Thursday, 25 November 2010

Social Networks in the Built Environment

At the World Workplace Expo in Atlanta last month Iain Murray received a very special honour: he was awarded the FMJ Editor's Pick award for an article he had published in the May/June issue of the magazine. If you didn't catch this now award-winning article first time around, here's another chance.

Social Networks in the Built Environment
by Iain Murray
Now that we have established that social media (or Web 2.0) is here to stay, what is the relevance to us as facility management practitioners? When I set out to write this piece, I created a Google Wave and asked my Twitter contacts to participate. I also created the document in Adobe Buzzword. So technically this is not just authored exclusively by me but is in fact, a collaboration through social media tools - all achieved in a single day.

Martin Brown who is a prolific exponent of Web 2.0 in his guise as a founder of and @fairsnape on Twitter said, "Social media in the built environment has opened the door for individuals to hold conversations and form relationships across organisational boundaries. This is increasingly important as we enter a new decade where success will come from person-to-person collaboration, rather than past decades of business-to-business focus."

"Leaders and directors of built environment organisations need to address the benefits that social media will bring, building social media into organisational strategies and into individual development plans and competencies. Failure to do so will almost definitely leave them trailing behind their more innovative and successful competitors."

It is clear that this is an enlightened viewpoint, and that there are many who just don't know or don't care about this debate. I personally agree with Brown's perspective. If you want to continue to thrive, then you are going to have to get with the program - and the program now includes social media.

Let's look at the changes in communication that we have seen in the built environment over the last ten years:

• Email is now the principle means of communication;

• File sharing is now common practice;

• Computer-aided design (CAD) is the only form of detailed drawing that exists;

• Visualisations are as standard as perspectives once were;

• Real-time collaboration on the same project is now standard;

• Pre-production time is much shorter due to electronic communication;

• Costs are decreasing due to electronic communication; and

• Sustainability is now at the top of the built environment agenda.

Cloud computing, instant messaging and more
Google Wave, Twitter, instant messaging and others have moved the traditional model of e-snail mail (you write to me then I respond, repeat) to you writing directly to me. In fact, i may start to respond before you have finished and incidentally someone else has joined the virtual conversation. All of a sudden we have shortened the time frame for problem resolution significantly.

Online file sharing (or cloud computing) has now moved on to a higher plane - allowing real-time simultaneous collaboration on the same data from multiple sources. I remember the days when as a young architectural office boy I had to borrow the boss' Rolls Royce, go down to the engineer's office and wait until he drew his input onto the tracing paper drawing. This certainly has changed.

The other significant move forward is the move towards Web-based tools. The cloud computing capability means that no matter what computer you are on, you can still access the tools you need to work. For instance, my business for instance has a Web-based computer-aided facility management system which links to our mobile operatives personal digital assistants and telecoms system, all through the Web. If we had a swine flu outbreak, the team could work from anywhere, including answering the phone. No more desktop-based software.

Designers are now designing in 3-D, using among other free resources Google SketchUp, and consultants are calculating the costs and working out the service routes as the design evolves. I have even seen screens that are 2-metres tall and 4-metres wide (liquid crystal display) with the ability to collaborate through touch while connected to others in remote locations doing the same thing. It is truly something to behold.

New tools and opportunities to consider
The most prolific explosion in communication has been the advent of Twitter. A more useful tool for me is the proliferation of NING networks. These are community-based networks formed by groups or companies to bring together people for projects or subject discussions. They look and feel a bit like Facebook. A good example would be the Web site or Arup's Foresight network. They bring together chat, blogs, podcasts, video content and other resources in a visually pleasing and easy-to-use format.

You can see the rise of the profile of social media through IFMA's own activities. You can listen to the FMJ Unscripted podcast on iTunes, visit the association's Facebook page, watch its YouTube channel, follow IFMA on Twitter, join the IFMA group on LinkedIn, see IFMA photos on Flickr and view association presentations on SlideShare. Members can even collaborate on the IFMA online community.

LinkedIn tells us that 55 million professionals use it to exchange information, ideas and opportunities. Although i wasn't so fond of LinkedIn when i first signed up, I'm changing my view. More recently, I have created and utilised corporate links for leads and connections.
I am also a member of a network in Scotland called the Entrepreneurial Exchange which is a network of 450 entrepreneurs who employ 270,000 people and turnover £21 billion sterling. We have a NING network and this is used to collaborate from a business perspective. This is provided by This also runs a new media breakfast (NMB) for business professionals to educate them in social media.

I have an amusing anecdote relating to the NMB. I try and attend them all, and I have taken to tweeting from them through Tweetdeck on my laptop. One morning I was busy tweeting during Gordon White's presentation on NING networks ( when he mentioned - a prolific blogger, podcaster and tweeter as @jangles. I tweeted the reference and within five minutes, I had a direct message from him. He had commented on the presentation which I was able to relay back to the assembled crowd. The inference to the power and speed of the communication was obvious.

What this has taught me is that there are numerous new tools which are creating opportunities in business to collaborate and exchange information far more dynamically than there has ever been before. So, how do we use these tools effectively as opposed to just playing with them as a novelty or for fun?

How social media applies to FM
The answer for me lies in the emergence of new collaboration tools specifically targeted at the built environment. The Be2Camp unconference at Total Workplace Management in London in October 2009 showcased some very interesting collaboration tools. One tool ( allows you to brand and customise a number of applications, all of which are collaborative. A live example of the application is the design competition held over 48 hours in December - a live design competition held online. The system is described as Building Information Modelling.

Recently, I have seen some examples that take this a step further. Take for example, the creation of a virtual design studio which designers around the globe subscribe to and then seek commissions from international clients. The global network of designers uses something like ArchiCAD 13 from to deliver the design. While one sleeps, another continues to work. It's all about 24/7 productivity and the corresponding speed of pre-production and detailed design.

Did you know that Pepsi did not advertise in its usual slot at the Super Bowl XLIV but instead diverted the US$20 million the company usually spends into a social media campaign?

The Australian telecoms giant Telestra has gone a step further. It insists that the company's 40,000 employees are trained in the use of social media. It has designed an online training program to help them too. See the guide online at

There is one other significant technology that could have a significant impact on the built environment if developed appropriately. Augmented Reality is a recent technology available on a Google Android phone or the iPhone 3GS through It utilises a combination of the device's camera, mobile Web, Global Positioning System and accelerometer (the bit that knows which way the device is orientated). You quite simply open the software, point the camera at something and it tells you what it is. If you are in an unfamiliar city and want to know where the nearest metro or public transit is, simply point it and follow the links on screen.

Translate this capability into the built environment, and imagine a day where you can point a device at a project or building and it will show you visualisations of the finished product, the details for the design team and the opening date. Point it at a facility and get the environmental performance information, the rental costs and occupant Web sites. Take it one step further and imagine pointing it at a wall in a building and immediately seeing the route of the services, the thickness, whether it is load bearing or not. The possibilities are truly endless and tremendously exciting.

"What's in a name," said Richard Byatt, BIFM communications director. "Do you think social media - with all its connotations of personal networking and leisure - puts some organisations off exploring it, let alone adopting it?"

"I guess, those with the motivation will be early adopters and spend time trying different tools. If the familiarisation period is quick enough that's fine. If it takes six months to get the hang of it and then it falls out of favour, that's not so good."

Where does this lead us?
It is leading us to a better place. The advent of CAD, email and electronic collaboration is now considered last decade. We can expect to be working live across multiple platforms, all of which are Web-based and utilise cloud computing, over several time zones, with a large number of professionals on projects which will be procured faster and designed more efficiently, and they will be more sustainable too.

Believe me, if you aren't already on board with social media, you should be.

Murray would like to thank his Twitter and Google Wave friends for collaborating on this piece.

Iain is currently Deputy Chair of Global FM. He can be reached through any of the following social media outlets:
- Personal e-mail:
- Corporate e-mail:
- Personal Twitter:
- Corporate Twitter:
- Twitter List: @iain_murray/facilitiesmanagement
- Facebook: ConnectedFM
- Skype: iainamurray
Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Murray Goes Global

The dust had barely settled after Iain Murray's farewell speech as Chair of the British Institute of Facilities Management and no sooner has he been elected Deputy Chair of Global FM. The announcement came yesterday as members gathered in Atlanta for the Global FM Board Meeting, ahead of IFMA's World Workplace Conference and Expo.

A worldwide alliance of member-centered organisations, Global Facility Management Association founded in 2006, is dedicated to providing leadership in the FM profession. It's mission statement: 'Promote the strategic value and progress of facilities management'.

Iain will be working alongside Teena Shouse, Senior FM Consultant at Facility Engineering Associates in Kansas, who has been appointed Chair of Global FM. Additionally Iain will act as Chair of the new Global FM Ambassador Programme.

CEO of total FM provider Connected FM, experienced FM consultant, seasoned orator and progressionist, Iain is ideally suited to his new role and excited about the opportunities ahead. As a well known figure amongst FM professionals and the social media arena, it's no surprise that the congratulatory tweets have been flooding in thick and fast. To them we add our own salute! Well done boss.

richardbyatt: Congratulations on GFM election success Iain!

MCSTraining: @iain_murray Congrats on the #facilitiesmanagement Deputy-chairship Iain!

FMCoach: @iain_murray fantastic news about your election to Deputy Chair of #GlobalFM

BIFM_COO: Congratulations @iain_murray on being elected Deputy Chair for #GlobalFM. Drinks are on you!

TFMTweets: RT @FMCoach: @iain_murray fantastic news about your election to Deputy Chair of #GlobalFM #facilitiesmanagement (I agree!)

FM_Conference: @Connectedfm_IM is new #GlobalFM Deputy Chair - Congrats

fairsnape: RT @Connectedfm_IM: #GlobalFM board elects Teena Shouse #IFMA + @iain_murray as Chair + Deputy respectively #bifm &It; congrats Iain

thefmguru: @connectedfm_IM Congrats

ibroadbent_bifm: Congratulations on your appt, great recognition of your work
Monday, 13 September 2010

Connected FM donates to Cancer Research UK and CLIC Sargent

As a company we are always looking to make a difference and seek opportunities to donate to worthy causes. Here is an update on our most recent donations...

Who could resist the opportunity to aid this bunch in their efforts to raise money for Cancer Research UK by participating in their annual 'Relay for Life' event. The 'High Life' team - consisting of Michelle Potter (Team Captain), Bob Potter, Leah Grindrod, Elaine Kirkman, Lesley Forsyth, Cameron Forsyth, Leslie Wallace, Heather Strachan and Alex Strachan - entered into the spirit of the event with their costumes and props. Not only that but they were winners of the 'Bits and Bobs Walk' owing to their decorative bras and pants seen below! Congratulations to the team on raising a total of £4500 from online donations, clothing donations and monies raised on the day.
Cancer Research UK's 'Relay for Life' is an inspirational event that honours cancer survivors and celebrates life. Funds raised go towards life-saving research into all forms of cancer.

Connected FM also welcomed the opportunity to support Ammy Singh in his fundraising efforts for CLIC Sargent, the UK's leading children's cancer charity. Ammy completed his 'Three Peaks Challenge' in July after climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in a collective time of 11 hours, 33 mins. Congratulations to Ammy on such an impressive feat!
Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Connect with FM network goes viral

It’s just four weeks since the launch of Connect with FM, the online network for the facilities management industry, and it has already gone viral. On its first day the site attracted a staggering 100 members and has now reached over 330 and growing all the time. Members come from a wide range of backgrounds from bid management, FM software, engineering, waste management to sustainability, healthcare and consultancy. The sector coverage isn’t the only area in which the spectrum is vast, members who’ve listed their locations on the ‘Where are you?’ group show representation from Baltimore, Southampton, Dubai, New Jersey and beyond.

Since its inception 14 forum discussions have been started, 5 events listed, 8 blogs posted and 62 photos uploaded. There are also 12 groups to join on the site, ranging from FM in the Press to FM ‘Best Practice’, with 155 members collectively. As a social network the site is about participation and invites members to comment, discuss, upload, network and even chat online.

Members can also get involved in the competition to win a Sony Bloggie. All they need to do is invite as many of their friends and colleagues as possible. Whoever brings the most new members to the site wins.

We look forward to seeing how the site evolves as members of the industry realise the benefits of contributing to this online platform.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Launch of Online Network Exclusively for FM

An exciting new online network will be launched on Monday 5th July specifically geared around the FM industry. The Connectedfm sponsored site named ‘Connect with FM’ will allow anyone with an interest in facilities management to come together to share information and advice.

The network will have a range of groups you can join including for example FM ‘Best Practice’ and Who’s Who in FM. There will be discussion forums, blogs, RSS feeds, twitter feeds, videos and photographs, amongst other things.

Regularly updated it will guarantee topical discussions and blogs on FM related subjects, as well as offering useful tips and advice.

If you’re an FM practitioner, expert or simply have an interest in the industry then we hope you’ll become a member and contribute to the network.
Monday, 28 June 2010

Connected FM welcome John Ferry as new Commercial MD

Connected FM welcomed its latest arrival this month as John Ferry settled into the role of Commercial MD for the business. John brings with him extensive experience in sales and project management from his work in the interiors fit-out sector. He will be managing the sales and marketing side of the business, with the assistance of Shona Lyttel.

Much to his delight we're sure, he just happened to join us in a month of very busy tendering activity! Five submissions later and the pressure is still on with a continued flow of new business to win. John is settling in well, getting to grips with the services we provide and getting to know the team (he's already taken on that most important of roles - managing the World Cup sweep stakes!).

Last week John joined the team in our first strategy meeting, where he gave valuable input as we discussed the strategic aims and goals for the future of the business.

We're happy to have John as part of the team and look forward to supporting him in this new role.
Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Budget 2010 - An FM perspective

The emergency budget today must have been the most widely anticipated budget of all time, with predictions and pre-budget analysis running amok. I like everyone else anticipated the impact from both a personal and business perspective with some trepidation, were my fears realised, well, not exactly.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills published a short summary of the impact on business, and it does not seem that bad. Reduced Corporation Tax being the main one, and of course the rescinding of the previous governments move to increase NI.

The VAT increase was widely reported and anticipated, and I was surprised it is not going to be introduced until January of next year (Christmas and January sales will be interesting!).

I suspect that the increase in CGT and VAT may have a bigger impact on the building industry than FM, and in fact this could suggest another period of increased focus on Opex not Capex. I look forward to the CIC view of this. The BIFM have a perspective here.

From a personal perspective I am warned that my income will reduce by 2% in the coming 12 months, which to be honest was not entirely unexpected. Like everyone else, we tightened our belts some time ago and even more so in anticipation of this budget.

The Telegraph has a good five minute guide to give you a quick overview. Scottish Enterprise have their perspective here.

How does this impact on Connectedfm remains to be seen, we like everyone else are working very hard for our margins and I suspect that decreasing spare money will exacerbate it. However, we have been telling everyone that we are a business which can help deliver 'best value', so I suspect now is our time.

We are focused on growth, so some of the NI holiday measures (if we can take advantage of them) might help us, couple this with people who want to work for a stable employer and are less inclined to move, then I would hope we can continue our development as a leading FM provider.

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