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Expert Insight

Why automation is set to take over the built world

Rajavel Subramanian, Co-founder & Head of Product – Facilio outlines the best practices and benefits of re-imagining CaFM as a workflow-driven software that can meaningfully connect systems, people and processes.

Let us imagine a simple, yet important, workflow that’s likely to occur in any property operations – a client raises an issue in one of your buildings. In response, your facilities team will manually generate a work order in the CaFM / CMMS. Based on the job, they’d involve a suitable vendor, manage back-and-forth on cost estimates, invoicing, client approvals and payment cycles with them (over calls, emails, and an accounting software). Finally, once the payment status is manually updated on the CaFM, a technician will be dispatched for the job. By the time the issue is resolved, tenants have already escalated it multiple times.

Now, imagine a parallel universe. The moment an issue is raised, a work order is generated. Work is dispatched to a vendor, and an invoice is triggered from your CaFM. The supervisor will have the quote info right within the CaFM, and can trigger emails for client approvals. Your CaFM is integrated with your accounting software so the vendor will get notifications for approvals, send technicians as soon as payment is processed—and business happens as usual.

The key difference between the first and the second scenario is what is game changing in property operations: Workflow automation.

Oftentimes, technical jobs and on-site issues are kept waiting just because someone didn’t update the payment/work status on the CaFM system. So much is lost in manual delays/errors when processes are not automated.

With Facilio’s workflow automation capabilities, for the scenario we outlined above, a leading CRE owner/operator in the UK achieved 80% reduction in response time and 40% reduction in downtime, increasing overall client satisfaction. But first, some context.

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation is automating various steps along the workflow of any process. In the facilities management landscape, this includes creating work orders, sending alerts, notifying technicians, passing on information, generating reports etc. Workflow automation eliminates the need for humans to perform repetitive, non-revenue generating tasks that can easily be automated.

Why is workflow automation important?

Typically, today, operations teams work with a system of records. This means that ‘information’ is stored and passed on between people through a multitude of tools. For instance, teams use emails to communicate, spreadsheets to update status, phone calls/chat to clarify etc.

In addition to this, they also make investments in additional software or build their own. Analytics and dashboard software is a great example of this. So, every workflow goes through a range of tools—both digital and otherwise—becoming inefficient, unintelligent and tedious, at each consecutive step. To say nothing of the fact that they eat into the operating margins.

To overcome this, and move from a ‘system of record’ to a ‘system of action’, enterprises need workflow automation.

What can workflow automation do for enterprises?

Here are six valuable outcomes you can gain by automating the workflows involved in your day-to-day property operations:

Save time:

The most basic value workflow automation can deliver is saving time for all stakeholders. Like you saw in the example above, teams no longer need to spend time creating work orders, informing technicians, raising invoices, tracking processes etc. All of that is taken care of, well, automatically.

Improve team productivity:

When the mundane is handled, the team has time and mental energy to focus on adding value to customers.

For a leading facilities management company in the Middle East, we automated approval workflows. In essence, the process from technician raising a quote to completing the task was automated with single-click approval. With this, the client experienced a 97% rise in SLA adherence with a 13% improvement in workforce productivity.

Strengthen compliance posture:

Facilities and audit teams spend significant time bringing together work reports for compliance reasons. Much of this is manual, even if not handled with pen and paper. A robust workflow automation system can generate work reports in real-time. It can also conduct all compliance checks to make sure the audit is smooth at the end of the year.

Gain greater visibility:

The biggest problem with manual workflows is that the information is siloed and inaccessible. In several buildings, knowing whether a technician has performed FDD or not happens on the phone, often not in real-time. A connected CaFM with strong workflow automation and mobility features can make this seamless. The app can track technician location automatically and the status can be updated with a click of a button on their mobile phone!

Experience better asset maintenance:

Automated fault detection and preventative maintenance are nearly impossible with manual workflows. But automation changes the game altogether. Facility managers can set thresholds for asset performance and gain visibility into potential breakdowns even before they happen. With proactive maintenance, they can almost entirely eliminate asset downtime.

Journey to customer delight:

At the end of the day, workflow automation’s biggest impact is on customer experience. Imagine the impact on customer experience when a technician hitting a button the moment s/he reaches the location and letting all stakeholders—facility managers and tenants—know that work is underway. Imagine tenants receiving regular notifications about the status of their complaint automatically without ever having to follow up. Imagine quicker, more effective resolution for complaints on a consistent basis. Also imagine collecting feedback for every job automatically and improving processes regularly.

It is definitely time to re-imagine how property operations are managed so that systems, people and processes are meaningfully connected.