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Data and people: true collaboration creates value

If you work in FM, you will by now have heard about the internet of things (IoT) and the technology’s potential to transform the industry. Capturing, processing, and utilising the data from IoT systems benefits a wide variety of customer sectors. Atalian Servest, for example, works with clients in retail, healthcare, professional services, leisure and hospitality, education, construction, logistics and the public sector – all of which are now attempting to extract value from the technology they have deployed.

It’s all very well having the latest technology, but it won’t be effective if you don’t know how to work with the data that’s being produced. The question is: how do you make sense of the data you are capturing and convert that into innovation? One of the ‘data capture and usage’ projects I worked on recently involved collaborating with colleagues across 30 countries together with multiple languages and a mind-boggling number of time zones. During this period, I examined the role of the sales operation function within an international facilities management organisation in detail and, more specifically, how to pragmatically start to implement serious change when it comes to capturing and using data.

Traditionally, the FM industry has focused training on the functional aspects of how software works, rather than educating people on taking responsibility for learning about why they should up-skill. Often, people fall into a false sense of security by believing that software will be the magical solution to their problems. In reality, however, deploying another layer of technology will never be able to improve the FM capability or provision within a business single-handedly. Emphasis should be on educating a workforce that it is the strategic combination of people, process, and places, applied to a very clear ‘why’, that is the real key to success.

My mantra is: ‘data is, as people do’. Atalian Servest and our clients are bombarded with content about the driving need for ‘big data’ and ‘data science’ competencies, and this can all seem a bit complicated and overwhelming. What does ‘big data’ or ‘data science’ actually mean in real, practical terms? It would be more beneficial to focus on driving ‘effective data’.

Part of my role as Group Sales Operations Director is to develop teams of people who are competent ‘data wranglers’. Our data sets are never uniform, standardised, or correlated to a bigger picture, so we need to encourage people to assess the data they manage from an outside-in perspective. All colleagues need to fully understand that their information plays a crucial part in the bigger picture and future developments. As we actively support and encourage this perspective, we help develop skills in data manipulation and in the realisation that this shouldn’t be a task that is completed to a monthly deadline or as a chore. The power truly is in the data they hold. Once this is correctly understood and managed efficiently, we can implement positive change with our customers in real-time.

Developing as a data-driven business is a continuous, ever-changing journey. Instead of relying on a small network of data scientists, we should take the time to develop, train and support a larger proportion of people so that they have the skills to generate the insights needed to influence the work they are doing.

Sales Operations have an opportunity to be catalysts for change in the FM world. We have the unique fortune and responsibility of holding a wealth of valuable insight into how our services are impacting our customers – and insight drives progression. Arguably, sales teams are the fixed point in data streams, and our ability to collaborate with account managers and operators, HR and learning and development teams means we have the chance to continually evolve. This means we can improve how our people understand, learn and spot opportunities to help us become successful and effective as a business. Ultimately, the management of data analytics and reporting are a real driving force for spearheading transformation within this sector.


Helen Salmon, Group Sales Operations Director

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