From Prop Tech to AI: The New Frontier of Facilities Management

The feature discusses the transformation of FM in the real estate sector, emphasising the role of technology and the need for continuous upskilling to thrive in the evolving market.
Deepa Natarajan Lobo | UAE | Facilities Management

Most real estate professionals would agree that managing the facilities of a property is as much a Herculean task as designing and developing the property itself. An essential component of the real estate sector, facilities management or FM, as it is popularly known, has undergone a massive transformation over the years fuelled by advancing technologies, changing trends and surging industry dynamics.

In fact, as per a report published on www.marketsandmarkets.com, the worldwide FM market was worth $42.2 billion in 2021 and is expected to touch $76.3 billion by 2026, growing at a rate of 12 per cent in five years. There is a rising demand for cloud-based FM solutions and FM integrated with intelligent software. As impressive as this may sound, it also raises several pressing questions like how can professionals adapt to this constantly evolving landscape? Are students truly prepared to enter the FM market once they complete their course? How are service providers, associations and educators shaping their minds and preparing them for the scenario? REM Times spoke to a service provider and an assistant professor in real estate to find out.

 

Academic institutions must incorporate emerging technologies and industry trends in curriculums, believes Matt Myers, MAI, FRICS Assistant Professor in Real Estate at Heriot-Watt University Dubai. “As real estate markets are local and dynamic, we embed current industry reports (local and global) in our courses and discuss how these trends affect their respective markets. For example, we speak about how property sectors in parts of the world are facing declining demand and value, while the same sectors are doing quite well here in Dubai,” he informs. Myers further states that all the programmes offered by the university are industry-relevant degrees with a focus on both theory and practical learning to prepare students for the real estate advisory industry.

Perpetual interactions with industry insiders and experts too can go a long way in preparing students for the job market, notes Myers. “Through lecturing staff industry networks, we bring in guest speakers from industry and industry professional groups. In fact, most students in our M.Sc Real Estate programme are already working in the real estate industry and taking our programme so they upskill and progress towards their professional membership with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).  We are also available to work with industry partners to present and provide bespoke training programmes to upskill existing staff,” he mentions. 

Description: C:\Users\pc\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\Fahad Mohamed.jpgFM companies too are focussing on upgrading the skills of their employees and taking data-driven decisions. Fahad Mohamed, Director - DXB & NE, Adeeb Group, feels that agility, collaboration, and continuous innovation are the company’s driving forces in an ever-evolving industry. “We learn from experience while thinking outside the box, guided by clear goals. Embracing change with enthusiasm, we dare to explore new horizons, adapting and growing stronger. Together, these principles empower us to stay ahead in a rapidly changing landscape, propelling us toward a bright future,” he reveals.

The power of tech

But of course, one cannot neglect the role played by technology in building the FM sector as well as the workforce surrounding it. “While discussions on proptech and big data have been going on for a long time in the FM sector, it is just the beginning. FM professionals are slowly embracing analytics, IoT, and AI but many find them unfamiliar,” opines Mohamed.

Myers too believes that the real estate industry, on the whole, is generally in the ‘late majority’ category and thus needs to be shown how the new technology will be beneficial before adapting to it. “GIS/spatial analysis was considered cutting-edge in the 1990s as was Big Data Business Analytics around the turn of the millennium. Yet today, few real estate analysts use these technologies. However, we do incorporate both in our courses and the industry standard MS Excel for financial modelling. We also incorporate industry-specific software such as ARGUS.  In the coming year, we will be introducing generative AI (ChatGPT, Bard AI, Bing AI etc) as a learning and analytical tool.”

In a nutshell, to be successful in the FM sector, professionals must keep embracing new tools like generative AI, Power BI, regression modelling, and GIS, believe experts. “The mindset is shifting and being increasingly driven by the need to adapt to a changing landscape,” says Mohamed while Myers sums up, “Considering the real estate industry's tendency to adapt to technology at a slower pace, students and professionals who acquire these new analytics skills will find themselves in high demand among employers.”

 

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