Company News
4 min read

IFMA World Workplace Recap and Thoughts on FM Innovation

Alex Cummings
May 22, 2024

The end of September saw the FlowPath team take their talents to Nashville for the annual International Facility Management Association (IFMA) World Workplace conference. A quick 4-hour drive away from the FlowPath world headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, FlowPath co-founders Alex and Griffin, along with Account Executive Matt made their way to the land of country music and hot chicken for the event. There they were joined by over four thousand other Facility Management professionals from around the world to share learnings and explore new technologies and products.

For those that have never been to Nashville, the bachelorette capital of the world and warmly regarded by many as “Nash-vegas”, the city is the growing capital of Country music (OK, and Tennessee). Complete with a Parthenon, lots of great food, and plenty of live music, Nashville has something for everyone. Probably to no-ones surprise, this city was a great location for a conference. Right downtown only a few steps away from the main strip and honky-tonks is the Nashville Convention Center where FlowPath set up our 10x10 slice of CMMS heaven and preached the gospel of modern Facility Management software.

Overall, IFMA knows how to throw an event. The FlowPath team, being a scrappy startup, went to the prior-year expo in Orlando as expo-only attendees. Needless to say, we were thrilled with the outcome there and looked forward to having our own booth in Nashville. From great education sessions, excellent networking opportunities, and a tradeshow floor that spanned the entire conference hall with vendors, IFMA World Workplace was the place to be if you are a part of the industry.

From a FlowPath perspective, not only are we a great software solution for the attendees to consider, but FlowPath is also a great software for the Integrated Facility Management Companies who had booths at the expo. This meant the FlowPath team spent the first day of the expo focused on prospecting new clients, saying hi to current customers, and welcoming “Dolly Parton” to the booth, with the second day focused on meeting the vendors and talking to FlowPath’s ability to allow them to seamlessly manage their customers. FlowPath found the expo to be a great success, found Nashville to be ultra-welcoming, and proactively found our booth for next year’s event in Denver!

For as great of a show as we found the expo to be, we need to recognize the pieces that were not present that one might expect to see at other forward-thinking industry trade shows. As a technology company in a relatively analog industry dominated by a few large brands, one might be able to guess where these recommendations might point. That said, I would like to propose some ideas for the next expo around how to bring about much-needed innovation, competition, and excitement to the aging Facility Management Industry.

First, let me present a semi-biased overview of the current state of recognized innovation within the industry...

IFMA announced the recipients of the 20202 Awards of Excellence at its World Workplace Conference and Expo. IFMA’s annual awards honor the stand-out achievements of association members, chapters, and councils, as well as corporate and industry partners. The Facility Management Innovation Award was awarded to the corporate behemoth, JLL. With 45,000 employees and almost $20 Billion in revenue in 2021, awarding this massive company for a narrowly focused product (cleaning very large office spaces) is, in my mind, the antithesis of promoting material innovation in the industry.

Taking a look back on the past few years of the award we have: 2021, a non-profit promoting the FM industry won; Sodexo in 2020 ($20 Billion in Rev, 400k+ employees); 2019 was a 5-chapter tie for unknown innovation; 2018 was EMD Serono Project, a customer of/operated by JLL; 2017 was Symantec Corp., a Broadcom Company ($30 Billion in rev); and in 2016, all the way back to the first Innovation Award listed, iOffice, (finally!) a company that was founded in 2002 but has technology at its core and was most certainly not a multi-billion dollar services conglomerate.

With only a single exception, it appears that IFMA thinks only giant companies can innovate. My two cents? The posted requirements of innovation reward big companies, ones with time and resources to go through that application process, for being big. Additionally, it doesn't appear to even consider the technological innovation that the big companies are using (that they didn’t create, or even have the internal capabilities to think about creating) - Infogrid in this case, an IoT tech company that included JLL in their recent round of funding. The entire premise of the JLL service that won the award relies on Infogrid technology, a separate company, yet IFMA awards the innovation to a user of the technology who is using it in the way it was intended.

This is like Delta winning an award for the most fuel-efficient airplane simply for flying it when the plane was made by Boeing. Sorry, IFMA, but in my mind, that is Infogrid’s award.

If the FM industry is serious about innovating (and not just rewarding corporate giants) then recognition of technology and companies that go against the grain, that bring technological parity to the industry, and that are solving real industry pain is needed. Obviously am leaning into software, but innovation can come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps it’s time to get more specific with these awards. Most innovative service provider? Most innovative new company? Most innovative way to attract people to the industry? Most “innovative” conglomerate?

How do you promote and attract these types of companies? In the same fashion those that live in the tech industry do - pitch competitions, impact technology spotlights, and industry competitions with tangible (read: $$ funded by big companies) recognition for taking on big, industry problems. Plenty of other large associations, large companies, and international industry conferences promote these types of events. Additionally, these are the types of competitions that expose lucrative opportunities to solve real problems and attract young talent to industries they might not ever have considered building software for or working in.

At the end of the day, there is an opportunity to shift the spectrum of what it means to be innovative in the Facility Management industry, welcome and encourage new ways of thinking, and take the industry to new heights faster than imagined. At FlowPath, we are looking forward to continuing to push the boundaries of what is possible and working towards every FM using better software.

P.S. FlowPath didn’t apply for this award given the time and resource requirements. Maybe next year.

About FlowPath

FlowPath is the maintenance management software for the next generation of FMs. At just under two years old, Gartner has already recognized FlowPath as an industry leader. Schedule a demo and see what the hype is all about.

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