for more than alarms or alerts, 60 percent were from organizations larger than 500,000 square feet.

Staff use of mobile devices may only be the tip of the iceberg. For now, only a few organizations permit occupants to use mobile devices for functions like controlling the temperature, submitting work orders, or filing complaints, according to the survey. But you can bet that will change in the not too distant future.

The move to mobile takes planning. Frederick County Public Schools used a pilot implementation and team training to get staff up to speed. Mobile is also an investment: 88 percent of respondents who said their staff use mobile devices reported their organizations provided the devices. But that cost brings a big benefit:  As mobile-based technology spreads, tablets and smart phones will become essential tools for productivity and occupant satisfaction.

Are you using mobile devices for facility management? What benefits are you getting? Any challenges you've had to overcome? I'd love to hear about your experiences.