ISS and IBM partner up to create future buildings with a human touch

Yesterday, the news of ISS and IBM teaming up to,” create buildings with a human touch”, came out. But what has brought these two companies together? And how will we see this relationship unfold?

During the ISS Top Management Conference, we had a chance to discuss this with the Director of IBM Watson IoT, Nils J. van der Zijl. Here is his perspective on the partnership:

Q. Now, the ISS and IBM collaboration has been made official; what has brought you together?

As they do every 3 years, ISS scanned the market to test if their existing computer aided facility management system (CAFM) solution still was current and able to deliver on the growing customer requirements. Eventually looking for someone new replacing their current setup.

We had a competitive engagement against few different players in the market segment but very early in that process we saw clear matches between the two companies.

Compared to other providers with a pure European setup, IBM had a global presence, we had the scale and the ability to tap into different components of the technology required. For example, energy management, real estate, space management, project management and so on.

The depth and breadth of all these solutions made us very appealing to ISS and the type of business they represent.

As a result, ISS selected IBM as their providing partner of a computer aided facility management solution and we ran a number of pilots.

As things begun to develop, we also started to have several discussions on the topic of workforce optimisation and how our companies could work together for joint benefits. Quickly we found that integrating all these solutions could be a real differentiator for ISS. And that was our real turning point.

Q. Why is it attractive for you to have ISS as your partner?

From my point of view, we both represent innovative companies. Both IBM and ISS are aware of the fact that things are changing really fast. That is why we are constantly trying to reinvent our selves, looking for new solutions and ways to meet the ever-changing customer demands.

In that sense we are on the same path.

Also, we have very similar client groups and from very early on, I together with my team had a vision of, how we jointly could go-to-market together. With one single integrated solution that could cater for all the needs a customer might have.

Q. How will we see the ISS and IBM collaboration unfold?

Let me give you a concrete example. We have been working with a client operating a building of more than 1,500 people. To be able to focus on their core business, they have outsourced many of their non-core tasks such as building technical services, cleaning, catering and you could go on to a large variety of partners.

Then we came along, keen to make their building smarter with our technology and thereby scale their overall business. Soon we faced a challenge because non of these before mentioned tasks were integrated.

And that is exactly where the IBM and ISS partnership plays in. We are now able to go to clients together, hand in hand with one solution that covers all their needs offering an Integrated Facility Services solution, where technology is a utility that has the ability to optimize customer experiences, use of space in buildings, employee workforce and all this while delivering a new level of efficiencies.

Q. How do you see this joint solution create better service experiences?

Basically, the joint solution will enable us to create more personalized service experiences that cater to the needs and well-being of the individual people occupying a building.

With sensor technology, we will be able to understand how people move around the building, which services are preferred at which times, where the service creates the most value and where the service is less of value for the client or individual.

Imagine you are sitting in a meeting room, craving for a cup tea or coffee or even needing an overhead projector. You might also have a technical problem that you need a technicians help to solve.

The problem can be quite simple, but if it requires you to walk out of the room and find somebody to help you, it will not be an ideal service experience. So how can you create these great service moments that truly hold a value? How can you make sure that the right service employee will be there at the right time?

Well, through technology and greatly trained service personnel you can. Whether this contains having an app, where you with one single button can call in the right service employee or whether the sensor technology can recognize the issue and instantly pass the message to just the right person– technology is indeed an important enabler of such a valuable service moment.

Q. Which role will these technologies play in the future?

What we are going to see in the future is more and more mobile working. So what will this mean? Well, eventually this will mean that people only will occupy spaces when they have a common goal or agenda. For example, customer meetings.

Taking my own company as an example, we have started to build client centres. Why? Because a lot of our internal meetings are done on conference calls and we primarily use our office space to meet clients.

So this whole transformation will hugely impact the role technologies will play in the future. Buildings will have the ability to sense and recognise you as the user, when you as an individual come in, it will be able to guide you through the building, identifying where available space is depending on whether you on that particular day prefer flexible working space or a meeting room and it will make sure that you get your favourite cup of coffee served as the system will recognize both the individual as well as the preference, i.e. which coffee you prefer.

Conversely, it will be all about well-being, making things more comfortable for the occupants, making people happier and finally let them have their full attention on their purpose.

This week we are sharing top Workplace and Facility Management insights from ISS experts, live from the Top Management Conference (TMC) 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Stay on top of the key trends. Follow the conference on Twitter, LinkedIn and here on