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Choosing the right solution – a changing landscape

Back in 2016, buying software solutions to automate real estate and facilities management processes was approached quite differently. Pretty often the competition was between point solutions and integrated solutions: Either you chose to embed a number of point solutions that together tackled all the requirements in the most effective way, or you tried to cover as many functional requirements as possible with one integrated software solution. Later in this blog, I will discuss the validity of this “either/or thinking” today.

Both approaches have their pros and cons, which are covered in more detail in a previous blog written by my colleague Jos Knops. In the past, we have advised executives in real estate and facility management on which approach would suit them best, seen from four important perspectives.

Perspective 1. The Business Perspective

Obviously, different business problems need different solutions. Due to the pace of change, new problems will appear, and previous challenges might no longer be relevant, just like the coming and going of strategic themes on companies’ agendas.

Business automation could help deal with this. When looking at automating from a business perspective, at least two elements need to be considered thoroughly: The use and storage of data and the extent of cross functional processes. You could say that the latter directly influences the former. Using the same data throughout the whole process chain is crucial to stay aligned and prevent mistakes. A siloed approach in which every stakeholder uses their own standalone application makes this very challenging and risks occur around data inconsistency, increasing processing time and processing failures.

Perspective 2. The End User Perspective

A key prerequisite for any successful software implementation is end user acceptance. People need to find their way easily through the system. In practice, application users prefer the user interface that supports them the best during their daily work.

When only choosing the best fit for each task, users could end up with a multitude of solutions, all with different user interfaces they need to understand and feel comfortable using. This could lead to considerable efforts around training and maintenance. So, in this case it is about finding the balance between the use of specialized user interfaces and the amount of training and support needed.

Perspective 3. The IT architecture perspective

As an IT department you need to decide how you are going to deploy new software: tactically or strategically. A typical tactical approach could be the introduction of a workplace application to support people’s wellbeing in one particular office building. This could be a quick and easy solution for improving employee engagement in the short run but can be less sustainable long term – for instance if the solution does not really fit in other office buildings. On a portfolio level this could result in more standalone applications that offer the same functionality.

Instead of taking one purpose-based software deployment on a local scale as a starting point a more strategic approach would be to look at the impact and implications of a corporate-wide solution. Choosing a solution type from an IT architecture perspective should be based on trade-offs around the ease of swapping solutions in and out and sustainability on a portfolio level.

Perspective 4. The Investment Perspective

Any software solution has a vast list of associated lifecycle costs. Just to mention a few: license and implementation costs, customization, interfaces, costs for new releases and versions, costs for hardware or hosting, data management, application management, technical management, end user training and support, vendor management and so on. These additional costs often exceed the initial outlay considerably.

But are the associated costs of the software solution reasonable compared to the benefits it will bring and how will this evolve during its life cycle? Based on that question, decision-making from an investment perspective is about lowering total cost of ownership and maximizing return on investment. And this is of course different for both types of software solutions.

So how valid are these four perspectives today?

For professionals in real estate and facility management it is still important to consider these four areas. However, you could say (which was already touched upon in the blog by Jos Knops) that they are based on an ‘either/or thinking’ that might no longer be valid when we look at the market today. The key is to look beyond this by considering two additional perspectives. Otherwise it could deprive organizations of the opportunities provided by many vendors.

There has been a huge wave of technology innovations becoming available in the real estate market – called PropTech. This development has led organizations to move towards single-purpose technology to get access to highly specialized functionality for each business problem, providing a better experience to the users. Additionally, due to cloud technology they are becoming easier to deploy and to replace. This willingness to adopt new technologies and possibilities could therefore mean that on a portfolio level this results in more standalone applications for similar purposes.

Alongside the four perspectives mentioned above, we now have to take two new ones into account when looking at software solutions for real estate and facility management: the emergence of new technology and the increase in portfolio diversity that this could bring. This sheds a different light on integrated solutions like an IWMS.

Planon as an Open Application Platform

Originally an IWMS was developed around the integration of real estate and facility management business functions, like real estate management, asset and maintenance management, service management and others. The consequence of the emergence of PropTech, is that these IWMS solutions must now add the fundamental capability to deploy and integrate the new technologies and possibilities that relate to the specific processes they support, and be able to handle the increased level of diversity across the portfolio.

This has led Planon to position its IWMS as an Open Application Platform to become an even more sustainable option for the future. As well as providing the functionality to support all workplace management related business processes, it offers customers and partners the ability to connect (PropTech) solutions directly onto the platform technology stack for seamless interaction with the business processes supported by Planon’s IWMS.
With this, your organization can move into the digitized era of real estate and facility management business. It offers the most value for money seen from all six aforementioned perspectives: it functions as the integrator on a technology and business level, by offering the highest flexibility for ongoing adoption of new technologies and possibilities for maximum support of end-user needs, and maximum contribution to the business processes that run in one single source of truth.

Want to learn more?

Do you want to learn more about Planon’s view on the emergence of PropTech, our new positioning as an Open Application Platform, or our technology partners in Space & Workplace Management? Please read our white paper “Point solution or integrated solution: why choose?

Geert-Jan Blom, Solution Marketing Director at Planon with experience in IT and services industry.

Geert-Jan Blom

Solution Marketing Director

Geert-Jan Blom began his career in facilities management, solution design and software implementation with Planon in the early 2000s. He began working as a pre-sales consultant, and progressed within the company to the role of Senior Business Consultant. He currently holds the role of Solution Marketing Director.

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