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Facility Management in times of digital transformation

More than 220 participants from the fields of FM practice and FM education met for the sixth IFM-Day at the ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Wädenswil for a professional exchange and to celebrate the Master's degree graduates of 2018.

The IFM-Day at the Institute of Facility Management at ZHAW provided an excellent opportunity for a day of networking for FM education and FM practitioners from industry. The focus of this year's IFM-Day on March 9th was a series of lectures on management in times of digital transformation, selected thesis presentations by Master's graduates, a panel discussion with FM executives and finally the Master's degree ceremony.

The algorithm in the land of milk and honey

To start, Tom Kleiber, Entrepreneur in Digital Transformation from Zurich and Charlotte Geyer, from XU Corporate Education GmbH Berlin, presented insights into digital transformation at a management level. A former manager with Microsoft Switzerland, Tom Kleiber’s keynote speech titled "The algorithm in the land of milk and honey" and discussed the challenges and possible solutions in dealing with the impact of digitisation. He stressed that today's working culture prevents a digital future if we don't create more space for interaction and flexibility. In his lively lecture, he made clear that - despite all the digitisation - the importance of physical places for social exchange between people will increase.

Charlotte Geyer, an education and training expert focused in her keynote on how digitisation is changing companies and what new skills are needed in order to be successful in the future. Using the digital competency model, she explained that managers and employees need to identify central fields of action in the digital transformation and make active use of the resulting opportunities. In addition to network thinking, co-creative innovation and mutual learning to be a coach, leaders need to meet employees on eye level and enable them to think accordingly.

Both speakers agreed that, despite all the dynamics of technological progress, modern management requires the ability not to get lost in a blind digital actionism, but rather to look carefully and from a distance at how the organisation is able to master the opportunities and challenges of digital change in order to be competitive in the future.

Actively using the opportunities of digital transformation

During the panel discussion, FM executives Enzo Moliterni (CEO Bouygues Energies & Services Schweiz AG), Oliver Steiner (Head of Global Commercial Management at Credit Suisse) and Matthias Peter (Head of FM, SBB AG Immobilien), had a lively exchange of views regarding trends, changes impacting on FM, security issues and personnel development in connection with the topic of digital transformation.

Together with Tom Kleiber and Charlotte Geyer, the three FM executives discussed with the audience, whether the FM industry feels prepared for this digital transformation and which changes should be actively shaped in the future. A key issue raised was that FM is especially important as the interface between core and support business and playing a central role when it comes to data collection and data use.

The conclusion of the intensive discussion highlighted that the FM industry does not have to be afraid of digitisation. Instead, all stakeholders should do their homework to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digitisation and to highlight their active contribution to value creation for clients and users. These tasks primarily describe the development of employee and management skills in times of digital transformation.

Master's theses: convincing study results

The research results of the Master's programme were also the focus of IFM-Day 2018. The students of the ZHAW Master of Science in FM presented in a poster forum the results of their master's theses, allowing visitors to exchange ideas with the students of this strategically oriented MSc programme and discuss their findings. Four Master students presented their theses in concise plenary sessions. This year, there was a very broad spectrum of topics ranging from the use of artificial intelligence in support processes in hospitals to the analysis of modern types of FM outsourcing in the form of the vested approach. The lively discussions between the graduates and the professional audience showed the practical significance of the conducted research.

Graduation ceremony of twelve graduates of the Master in Facility Management

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Antje Junghans, Director of the IFM and Prof. Dr. Daniel Baumann, Vice-Director of the Departments of Life Sciences and Facility Management, opened this year's graduation ceremony and congratulated the graduates. Prof. Geir K. Hansen from NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim - gave the commencement speech. He stressed the importance of a Master's degree - also from an international perspective - in times of increasing complexity and business dynamics.

The MSc programme directors, Prof. Dr. Andrea Kofler and Prof. Dr. Christian Coenen, presented diplomas to graduates from seven countries and reflecting back on an intensive period of study together, they addressed a few personal words to the graduates. Paul Schmitter, a current MSc graduate, received his diploma and two more awards. He not only received the FM Alumni Award for the best Master's degree, but also the prize for the best Master Thesis 2018 of IFMA Switzerland. In line with the theme of this year's IFM-Day, the IFMA Prize was awarded for his work on “Artificial Intelligence in FM in Healthcare: The Use of Intelligent Personal Assistants for Optimizing the Interaction of Patients and Visitors with Non-Medical Support Services in Swiss Hospitals". During the diploma ceremony, Irene Arnold, BSc programme director, also presented six bachelor part-time students their diploma.