Core Business Tool
CAFM has become so integrated and extensive within the business that it has broken through the legacy boundaries that used to define it. It is no longer the sole preserve of the FM function as Compton Darlington explains to PFM magazine.
If there were any lingering doubts that CAFM should now be regarded as a core business tool, earning its keep at the heart of the organisation, the role played by CAFM systems around the globe in the wake of recent high-profile disasters should have laid them to rest.
Following events like the devastating Tsunami of 2004 or the New Orleans floods the following year, many affected businesses were able to recover more quickly thanks to the operational data held in their CAFM systems. And aid agencies depended on many aspects of CAFM technology - particularly room-booking systems - to help them establish makeshift accommodation for victims.
CAFM doesn't just come into its own when disaster strikes, of course. The technology is a lynchpin of the accelerating preparations for the London Olympic Games in 2012, delivering operational cost information and vital financial and performance benchmarks for the construction and infrastructure, and security planning projects necessary for staging a successful event on such a vast scale.
This shift in the perception of CAFM's rising status as a business tool has partly been due to the ongoing crossover in FM from hard to soft services. FM has long since stopped being just about service management. It now encompasses total property management, including everything that happens within the estate, as well as how external influences affect it.
CAFM systems like Concept™ from FSI, for example, have become an important financial database for operational cost information, increasingly integrated with front office accounting applications. As FM and energy management service provider Dalkia discovered, the integration of Concept™ with the company's existing financial platform - in Dalkia's case Oracle - can play a vital role in delivering a consolidated systems infrastructure for the entire business.
As some leading system vendors such as FSI have realised - and demonstrated through the dynamic development of their own platforms - that CAFM needs to be able to take advantage of this momentum, moving away from its traditional focus on bricks and mortar and spreading its wings across the complexities of the enterprise, so that as an information resource, it appeals as strongly to the lay business user as it traditionally has to the hardened FM professional.
In this new world, increasingly enabled by the economic and administrative benefits of the hosted model of software implementation, CAFM has become so integrated and extensive within the business that it has broken through the legacy boundaries that used to define it.
As it outgrows old terminology, it has moved into the workplace management software arena, identified by analysts as a market driven by the major trends and pressures affecting modern organisations of every size. CAFM systems hold the key to a huge swathe of the information required to meet those challenges more effectively.
CAFM becomes an essential tool in the business continuity and disaster recovery plans that organisations must now have in place whether for compliance reasons or because no business can completely protect itself from physical risk from disruptive events. When operations are disrupted, any information in the CAFM system that relates to backup sites, staff locations and vital infrastructure is immediately of critical importance.
Compliance requirements are also forcing organisations to look at ways of improving financial transparency through more streamlined integration between estate management and financial data, for example.
A new focus on cost - particularly in the current economic climate - is driving estate consolidation, achieved through a greater understanding of the use and occupancy of premises. And when it comes to energy efficiency, legislation is increasingly forcing businesses to become more expert in the consumption of their operations and plant.
Today's emphasis on employee mobility and flexibility has led to the rise of a remote and flexible working culture in many organisations. Whether they are on the road of hot-desking, people need 24-hour access to the self-service applications and information support systems that they would expect as a matter of course in their physical office.
Many of those systems fall under the CAFM umbrella, from room booking to the help desk, making it essentially a service delivery platform for the remote worker. And with the web browser now the business interface of choice for most people, forward-looking system vendors like FSI are investing significantly in the accessibility and user-friendliness of their CAFM platforms for the business user.
Demand for Web-enabled and hosted systems is also being driven by the increased outsourcing of many FM and estate management processes to specialist service providers.
Amey at the Ministry of Defence is often responsible for large portfolios of contractors, each with their own area of operation in the service delivery chain. Web-based architectures and portal interfaces offer the most effective way for service providers to provide access to the appropriate data and applications for everybody in the chain - as well as the client organisation. For the entire FM industry, the hosted software delivery model is opening up important new prospects in markets well beyond the large estates who were previously the traditional CAFM heartland.