To say the GCC’s FM sector is in the throes of an evolution would be understating the magnitude of change currently underway in the industry. While a considerable degree of this revamp is being driven across functions such as pricing, contract formation, and quality control, it would be incorrect to discount the role played by computer aided FM (CAFM) software in spurring better service delivery in the region.

CAFM has become a recurring fixture in regional FM programmes since it made its way to the UAE in the early 2000s, according to estimates by Andreas Hadjioannou, business development and sales director for Virtual IT Consultants’ Middle East operation. Back then, it took the form of computerised management maintenance systems (CMMS), Hadjioannou says, adding a lot has changed for the better over the years: “Though state-of-the-art in technology for their time, CMMS tools did not have the flexibility and adaptability that CAFM systems of today have – [CMMS tools were] very rigid, costly to be customised, and expensive to implement too.

“The UAE, being a country that promotes innovation and technology, followed the trends of FM software thereon, with the market [now] flooded by FM software to fit all budgets and purposes.”

Challenges in the contemporary FM market revolve around the operational ease – or lack thereof, in some cases – with which CAFM systems can be implemented within existing hierarchies.

Hadjioannou explains: “The [UAE’s] FM industry is facing constant pressure to improve overall performance, minimise costs, and provide more quality services – this pressure is passed on to FM software vendors. Today, customers [have a better understanding of] what they require and demand systems that are very flexible, user-friendly, industry specific, and adaptable to their requirements. In response, the FM software industry provides systems that can accommodate standard processes and techniques and are fit for specific customer industries.

“In addition, these systems can handle a large volume of data and manage assets, budgets, contracts, material, and projects with performance management features and advanced technology – all at a fraction of the cost that customers used to pay 10 years ago,” he adds.

Among the notable challenges faced by FM software providers include procurement and lack of quality data. As Hadjioannou points out, customers might sometimes “issue complex tenders with features they may never use”, eventually increasing overall costs.

He adds: “It may sound odd, but most customers do not have accurate data, especially for their assets. [This is a challenge, since] to get accurate performance management information, the data entered into the CAFM system must be of high quality and done in a timely manner.”

During a conversation with fmME – turn to p34 for the full interview – Douglas Langmead, CEO of Aptitude Management Services, voiced similar opinions regarding customer awareness about CAFM’s reach and functionalities.

Aptitude is tasked with the delivery of Australia-headquartered WebFM’s OMTrak platform in the MENA region. Remarking on the challenges surrounding CAFM – and property management software – uptake in the region, Langmead said: “The challenge for us is convincing corporate developers that it is more effective to select information management systems that apply across their entire portfolio, rather than specifying generically and having to learn and use a variety of different systems for the same purpose.”