Part 2: The role of technology on business continuity planning for facility managers

Part 2: The role of technology on business continuity planning for facility managers

In part 1, we unpacked the importance of business continuity planning and the role played by facility and asset managers. In part 2, we look at technology and how it enables continuity planning and execution in the age of digital transformation.

Technology trends and developments present opportunities, and challenges, that organisation’s should think about when developing and reviewing their business continuity plans.

Technology evolution is encouraging people and organisations to think differently and look at how technology can facilitate faster and smarter ways of working. This article from October 2018 highlights the biggest innovations in facility management: all are technology innovations that enable productivity, analytics, and improve collaboration.

Not to be left out, technology has had a huge impact on business continuity planning too. It’s disrupting the traditional way of developing and implementing business continuity plans (i.e. often created then thrown in the bottom drawer, never to be seen again). Technology trends and developments present opportunities, and challenges, that organisation’s should think about when developing and reviewing their BCPs.

Let’s dive into some of the benefits enabled by technology.

Access information when and where it’s needed

Information is key to knowledge, and technology makes it easier than ever to access the required information. The power of information significantly helps FMs when handling and controlling directives within a business continuity plan.

A robust technology platform can help a facility team to link in with their organisation’s business continuity plan and, if a crisis occurs, still access their operational facility information so they don’t lose productivity. With a decent tool, users will be able to:

  • Access key information needed to act on a business continuity plan – e.g. supplier information, data and analytics, security information – all in a single view
  • View required asset information (e.g. facility status, last repair date)
  • View information to ensure day-to-day operations can continue (e.g. work order information, supplier information)
  • Work remotely or from external sites if needed

It’s also important that the supply chain isn’t impacted during a crisis. In many cases, third-party suppliers will be contracted to complete certain works, and if they can’t access the right information at the right time, there could be further delays. With the right platform, suppliers will be able to access and process work orders right from the field.

Respond faster to a crisis

Advanced analytics and the maintenance strategy you employ could help identify a risk earlier, allowing you to respond faster when something does go wrong.

As our earlier blog mentioned, employing predictive maintenance strategies can help you anticipate when an asset is likely to deteriorate, and allows early intervention to prevent it. While it’s not a method that’s suitable for every environment, in some instances it has been shown to drive down costs by up to 50%.

While visual asset inspections certainly play their part, you’ll see the power of a predictive strategy when it’s supported by a technology platform with solid analytics capabilities.

Technology enables data to be manipulated and displayed in such a way that it’s easy to understand and act upon. Decisions can be made much faster when all the information is available in front of you. In some instances, technology will make it possible to localise the issue and help determine the most effective workaround.

Your technology solution will also likely hold key information (e.g. supplier information, location of assets) so you don’t need to go searching for what’s needed during a crisis. Ensure more than one person can access the information so there are no bottlenecks when responding to the ongoing situation. A technology solution that’s available at any time will also help mitigate any risks should a crisis occur outside of normal working hours.

Consolidate and standardise information and data capture

Information and data collection are critical for enabling the FM team meet the organisation’s business objectives. The tools in use should enable the accumulation, categorisation, visualisation, and updating of data at all times, from anywhere.

Having the right applications and systems in place can assist with the recording of important details for the FM team, such as critical asset data. The tools being used should appropriately capture information in real-time, across cross-disciplinary teams, to meet the objectives of all the teams who need to use the data. And if the data that’s captured, or the processes for capturing it, isn’t consistent, it will be impossible to analyse the large amount of captured data in order to understand the bigger picture.

Accumulated data – and with the right analytics tools–means procedures, activities and plans (such as the business continuity plan) can be standardised and put into action immediately. When a crisis hits and everyone can access the same information, there’s no question about what needs to be done, when, and by whom.

Maintaining productivity

While manual processes such as spreadsheets are still in place to manage facilities, technology is becoming far more pervasive, particularly from an information perspective for the continuation of normal facility processes (e.g. logging jobs, query outcomes, reporting etc.). With technology, the processes for receiving, approving, and acting on work orders can be automated. Assigning jobs and activities is easier, allowing for simpler monitoring of ongoing tasks.

However, organisations need to make sure they have the ability to run and access these systems via remote points: if a facility does go into lockdown, key services will still function. Clients who work via local workstation installation and not via remote or thin client access (like Citrix) may have issues as they may be cut off from local desktop access. Cloud and remote-hosted web services will obviously assist here.

Cloud or remote-hosted services have the added benefit of allowing critical information to be accessible at any time, whether during regular time or unplanned downtime, to make sure the facility is running at its most efficient at all times.

Giving staff the ability to work flexibly or remotely if required is a huge benefit that comes with technology. It means they can continue working in the same way they would normally in the event of planned or unplanned downtime.

Implementation of cloud or hosted services is a two-edged sword. On one hand, it means the organization has a reduced footprint with less servers/complex infrastructure to worry about. On the other hand, the reliance on third-party suppliers is a risk in itself that needs to be managed appropriately. The benefits will often outweigh the negatives, but is something that needs to be managed appropriately to maintain ongoing productivity.

Technology isn’t a silver bullet; there will always be downsides. But in the facilities space, and in particular with business continuity planning, the benefits of technology and it’s applications certainly outweigh any negatives.