FM processes are the key to delivering innovative services to the highest levels of excellence in the developing market in Dubai. PFM talks to John Moriarty, Managing Director of FSI (FM Solutions) Limited, CAFM developers and Microsoft Gold Partners, who explains how CAFM fits in to the new, front-of-house ethos that is now driving customer experience for a facility's end-user.
In the five short years since FSI opened its first office in Dubai, the decision to establish a presence and make a firm commitment to the region rather than identifying third party partners to take an indirect route to the market has proved more than a little prescient.
Demand for our software has exploded. Back in 2002, we had just a handful of clients in the Emirate. Today, we have 34 - most of them acquired during the last year. But as we continue to consolidate our presence in the region, adding to our team month by month, our experience also tells us that while CAFM is rapidly emerging as a recognised enabler and mechanism for FM service delivery and excellence, the market is still in an embryonic state on the verge of a major lift-off.
A major challenge - and opportunity - for all of the leading UK and international FM companies that have descended on Dubai in anticipation, is how to apply the joined-up thinking that will allow FM to develop into an integral element of the service delivery infrastructure rather than operating in the background in a more reactive, asset managing role.
Hardly a week goes by without the arrival of a familiar face from the UK FM scene to take up a senior position in some aspect of the Emirate's FM industry. And we have seen a massive migration of key UK FM players, generating intense local interest in the role FM can play in the race for innovation.
This interest is reflected in the proliferation of reading material that now serves the market: Dubai has no fewer than three specialist FM publications; and the success of FM related trade shows is further evidence that major organisations at every level of the sector are setting up in the Emirate to capitalist on the anticipated boom.
There are, however, important lessons to be learned at this stage of the evolution of the FM market in Dubai. During our relatively short experience in the Emirate, FSI has recognised the value and importance of developing a reputation for delivering a service rather than simply supplying a CAFM software product. For example, Dubai is a market in which networking and word of mouth are all-important. The success of FSI's recent Tune in to FM seminar was a direct result of working closely with ex-par people and organisations to connect with the local business culture. This is not an environment in which more formal western business style of communication works well. Instead, relationships are forged on trust, developed socially and often outside normal business hours. And this is how you become a vital part of the network.
Looking around, it has take some FM companies a while to understand that the business pointers they are used to back home - generally focused around efficiency and economy - carry little weight in the emerging Dubai market. Here, the traditional response to a demand for increased efficiency is to throw extra bodies at a particular problem, even if it turns out that the quality of labour is not best suited to the challenge.
In a low-cost labour market, people - as many as it takes - rather than software are still perceived as the solution to an efficiency crisis. And this perception was compounded in the earliest days of the Dubai market by some early pioneers who sold software products that were never satisfactorily implemented. That initial cynicism lingers but there are signs of change.
The labour force is becoming more volatile, compelling constructors and project managers to look for alternative solutions to address vital processes. Suppliers are joining FSI in the realisation that raw product isn't enough. They need to deliver cutting edge systems and services that will capture the imagination of their clients.
While no real demands are yet being made of FM in terms of innovation and an appreciation of what the software can do, the new occupants of the limitless range of state-of-the-art constructions and luxury hotels are demanding excellence on the customer service front. CAFM is emerging as the machine of choice for justifying that service excellence through factors like Key Performance Indicators.
So, while some conservative resistance to its potential remains, the cautious are increasingly influenced by the example of early adopters who not only realise how CAFM can impact on the delivery of concierge-style services in modern Dubai, but are actually driving software developers like FSI to innovate in response to their ever more sophisticated requirements.
During the next five years as the FM market in the Gulf shifts from emergence to consolidation, the industry must help constructors and developers to define how CAFM fits in to the new, front-of-house ethos that is now driving customer experience for a facility's end-user.
FSI believes that as development continues at a frantic pace, the determination of constructors to outdo each other as a matter of pride will drive their growing realisation that FM processes are the key to delivering innovative services to the highest levels of excellence. CAFM will become, in effect, the service delivery tool of choice.
We have a great opportunity to present CAFM as an essential business proposition, enabling tighter integration between systems that were previously disconnected. And it is increasingly obvious that the professional FM provider has a pivotal role to play in fine-tuning post-construction facilities through the integration of security, HR, IT communications, financial CRM and health and safety systems.
It is the equivalent of meeting the needs of the most prestigious customer in a top-flight hotel. The success of CAFM in the region depends on our ability to convince the Dubai market that cutting edge FM is all about combining the ethos of service excellence with the interpretation of real-time data, and leveraging that to take the business forward. Once the market sinks its teeth into that concept, there will be no going back.