The Science of Service Podcast: Facilities Transformation

Just as our world is changing faster than ever before, so too is the world of facilities management. Technology is rewriting the rulebook, transforming how and what FM companies deliver.

To answer rapidly changing customer needs, Mitie developed the Science of Service, wrapping technology and innovation around core services like cleaning, security, waste management and more.

Join the Workplace Geeks, Ian Ellison and Chris Moriarty, and their guests, as they explore facilities transformation in collaboration with Mitie and its high-profile partners.

Meet the hosts
  • Ian Ellison, host of the Workplace Geeks podcast
    Ian Ellison
    Workplace Geeks
  • Chris Moriarty, host of the Workplace Geeks podcast
    Chris Moriarty
    Workplace Geeks
11 Mar 2024

The science of accelerating the path to net zero


With the UK Government’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050, organisations are feeling the strain of decarbonisation targets. But in the challenge lies opportunity. Ian and Chris learn how facilities management is stepping into the breach, delivering sustainable solutions to keep customers on track. Ian ventures to Halifax, where he descends three storeys below ground to see Lloyds Banking Group’s ground source heat pumps in action. And in Chelmsford, Chris learns how the archives at Essex Records Office have been made more sustainable. Across the board, data and technology are playing a decisive role in decarbonisation.

Contributors and speakers
  • Catherine Wheatley
    Catherine Wheatley
    Head of Data, Technology and Analytics, Mitie
  • Ben Finlayson - Director for Property, Investment and Delivery, Essex County Council
    Ben Finlayson
    Director for Property, Investment and Delivery, Essex County Council
  • Eleni Polychroniadou - Co-Founder, Sintali
    Eleni Polychroniadou
    Co-Founder, Sintali
  • Matteo Deidda - Senior Sustainability Manager, Lloyds Banking Group
    Matteo Deidda
    Senior Sustainability Manager, Lloyds Banking Group
Read more

With the UK Government’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050, organisations are feeling the strain of decarbonisation targets. But in the challenge lies opportunity. Ian and Chris learn how facilities management is stepping into the breach, delivering sustainable solutions to keep customers on track. Ian ventures to Halifax, where he descends three storeys below ground to see Lloyds Banking Group’s ground source heat pumps in action. And in Chelmsford, Chris learns how the archives at Essex Records Office have been made more sustainable. Across the board, data and technology are playing a decisive role in decarbonisation.

Read more
Contributors and speakers
  • Catherine Wheatley
    Catherine Wheatley
    Head of Data, Technology and Analytics, Mitie
  • Ben Finlayson - Director for Property, Investment and Delivery, Essex County Council
    Ben Finlayson
    Director for Property, Investment and Delivery, Essex County Council
  • Eleni Polychroniadou - Co-Founder, Sintali
    Eleni Polychroniadou
    Co-Founder, Sintali
  • Matteo Deidda - Senior Sustainability Manager, Lloyds Banking Group
    Matteo Deidda
    Senior Sustainability Manager, Lloyds Banking Group

“Ultimately it all comes down to data and understanding all of your assets across your estate.”
Ben Finlayson, Essex County Council

Episode links

Mitie’s Net Zero Navigator 2024

Mitie’s Net Zero Maturity Benchmark

Decarbonisation, Delivered brochure

Mini-guide to COP28


Episode 2: The science of accelerating the path to net zero


  • Chris Moriarty
  • Ian Ellison
  • Catherine Wheatley
  • Prad Pandit
  • Ben Finlayson
  • Matteo Deidda
  • Eleni Polychroniadou

Chris Moriarty: Climate change. Described by the United Nations as the crisis of our time, you’d be hard pressed not to see a daily reference to it in the news we watch, listen to, or read. Extreme weather events around the globe and protests in the streets of major cities act as a daily reminder of how critical this topic is. And this is a reason that organisations and governments alike are coming together to map out solutions. But it’s not straightforward. Research has shown that 89 percent of sustainability initiatives fail – an outcome that can’t continue as ambitious targets are set and financial reporting becomes increasingly dominated by sustainability and broader ESG metrics. And to the role of buildings, some estimates state that the built environment accounts for 40 percent of annual global CO2 emissions, with the operation of buildings accounting for 30 percent of global final energy consumption.

In a 2022 report on the status of buildings and the construction in the context of climate, the UN said that in 2021, construction activities rebounded back to pre-pandemic levels in most major economies, alongside more energy intensive use of buildings, as workplaces reopened but hybrid working remained. And in addition, more and more emerging economies are increasing their use of fossil fuel gases in buildings. Often through necessity rather than choice. As a result, buildings’ energy demands increased by around four percent from 2020; the largest increase in the last 10 years, which has meant CO2 emissions from building operations have reached an all-time high.

But the fight back is on.

Organisations are backing up their promises with fundamental changes to their operation in the pursuit of achieving net zero. Armed with the latest technology and a clear desire for action, these organisations are making demonstrable reductions to their carbon footprint. It’s a combination of technology and data, behaviour change, creativity and clear and concise planning. And we get to see how they’re doing it. This is a story of how organisations are taking on the climate emergency.

This is the Science of Service.

Hello and welcome to episode two of the Science of Service Podcast, brought to you by Mitie. I’m Chris Moriarty.

Ian Ellison: And I am Ian Ellison.

Chris Moriarty: And we are the hosts of the Workplace Geeks Podcast, and you join us on a journey of discovery as we take up Mitie CEO Phil Bentley’s invitation to explore the stories of how organisations are using the very latest technology and combining it with human endeavour to make radical changes to their organisations. And today we explore how this relates to the pursuit of net zero.

Ian Ellison: We’ve already heard about the impact of buildings and their operation on the climate, but the reality is that we need buildings. So how do we make sure that we’re limiting their impact, making better use of them and being more efficient with the energy that they consume? So to answer this question on this episode, we’ve spoken to a number of different experts.

Chris Moriarty: Indeed we have. On this episode, we have building sustainability experts.

Eleni Polychroniadou: Talk about climate in business as a good business decision. And it is a good business decision, and there’s a lot of financial reasons why companies need to do something around climate change.

Chris Moriarty: We speak to a high street bank.

Matteo Deidda: I’ve always put lots of focus on the behaviours and really bringing colleagues on the journey.

Chris Moriarty: A UK county council.

Ben Finlayson: But ultimately it all comes down to data and understanding all of your assets across your estate.

Chris Moriarty: And the team leading Mitie’s commitment to carbon net zero.

Prad Pandit: And there is no green premium to pay because you became sustainable. Actually, the sustainable option is the cheaper option.

Chris Moriarty: So, I’d say this is a topic that I have a surface knowledge of. I get that we need to do something. By we, I mean the big we. I do my best to do my bit. But if we’re going to move the needle, it feels like we’re going to have to do so much more.

Ian Ellison: Absolutely. We’re talking systemic change here, and you won’t be alone, Chris, in feeling like the topic can be overwhelming. So, I reckon what we need to get us started is an expert – and one who absolutely knows their stuff, but also explains what we need to be doing in really pragmatic, achievable terms.

Eleni Polychroniadou: So my name is Eleni Polychroniadou. I am the co-founder of a company called Sintali, which is a global environmental verification company, which, if you translate that into what I call human speak, just means that we figure out whether buildings and companies are meeting sustainability credentials, they’re meeting international frameworks, and if they are as green as they say they are.

There’s a lot of greenwashing out there, so we’re trying to be that voice of truth and bring credibility to a lot of work that’s happening around the environment.

I’ve always believed that you can combine business with doing something for climate change because it’s such a systemic issue. I think about how I can use my position in business and my growing network to really change minds and really inspire people to do things about climate change because as one person, I definitely can’t do it all. But if I think about all the people that I’ve met around the globe, all the people working on buildings, all of the owners, all of the developers, the architects. If everybody did something, then we would be in a much better situation.

Ian Ellison: So, you can probably hear already that Eleni speaks both from her heart and her deep-seated conviction to the future of our planet, and also her mind. Not just her knowledge, but also the recognition of community power when it comes to sustainable change.

Eleni Polychroniadou: Talk about climate in business as a good business decision. And it is a good business decision, and there’s a lot of financial reasons why companies need to do something around climate change. But there is also a moral imperative and ethics seem to be, um, a bit pushed to the side when we’re talking about business. And I want to challenge that and say, you know what, it’s good for your business and it’s also the right thing to do and you should be doing it. When it comes to sustainability, there are many different ways of looking at it. I tend to always come back to the triple bottom line, which means people, planet, economy. And the best way that I can describe it is decisions or companies or products – if they are doing something negative into one of those three categories, then they’re not sustainable. So that’s quite a negative framing, but it essentially means that if you have, for example, a business that’s doing something really great economically and really great for, um, service several stakeholders, but it’s really polluting and damaging the environment, it’s not sustainable. But you can also flip that and say, if you have something that’s really green, really sustainable, but it’s creating a company to go bankrupt, that’s also not sustainable. So if you flip it on the positive side, it’s about value creation, about creating positive value for people, for the environment, the nature, the world that we live in, which is where the resources come in from, and then also our economy, because it’s all linked together. And I think historically, we see things as silos.

Ian Ellison: So, we’ve already got two of my pet obsessions here: systems and silos. And what I mean by this is that everything’s connected, but we usually try and solve business problems by acting like they’re not.

Matteo Deidda: My name is Matteo. I work for Lloyds Banking Group, in the sustainability team. I look after anything that is related with the environmental impact of Lloyds Banking Group’s own operation. So, anything that comes from our offices, our branches, our data centre in terms of carbon emissions, energy, water consumption, waste, biodiversity and so on. Anything that you do on those sites, you almost always need to balance the energy efficiency, the sustainability and all this great stuff, with actually the fact that colleagues are working there every day, that colleagues, that the customers are using that space every day.

Ian Ellison: The reason we’re now talking to Matteo is to see how the sort of changes Eleni says are so essential can actually work in practice.

Matteo Deidda: It’s a very diverse portfolio because some of our buildings are hundreds of years old. Others are modern places. Others are very small branches in remote communities. So it’s a very, very diverse type of, uh, type of portfolio.

Ian Ellison: Now this isn’t Matteo’s first rodeo. He’s been in and around sustainability in some form for about a decade now.

Chris Moriarty: So, I bet he’s seen a lot of change in that time.

Matteo Deidda: I think the conversation has evolved a lot over the last 10 years. The conversation was a lot about energy management. We talked a lot about pounds and we talked a lot about kilowatt hour. Fast forward 10 years, the conversation, at least for what I see it, is all about net zero.

Eleni Polychroniadou: One of the reasons that we’re seeing so much action around climate, and seeing companies take it more seriously, is because the financial institutions are driving change. So, if the financial institutions hadn’t said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to finance you if you don’t have certain criteria,’ I don’t think we would be where we are today.

There’s been a huge change in the last two years maybe, of a lot of pressure from regulation on banks, on funds, et cetera to say you need to be funding projects that are driving the net zero transition. You need to be funding only green things. You need to be increasing the portion of green lending that you’re doing, et cetera.

Ian Ellison: So, what we’re saying is that society broadly is motivated to do something, even if, like you said, Chris, sometimes it struggles to know what to do. But organisations are fired up to make change, not only because of that groundswell of motivation, but also because the business system is changing. Drivers are increasingly incentivising this through different mechanisms, like Eleni said there about ESG.

Chris Moriarty: Now I’ve heard about some of these financial instruments that are pushing organisations more and more towards doing more and more. Models like the ESOS scheme.

Catherine Wheatley: So you think about the ESOS scheme, which is basically where every organisation has to look at what’s going on and put forward recommendations for how to make it better, to financial disclosures around carbon impacts. There’s a lot of things that are happening in that space and they’re becoming more and more relevant from both sides, from both the public and internally to the business.

Chris Moriarty: So I popped into Mitie’s HQ in the Shard in London and went searching for someone in the know and I found Catherine.

Catherine Wheatley: I’m Catherine Wheatley, my job title is Head of Data, Technology and Analytics. But what that actually means, is in the Plan Zero space in Mitie, I look after all the data sets that we have and see how we can use them to help our customers, stakeholders, colleagues decarbonise. Lots of Mitie customers are on that journey at different spaces and they might come to us at very at the very beginning of that journey of ‘Look, we’ve got a problem. We need to work out what on earth our carbon footprint is and we need to create a plan and we need to work through that plan to get there.’ Or very often, ‘We’ve done a lot of stuff, how do you help us to get to the next level?’

Essex are a really good example of that in the sense that they have been a customer for a long time and they’ve gone out and thought, ‘Actually, what on earth can we do about our environmental challenges?’

Chris Moriarty: I asked Catherine to introduce me to the team at Essex County Council, so I spoke to Ben.

Ben Finlayson: My name is Ben Finlayson. I’m the Director of Property Investment and Delivery at Essex County Council. So, my role is heavily related to property and construction, but I’m also responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Council’s property estate, as well as a sale, lease and purchase of property. Essex County Council is what we call an upper tier local authority. It has a really diverse, broad role to play in Essex, providing around 80 percent of the services received by the residents in Essex. Clearly to deliver those services, we also need a wide range of assets and also to deliver new construction projects, and that’s kind of where my role feeds into it. We’ve actually got a total of 1,412 assets, and they’re all spread out all the way around Essex. And we have, you know, a huge diversity in terms of size, age, and function of those properties. We have everything from really small libraries to our main County Hall office, which is capable of holding three and a half thousand staff.

Trying to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, that’s a real challenge because some of our buildings are Victorian and some of them are brand new. We’ve got outdoor education sites, park and rides, we’ve even got a records office and warehouses. So, all of the different types of buildings that you can, you can probably imagine, uh, we’ve got on our portfolio and, you know, targets to try and take those towards a net zero position by 2030. But what we’re having to do is look at our broad range of estate and actually commission all of those surveys to go and actually have a look, see what each building needs to get to that net zero position. We fully appreciate that some buildings that’s going to be really difficult.

So what we’re looking at is rather than necessarily creating net zero for every single building, it’s having that average position. But ultimately it, it all comes down to data and understanding all of your assets across your estate. Uh, the Essex records office is a good example, because that’s actually one where we’ve done a lot of work on transforming it to net zero.

Ian Ellison: Now that record office sounds really interesting. It’s a legacy building, it’s got ancient records, it’s got a closely-managed climate control environment, and they’re power hungry. We’re also thinking about public access into the building. It doesn’t sound like the easiest project from a sustainability team perspective.

Chris Moriarty: Indeed, I thought it was interesting too. So, do you know what I did?

Ian Ellison: Did you go on a road trip?

Chris Moriarty: I went on a road trip. So, I popped down to Chelmsford to meet Ben and have a look around the archives…Hi, how you doing? I’m here to see Ben Finlayson…Chris Moriarty…Hello Ben, how you doing?

Ben Finlayson: This is County Hall.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah.

Ben Finlayson: This is our main office building.

Chris Moriarty: Right, so what should we do then?

Ben Finlayson: So, we’ve got Essex records office, which is a little bit of a walk away. Uh, we’ve got Martin Astell, who is the manager of that site. Who’s going to meet us there at 11:30.

Chris Moriarty: Hello.

Ben Finlayson: Ah, Martin, how are you doing? Good to see you.

Martin Astell: Sorry I’m late.

Chris Moriarty: That’s all right. Martin, I’m Chris. Nice to see you. How you doing?

Martin Astell: The records that we’ve got here are from centuries past. So the oldest document that we’ve got here is from before the Norman Conquest. Most of the collection will be from, you know, the medieval period onwards. So we have to be able to look after things from, you know, from the 14th century up to stuff that’s coming in yesterday.

Chris Moriarty: Right.

Martin Astell: The basic way to look after things, so for all the stuff that we keep on paper and on parchment, if you keep it in the right temperature and humidity conditions, in boxes, protected from light and various other things that can damage it, then you can be fairly confident that it will last for centuries.

Chris Moriarty: Right. Wow.

Martin Astell: So it’s very important to stick within particular temperature and humidity and very important that you maintain them at a steady level. What you want to avoid is fluctuations.

Chris Moriarty: Right.

Martin Astell: So, uh, yeah, kind of a specialist building for, for a special, special reason.

Chris Moriarty: Really cool.

Martin Astell: So, we’re now in the back areas. So this is a restricted area. Members of the public aren’t allowed in here unaccompanied. We’re in, we’re now in the cube, where the records are stored. And there are a number of these repositories, um, where, um, things are kept in, uh, mostly in acid-free boxes. You can see those green boxes down there, our acid-free boxes. This one holds a lot of our map material. So either in these kind of flat chest of drawers.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah. Wow.

Martin Astell: Or rolled or in boxes.

Chris Moriarty: So, we’ve got a sense of how power hungry this building is and rightly so. But we are here to look at how Essex County Council are taking on this challenge using technology and by having the least amount of impact on the environment. So, Ben invited me upstairs.

Ben Finlayson: Obviously, we have all the solar panels on the roof, which we can go up and have a look at.

Chris Moriarty: Oh, yes, please. Do you know, this is my first time in a proper plant room?

Ben Finlayson: There you go. And this is quite a substantial one.

Chris Moriarty: Isn’t it?

Ben Finlayson: So, you can see what these are all generating. 14, 000 watts on that one. 14, 000 on that one, 20, 000 watts.

Pranay Kavathekar: It’s not so much about the sun, it’s just the light, because it’s just the photons and stuff that it activates.

Chris Moriarty: That is the most scientific thing we’ve heard so far. I love that. It’s the photons. I’ll wait till I tell Ian that when I get back.

Chris Moriarty: So that was Pranay, who works for Mitie and has been working really closely with Ben on this project. We’ll come back to Pranay later. But when we came down off the roof, we popped down into reception and had a quick chat and it was there that Ben really explained to me the system that they’ve put together at Essex County Council.

Ben Finlayson: We’ve degassed this site effectively. So there’s no more gas requirement for this site. So, everything we can purchase to, to fuel this site is, is electricity. And you can, you can get electricity from sustainable sources.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah.

Ben Finlayson: We’ve got solar panels on the roof, they’re providing a part of that. The rest, if we buy that from a green source, so wind or other solar. And effectively this is a carbon zero site.

Chris Moriarty: Wicked. And that’s where the, the pump comes in, right? In terms of getting you off, get off gas, do what you can on your site to generate your own electricity. And then, whatever the shortfall is, get it from a sustainable source.

Ian Ellison: Now that’s fascinating, because so much attention is on these new so-called smart buildings when it comes to sustainability technology and so on. So, it’s great to hear how organisations can think about retrofit too. And do you know what? Eleni agrees with this.

Eleni Polychroniadou: I think there’s been a lot of attention on new build, as opposed to retrofit, because it’s a lot easier when you’re starting from scratch to design something that’s better for the environment. What I’m seeing is, there’s a lot of interest in retrofit, a lot of interest in existing buildings, but people are still really hesitating to get involved because of several barriers. One is it’s obviously a lot more expensive to deal with an existing building. You have limitations, you can’t…You don’t want to knock it down because that obviously has a much bigger environmental impact. So then you have the limitations of the size, where it’s facing, certain materials. So you have to be a little bit more creative in what you can do, which again might increase the cost. And then there’s also tends to be issues of ownership. So, where somebody might have a tenant and a landlord relationship, you might be looking at green leases or regular leases, and who has the control to be able to make the changes. There’s quite a lot in the retrofit element. It is a huge segment.

Ian Ellison: So it’s clear that retrofit sustainability improvements can be even more challenging than new buildings. But not impossible. And Matteo has got a cracking example of this at one of their brand headquarters up in West Yorkshire.

Matteo Deidda: We’re just completing our first ground source heat pump in our Halifax building, which is absolutely fascinating. Together with Mitie, we dug two holes, boreholes under the building, which are the same height as the Shard. And under the building there’s lots of water. And we’re using this water to preheat and pre-cool the building throughout the year. I mean, it sounds simple, but it’s been like two years in the making, uh, to, to get to this point. And, I’ll probably say that you, you don’t know until you start drilling, you actually don’t know what you’re going to find there. So, there were days where perhaps Mitie will go through 20 or 30 metres in one go, and others that will go down half a metre because they found a concrete base or whatever.

Ian Ellison: So, Chris, you’re not the only one who’s been out on the road.

Alan Bark: My name’s Alan Bark. From Sheffield. I’m the site manager for Mitie. The main thing that I’m here for is QHSE, so it’s the quality, health and safety, to make sure it’s done. Normally we hand over, we hand the job over that’s fit for purpose and it looks nice.

Ian Ellison: It’s a majestic building. It’s astonishing, isn’t it? It’s like a jaw dropping in the centre of this beautiful old mining town, isn’t it, essentially?

Matteo Deidda: Yeah, it is, it is one of the biggest, biggest buildings in town as well. That’s your borehole, because basically, so, what happened is that this building used to be a brewery.

Ian Ellison: On this site?

Matteo Deidda: On this site. So there is like a water table underneath the building, which is quite, quite prominent. So how this work is pretty much that this water stays the constant temperature throughout the year. So, we’ve got two boreholes. From one borehole we extract, and from the other borehole we re-inject. They are, so what we do is, uh, this temperature stay, let’s say, at 12 degrees during the year. So, during the summer, outside is 30 degrees, we take this water, we use it to kick off the cooling of the building.

Ian Ellison: So in layman’s terms, ground source heat pump technology takes the edges off at both extremes. It gets you up when it’s cold and gets you down when it’s hot.

Matteo Deidda: That’s right. We don’t add or make anything to the water. We just extract the heating from it. But the volume of water is always the same that that just a little bit cooler, a bit a bit warmer. We worked a lot with a hydrologist to understand what was the water table underneath the building before we started.

Alan Bark: The feedback from the Calderdale Council, which I found right interesting. It turns out that Halifax is a unique area with the mountains and the groundwater, it’s got the sandstone, et cetera.

Ian Ellison: Right, right.

Alan Bark: The hospital’s only a mile away down there. The hospital are going to put their own in. They could link them together and put a district heating main in.

Ian Ellison: So, have they been learning from you then? Essentially, you’re a prototype for Calderdale to do this from a public sector perspective?

Alan Bark: And then Calderdale’s going to be the guinea pig for the rest of the country.

Ian Ellison: It’s an art of the possible projects in some ways, isn’t it?

Matteo Deidda: Yeah, and for us, as I said, it’s a massive project. It’s a massive milestone, because one of the things that we have pledged to do is to remove the use of gas from our estate.

Alan Bark: The main reason for doing it originally isn’t about money, it’s about carbon footprint.

Ian Ellison: Yeah.

Alan Bark: That’s the main reason for doing this building. The carbon footprint of this building is horrendous.

Matteo Deidda: 10 percent of all the gas is used in this building.

Ian Ellison: Of the whole LBG estate?

Matteo Deidda: Of the whole LBG estate.

Alan Bark: It’s about making the environment for the people that live in Halifax better.

Ian Ellison: We’ve come down a metal spiral staircase.

Matteo Deidda: So, this building is like an iceberg. The bit that you see outside on the street is as big as the bit that you don’t see.

Ian Ellison: Yeah, it’s like an empire, this building.

Matteo Deidda: It’s like a wooden…

Alan Bark: We’re down in minus three, which is the bottom of the world. There’s, uh, squash courts.

Matteo Deidda: And the first time I came visiting, the squash court was flooded. Which I thought, this is a really good way, indication that the ground source heat pump may work.

Ian Ellison: I wish we were videoing this. This is like a journey to the depths of the unknown. It’s brilliant. It’s like 10,000 leagues under the building. So we’re just coming out of level three now. This is the lowest level?

Alan Bark: Apparently, if you think this is walls, and I tried to joke about it being walls. Seven foot.

Matteo Deidda: These are, these are the heat pumps. So, this one is basically the water. So it’s almost like the water from the boreholes come in here and then we use it from here. On one side of the system, you have the building, and then on the other side of the system, you have the water from the boreholes. So they never really touch, they just exchange heat.

Ian Ellison: So now a massive, automated, galvanised steel, three metre high, gateway is opening. So this is what a plant room properly sounds like. Oh my word, so these are, these are the boilers?

Alan Bark: Yeah, yeah.

Ian Ellison: So these are what, you said 1972?

Alan Bark:1972, that’s what they tell us. They were built locally.

Ian Ellison: Gentlemen, I think that’s amazing. Thank you.

Chris Moriarty: Right, recap time. We’ve established that everyone is keen to make meaningful, positive change. Whether that’s because of a sense of duty, financially motivated or both. And whilst it’s clear that new buildings are perhaps easier to keep sustainable, we’ve just heard about two examples where legacy buildings can be retrofitted. So that’s great. But is it still fair to say that overall progress is slow? If we want to, and can do this, why aren’t we moving faster?

Ian Ellison: Well, I’ve got my own views. We probably all have. But truth be told, I’m not qualified to answer that, but Eleni certainly is.

Eleni Polychroniadou: So, I think the best next step for everyone is to get involved in the green building space. And the way to do that is through accessible information. Historically, there’s always been leaders in the space that are doing incredible things and producing beautiful buildings and the rest of the developers, the owners, the tenants, the landlords have been left behind. And a huge element of that has been communication and access to information. So, I think having that information to be accessible and allowing people to get engaged, is going to be the way that we get more built environment professionals involved.

Chris Moriarty: Now, I hear that, and the importance of communication was something that Ben spoke about at Essex County Council.

Ben Finlayson: There’s a very big piece of work that’s going on in Essex that’s led by our, by our climate team, really, around that communication piece. And, um, the work that the Climate Commission have done with Essex to one, set that ambition, but also then to communicate that and for Essex to be making those kinds of statements around taking its core estate to net zero by 2030.

We do a lot of work with schools as well. And one of the things with schools is you’ve got a really good opportunity to get in there with the kids and the kids then take that message home to their parents. So, when we’re delivering big school projects, we’re trying to really get the kids to understand those projects, why they’re being done. Look at all of these solar panels on the roof. Look at these graphs, guys. This is, this is what, this is what these solar powers are doing. This is how much of your energy it’s now offsetting. And they take that message home to their parents and, and really start sowing the seeds for parents doing, doing similar projects.

Ian Ellison: Yes, indeed. And on this, Matteo also seems to agree.

Matteo Deidda: Throughout my career, I’ve always put lots of focus on the behaviours and really bringing colleagues on the journey. But I think that where we are, certainly on the Lloyd’s journey now, and especially if we talk about energy reduction, then I think the technology side of it is much more powerful than the behaviours. And I’m also mindful that in particular, our colleagues in branches, they are extremely busy. They are really full-on from when the branch opened to when the branch closed, they are full-on with customers. I’ll just say, so I think like behaviours are absolutely essential, but I’m really keen that we sort of don’t overload colleagues with that responsibility when there is still so much that we can do from a technology perspective in many angles.

Chris Moriarty: So that’s the hearts and minds piece, which is critical, but this is the Science of Service. Surely we’ve got to hear about some tech? So, I asked Catherine about her role and it turns out it’s about technology – but as a mechanism to unlock better data and insights.

Catherine Wheatley: Technology generally, you know, has been established for a long, long time. You know, 10, 15 years ago, I was looking at heat pumps. We’re still talking about them today. Solar panels have been around for a long time. Some new things like electric vehicles, which are a lot more recent, but generally in terms of a building space, that’s relatively consistent. In terms of data and information that I can tell you about, that is really, really critical. So data should inform your decisions, but we live in a world where people are really hungry for data and then easily get overwhelmed by it. So therefore, what data I would want if I was a board member, making a decision about – ‘Is our carbon strategy working?’ ‘Is it helping us to achieve our goals?’ ‘Are we on track?’ – is very different to the level of information I would want if I was a building owner, or a budget owner, or in charge of an area or a group of people. I’d say from the data point of view, carbon is now a boardroom issue, but carbon is not necessarily very understood in general public terms, and I think people understand that carbon is bad. But if I said an organisation was using a million tonnes of carbon as its carbon footprint versus 50, is that good or bad?

So it’s trying to put that data in terms that people understand, so they become familiar and they don’t drown in the fact that the carbon intensity or the carbon footprint of a place is something they know what their carbon footprint is, they know at a senior level where they’re trying to get to, wherever that might be, and monitoring their steps along that path.

Chris Moriarty: Now, funnily enough, I experienced this at the archives with Ben and Pranay. Pranay took me to one side to show me a real-time app that was sucking data straight from the solar panels on the roof.

Pranay: All right, so we’ve got schools as well as all the core sites. So when we choose…

Ben Finlayson: That’s the kind of shows you the extent of the solar installed.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah, there’s a lot of sites there.

Pranay: Absolutely. So right now you can see from the general, from the solar PV is like 86 kilowatts coming in and then it goes into the site and then whatever is there’s some excess, is going to the grid as well. So like 6. 9.

Ben Finlayson: We are fully self-sustaining right now. We’re producing more energy than we are using in this building. We’re giving, we’re giving 60 kilowatts back to the grid.

Pranay: So it gives you the breakdown of yearly production, monthly production, so that, that data gets sent across to ECC.

Chris Moriarty: So right now, the sun is powering this building.

Ben Finlayson: And actually this building’s got quite a high demand of energy for its size because of the nature of what we’re doing here. So it’s using 80 kilowatts. Having a picture in one place, where we can make really informed decisions about our assets. What’s providing us with value for money? What isn’t providing us with value for money? Why isn’t it providing us with value for money? All of those kinds of things. And make tweaks and changes as a result of that. So there’s some quite easy quick wins as a result of that just purely around utilisation of energy.

Chris Moriarty: So there’s data for reporting, but what we’re seeing here is data that informs in-the-moment operational decisions. But I can’t help feeling that ultimately money is the issue. Are organisations going to release the purse strings?

Ian Ellison: Well, Matteo is actually quite optimistic about this bit.

Matteo Deidda: If you asked me the same question 10 years ago, I would have said, oh, yeah, the struggle is always getting the funding and convincing the board and trying to get the senior stakeholders and make these to the top five priorities. Now it’s the other way around.

Now, this is probably on the top three priorities. And the question is, how can you do it faster? How can we do more? How can we do it better? So there’s always like this growing and growing, growing expectation, and rightly so, about how will organisations transition into what to this sustainable future.

Prad Pandit: What the Lloyds Banking Group team have done is, you know, if you see their presentations or their business cases, it’s really fascinating. It has very few words. Uh, it has few numbers because it talks about the economic return of the case and a load of pictures. So, demonstrating before / after pictures. Because when you’re engaging senior execs, and asking them for a few million pounds to do something, uh, bringing that to life is quite a challenge itself. And I think sustainability professionals who can communicate that simply will get those approvals for their good business cases, right?

Ian Ellison: Aha, new voice. Who’s this then?

Chris Moriarty: This, Ian, is Prad.

Prad Pandit: I’m Pranyumna Pandit: Prad, the Managing Director for Decarbonisation and Sustainability Services at Mitie.

Chris Moriarty: Now he’s Mitie’s sustainability guru. He actually makes a really interesting point here about the impact of the pandemic on the momentum of change.

Prad Pandit: One of the things the pandemic collapsed was suddenly it was easy to have senior leaders meeting because they don’t need to be in the room together, they will have available on teams. So, the whole pace of business could accelerate.

Chris Moriarty: But he also thinks we can do even more.

Prad Pandit: We have to be bolder about making those business cases. And making people aware that by spending this money, and making it available, you can actually reduce the cost of your operation. And there is no green premium to pay because you became sustainable. Actually, the sustainable option is the cheaper option.

Yes, it requires capital and upfront, but the running costs are actually cheaper. If you don’t have a sustainable building, if you don’t have a plan and you don’t have great actions behind that plan, you’re not a good employer in this war for talent. No one wants to join a company who does that. So there’s a people, your investors are giving your CFO a hard time every time they go for a meeting with them.

So, you know, your HR person is going to support you. Your finance person is going to support you. Everybody is going to support you, but you have to bring that case forward and be bold about it. Let’s take the example of Essex County Council, because that’s an excellent example of how to get ahead of the curve.

So, all these wonderful stories and impact that you see today is a result of starting quite early, where they started small, but strategically. So, it was almost three and a half years back when they started with a day a week of allowing Mitie to partner in a sustainability conversation around how they should look at their energy footprint, carbon footprint and their built estate.

And because they had planned ahead, they knew the projects they wanted. They were able to get quickly in the queue and get some extra funding very early. So one of the early beneficiaries of that programme, uh, and that really kicked it off. And when they saw that success, then, you know, they were always ahead of the curve. They always had their list of projects. They always had their vision for the prioritisation of their projects. And they always went in.

Chris Moriarty: So, I wonder if that means that if we didn’t get an early break, you’re always going to be doomed to catch up?

Ian Ellison: Well, I think you need to be really mindful of the risk of thinking like this, because it can actually give you an excuse to not do anything. And so, another way to think about this, and Eleni also makes the point, is that it’s not all about bold business plans.

Eleni Polychroniadou: There are so many easy wins. There are so many low-hanging fruit that everybody can do, that don’t require tonnes of investment, that don’t require tonnes of time. But if we could all do some basic elements, then that baseline of where the building stock is today would truly increase in a much more meaningful way than if we only have a select group of leaders that are doing incredible things and the rest of us are just waiting for regulation to change.

Chris Moriarty: Right. Now, I think Prad actually said the same thing.

Prad Pandit: One of the things I feel that things are not moving fast enough is because regulation is not strong enough. It’s not like health, safety and environment. It’s not the safety regulations. You can’t go to prison because you did something wrong for the environment. So it’s not punitive enough and it’s not clear enough and it’s not mandated hard.

Chris Moriarty: So there you go, Ian. We’ve covered the why and the how. We’ve talked about winning hearts through communication, and minds through data, and driving change by combining both. We’ve looked at extraordinary projects on unlikely buildings and we’ve been told to be bold.

Now earlier I said that Prad was the Mitie sustainability guru and I do not use that word ‘guru’ lightly. He not only knows his stuff, but I’ve never met someone so positive about what we can achieve, and so able to articulate it in a way that makes you want to stick on a cape and save the world. Listen to this.

Prad Pandit: What is beautiful is sustainable and eternal. We want to ensure eternity, right? Everybody wants to be happy for eternity. If we could, all of us would. So, I think when you build a sustainable business or a sustainable organisation or a sustainable planet, it’s about building something that outlasts the builders, that outlasts everything around, and is harmonious with everything in it.

I dream, or I aspire, would have aspired to be a poet. And, uh, poetry is about economy of words and to use less to make a big impact. The reason we have to be careful is because when we use such words, you get tainted by the stereotypes of tree huggers and soft and all of that. But actually, the hard fact is that sustainability has become a technology challenge.

We really have to remodel the engineering, the technology, the way energy is generated, used, stored, and build in the next 30, 40 years to replace something that’s been built for the last hundred years, right, of electricity.

Ian Ellison: Yeah, but you can still see why people get overwhelmed with this. It feels too huge to comprehend and it’s uncomfortable.

Chris Moriarty: Look Ian, I think whenever we’re faced with a sustainability dilemma, we have to think, what would Prad say? So Prad, this all feels so big and uncomfortable. How do we cope?

Prad Pandit: Every change has a level of discomfort and a slight value of despair before you come on the other side. And I think as there have to be some generations who have to take that transition. Now, we just happen to be born in the generations or we’re growing up or whatever, living our lives in a generation where who is going through this transition.

Ian Ellison: A really good way to think about this challenge is by using a neat little idea called the value action gap. It basically says that when it comes to new sustainability practices, what we say is important – so what we say we actually value – it isn’t reflected in our behaviours or in our actions. And the only way to get past this is to face up to this reality and do something about it. So, in other words, less talk. And more action.

Chris Moriarty: So that brings us to the end of our episode on net zero. And I think it’s only right that we give the final thoughts and the final words to Prad.

Prad Pandit: Seize the moment. You know, this is our time to contribute. It is about protecting our planet for the next generation. It’s our planet and we must do everything we can, with a lot of enthusiasm, and be activist in our actions, actually. No need for pessimism and optimism. Take action and, yeah, protect our planet for future generations.

Chris Moriarty: Wow, I’m off to fetch my cape.

26 Feb 2024

Introduction to the Science of Service


When Mitie’s CEO, Phil Bentley, invites hosts Ian and Chris to learn how the UK’s leading FM company is handling industry disruption, they jump at the chance. On a trip to Mitie HQ in the Shard, they hear how facilities management has morphed from mops and buckets to drones, HoloLens glasses, proptech, artificial intelligence and more. This transformation is reflected in Mitie’s Science of Service approach.

Contributors and speakers
  • Phil Bentley, CEO at Mitie
    Phil Bentley
    CEO, Mitie
  • Maria Winn, Chief Marketing Officer at Mitie
    Maria Winn
    Chief Marketing Officer, Mitie
  • Cijo Joseph, Chief Technology and Information Officer at Mitie
    Cijo Joseph
    Chief Technology and Information Officer, Mitie
  • Jeffrey Saunders, CEO at Nordic Foresight
    Jeffrey Saunders
    CEO, Nordic Foresight
  • Antony Slumbers, consultant at Space As A Service
    Antony Slumbers
Read more

When Mitie’s CEO, Phil Bentley, invites hosts Ian and Chris to learn how the UK’s leading FM company is handling industry disruption, they jump at the chance. On a trip to Mitie HQ in the Shard, they hear how facilities management has morphed from mops and buckets to drones, HoloLens glasses, proptech, artificial intelligence and more. This transformation is reflected in Mitie’s Science of Service approach.

Read more
Contributors and speakers
  • Phil Bentley, CEO at Mitie
    Phil Bentley
    CEO, Mitie
  • Maria Winn, Chief Marketing Officer at Mitie
    Maria Winn
    Chief Marketing Officer, Mitie
  • Cijo Joseph, Chief Technology and Information Officer at Mitie
    Cijo Joseph
    Chief Technology and Information Officer, Mitie
  • Jeffrey Saunders, CEO at Nordic Foresight
    Jeffrey Saunders
    CEO, Nordic Foresight
  • Antony Slumbers, consultant at Space As A Service
    Antony Slumbers

“The benefits of AI ultimately are going to be about creating autonomous buildings. Now an autonomous building is a building that is self-monitoring and self-optimising.”
Antony Slumbers

Episode links

Accelerating Facilities Transformation whitepaper​

The Science of Service story​

The Science of Service (video)


Episode 1: Introduction to The Science of Service


  • Chris Moriarty
  • Ian Ellison
  • Phil Bentley
  • Maria Winn
  • Jeffrey Saunders
  • Antony Slumbers
  • Cijo Joseph


Chris Moriarty 00:00

What if I told you there’s a trillion dollar global industry right in front of you, that you’ve probably never even considered? In fact, there’s a very real chance that wherever you’re listening to this, in some way, has been influenced or impacted by it. The factories, hospitals, schools, shopping centres, stadiums, airports and offices, up and down the country, and throughout the world, are what they are, because of the huge collective workforce that designs them, operates them, maintains them and services them, each and every day. So what is this industry? We’re talking about facilities management.


Steelcase intro 00:41

Facilities Management is a very specialised function, which takes care of the management of facilities.


Chris Moriarty 00:51

An industry right under our nose, but one that doesn’t get the same recognition and attention as other industry sectors. It was there on the frontline throughout the pandemic, shoulder to shoulder with the healthcare, social care, education and key services staff. And now, as the world changes around us, and things that we’ve taken for granted are challenged from every direction, this sector is starting to reinvent itself to one that is focused on a new world of work: tackling the climate agenda, revolutionising health and hygiene, and tackling increasing security challenges. All of this driven by cutting-edge technology, and mountains of data, which come together to shape a brand-new digital era. This is the story of an organisation leading that charge. This is the Science of Service.


Chris Moriarty 01:48

I’m Chris Moriarty.


Ian Ellison 01:49

And I’m Ian Ellison.


Chris Moriarty 01:50

And we’re the hosts of the Workplace Geeks podcast. But today, we’ve got something slightly different for you. Our story starts a few months back, when we received an email from the team at Mitie, the UK’s largest FM service provider. And they were particularly excited about something they called the Science of Service. They invited me and Ian to come and take a look at it and see what it was all about.


Ian Ellison 02:10

So, as you said, Chris, this sector is all around us, but often goes unnoticed. But, just for example, consider a hospital. Without the work of support teams and organisations like Mitie, there simply couldn’t be any modern, hygienic healthcare. So, in this context, it’s business critical, even though it isn’t remotely medical. So, it feels like something still needs to change in terms of the awareness and reputation for it to really shine.


Chris Moriarty 02:37

So, with all this in mind, we headed to London, to the world-famous Shard building, within which is Mitie’s head office, to talk to their CEO, Phil Bentley, and the team, about the work they’ve been doing, and how they think it represents the next chapter for this industry giant. Now, he’s been there six years, having brought his experience from other business sectors. So, his take on facilities management as an industry in that time is quite an interesting one. And what’s even more interesting is where his focus is for the future.


Phil Bentley 03:03

And in that time, six years, we’ve been on a journey, and the way I look at it, we’re trying to move from a very much undifferentiated price-led offer to something that clients really value, and drive a longer term relationship with us. And I think, since I joined initially, we talked about ‘Beyond FM to the Connected Workspace.’ And now we’re moving more into facilities transformation. But from the start of the journey, I always said there’s three things that I fundamentally believed in. One is that we work best with our clients when we collaborate. Two is that our people give their best when we show them that we care – and we have a lot of people, we have 68,000 colleagues. And the third thing we laid out was that technology was changing our industry.


Ian Ellison 03:52

Okay, so the obvious question then is what their clients really value.


Chris Moriarty 03:56

But that’s not straightforward, particularly for an organisation that has clients across a wide range of sectors who will be focusing on a wide range of things. But Phil says there are definitely common themes: things that all organisations are wrestling with, and they feel more fundamental, part of a wider shift in the landscape.


Phil Bentley 04:12

I think all boards are dealing with inflation, cost of living crisis, energy prices and this whole point about net zero, decarbonisation. So sustainability, and what I call the footprints you leave on the sand as you walk along the beach, you know, what sort of footprints are you leaving as a company? And I think that goes to some of the social aspects of running a business. So, have you got apprenticeships and labour availability? And what’s the impact of migration? Are you supporting the local communities? So, I think that’s definitely something everyone’s thinking about.


Chris Moriarty 04:45

But then Phil touches on the core of our story.


Phil Bentley 04:48

You know, I think technology is really changing the ways of working.


Chris Moriarty 04:53

Now Ian, before you put your evidence hat on, because I know you love a good bit of research, I spoke with Maria Winn.


Maria Winn 04:59

I’m the Group Marketing Director here at Mitie.


Chris Moriarty 05:03

She also spoke about the challenges being faced by organisations and, in particular, the role of technology in that mix. So, her team commissioned a piece of research.


Maria Winn 05:11

What we wanted to know is some of these things we’re doing have a bigger impact than just: ‘We monitor things,’ and, ‘We can tell you how efficient it is.’ It’s actually impacting the way people work, behave, how they feel. And that’s what we wanted to explore in a bit more depth. So, we asked Jeffrey to have a look at the trends and to do some interviewing with our client base to sort of extract what’s the bigger themes here? What are the bigger ideas that all of this can contribute to helping?


Ian Ellison 05:36

Okay, so this is Jeffrey Saunders.


Jeff Saunders 05:38

I’m the CEO of Nordic Foresight, and I help organisations understand the dynamics of change in their strategic environment, and how they can position their operations, relationships with clients, and things like that, to take advantage of those changes.


Ian Ellison 05:53

So, Jeff is an experienced researcher based out of Copenhagen in Denmark. And he’s done some brilliant work for various public and private sector organisations over the years, in and around the changing dynamics in the sector. Now, I spoke to Jeff about this work, because I was keen, from a research point of view, to understand how he went about it, what themes this interview research showed, and what he thought it meant, not just for facilities management, but also for organisations more generally.


Jeff Saunders 06:20

First it was understanding, kind of, how is the workplace experience transforming, you know, under Covid, through Covid and after Covid? And then it evolved into a broader conversation, because the facility management industry is dealing with a lot more challenges than just the workplace experience.


Ian Ellison 06:38

So, Jeff goes on here to describe some of the challenges that Phil mentioned around net zero, the impact of the war in Ukraine, different supply chain issues, and so on. But perhaps the most important point was not only the wide range of challenges, but also the pace of change and facilities management’s role within it.


Jeff Saunders 06:58

A lot of the things that FM is dealing with, that’s coming front and centre in the board room, these have been accelerated, not only by the pandemic, but also by other challenges that are occurring in the environment.


Chris Moriarty 07:09

So what does he mean by other challenges?


Ian Ellison 07:11

Well, we’ve spoken about the wider and more obvious ones. But there’s also a very particular one that Jeff pointed to, that actually has the potential to impact all of them. And that’s the fundamental shift in how people now work and how organisations are reacting to it.


Jeff Saunders 07:27

So, you had some that were very much advanced on new ways of working, or hybrid working or distributed working, however you wanted to describe that pre-pandemic. So, for them, it was not a radically new thing to transition to this. And so, they were just saying that, ‘We have kind of control, what the scale of it is, and what percentage is working, we’ll figure that out. But this is not stressing us.’ Then you had others that were inexperienced with it, had never done it before. And they’re thinking about, well, ‘How do we do the change management process? What do we need to do in that?’ Those are some discrete challenges.


Ian Ellison 07:59

So, whilst we’re keen to talk about the general shift to remote working, what was clear is that different organisations, and different sectors, are at different stages. So, taking all of that into account, we can see what Phil was describing at a more granular kind of level. But again, what’s clear is both the need and opportunity for better, more enabling facilities management, that sits at the heart of all of it.


Chris Moriarty 08:23

Now that feels complicated and big.


Jeff Saunders 08:24

The facilities management industry can’t think about this as incremental changes. Think about this as transformative change.


Chris Moriarty 08:30

Okay, so that sounds like good news. But are we saying that facilities management is solely responsible for solving all of this?


Ian Ellison 08:36

Well, of course not. The future of work is as much about the people and culture of organisations, as much as it’s about the spaces and technology of work. But the key to this is how we blend all of those things together and how they cross over and interact with each other in support of the business.


Chris Moriarty 08:53

And it feels to me that technology, and by that I mean huge leaps in technology, are beginning to power those opportunities. And if we’re going to talk about buildings, assets, property and technology, there’s definitely one person that we can call on.


Antony Slumbers 09:05

I’m Antony Slumbers, and I teach the ‘Space as a Service: The trillion dollar hashtag’ online course.


Chris Moriarty 09:12

Now, Antony is well known to many in and around the sector. He’s spoken around the globe, has a famous podcast, he’s a prolific tweeter. And he’s often outspoken about the potential missed opportunity that the wider corporate real estate sector faces should it not embrace technology properly.


Antony Slumbers 09:28

It is undoubtedly true that the real estate industry has been a slow adopter of technology. You know, it’s fair to say if you compare us to the financial industry, we’re 10 years, 15 years, behind.


Ian Ellison 09:39

So, what stopped them until now then?


Chris Moriarty 09:42

Well, according to Antony, there’s never really been a great incentive to because until recently, commercially, there hasn’t been a strong enough argument.


Antony Slumbers 09:49

It’s not, to be fair to the real estate industry, because they’re Luddites or stupid or behind the game. They simply have not needed to; it’s a similar feel to innovation. In a roaring bull market, you don’t need to be very innovative, because you’re going to sell everything you’ve got anyway. When times are tough, you need to be a lot more innovative.


Chris Moriarty 10:14

Now, Maria said something similar. For context, she’s only recently joined the sector from, I guess it’s fair to say, a more mature sector, technologically speaking?


Maria Winn 10:18

I think what was really interesting when I arrived was that I’d also come from a tech and telco background, where digital transformation had been on the cards for 15, maybe more years. It felt like a newer adventure here in facilities management. And yet the industry has made huge progress in the last four or five years. If you start to kind of pull that apart, it’s how you think about innovation. And innovation is really important in this industry, doing things different and looking for new ways to do things.


Ian Ellison 10:44

Right, but based upon what we’ve just heard from Phil and Jeff, if there wasn’t a good argument, there is now.


Chris Moriarty 10:51

Exactly, and that prompted Antony to say…


Antony Slumbers 10:54

So now you’re going to find the real estate industry adopting technology, more in the next 10 years than it probably has in the last 40.


Ian Ellison 11:00

So, how does Antony see technology tackling these problems? Are there specific responses to specific challenges? What, for example, do tech-powered solutions look like for net zero targets or future ways of working?


Chris Moriarty 11:14

Well, Antony has an interesting model he likes to talk about.


Antony Slumbers 11:16

I see the role of technology in the context of what I like to think of as a stool with three legs, and the three legs are: health and wellbeing; sustainability; and productivity.


Chris Moriarty 11:27

His point is that often organisations will look at all of these in isolation, distinct problems that they try and ringfence and focus on separately, because they’re tricky.


Antony Slumbers 11:36

But actually, these are three flywheels for each other. And to fix one, you actually have to fix all of them.


Ian Ellison 11:42

So the flywheel being the idea that small wins can build on each other. And over time, the momentum you gather kind of spins up, and almost powers itself.


Chris Moriarty 11:51

Exactly. And Antony, going back to his three legs, which were sustainability, health and productivity, gave us a relevant example.


Antony Slumbers 11:58

So for instance, if you need a sustainable building, a sustainable building would enable you to produce a healthy and high wellbeing space. And if you have a healthy, high wellbeing, highly sustainable space, that actually gives you all of the ingredients to create really productive workspaces.


Chris Moriarty 12:16

So it’s all interconnected. And that, I think, sits at the heart of what Mitie are trying to do.


Maria Winn 12:22

I think that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to create that platform that brings everything together, because thinking in individual lines or vectors is not going to solve the problem.


Ian Ellison 12:29

Okay, so let’s have a breather and take stock of what we’ve learned so far. We have this sector, that’s all around us. But it’s often completely invisible.


Chris Moriarty 12:38



Ian Ellison 12:39

But some of the huge socio-economic and environmental plates we’re having to spin also put it at the heart of the challenges that organisations and society, more generally for that matter, are facing.


Chris Moriarty 12:50



Ian Ellison 12:51

And in particular, technology is starting to be seen as a catalyst for change.


Chris Moriarty 12:56



Ian Ellison 12:57

So far, so good?


Chris Moriarty 12:58

I think so. But it’s one thing saying that technology and data is at the heart of the solution. But is that what organisations think? Do they see that opportunity too?


Ian Ellison 13:06

Well, that’s what Jeff’s research said.


Jeff Saunders 13:09

It was in every conversation, the role and importance of data, how to use it, and what’s the quality of the data that you’re getting in?


Chris Moriarty 13:16

Okay, so this sounds like a simple solution: jump on the technology bandwagon, plug some tech in.


Ian Ellison 13:21

Well, not so straightforward. And in his point about the wider corporate real estate sector not grabbing technology, it actually takes me back to a piece of research that we did back in 2018 for a professional body about the future of the sector. Now, this was long before Covid, around the time when lots of business areas were getting really worried about the robots coming to take away their jobs. And we interviewed dozens of people in different roles in and around the sector. Then we surveyed hundreds more professionals to understand how people felt about the sector and its future. And we found this really interesting paradox. People totally got that technology needs to underpin their future. But the data also suggested that they were nowhere near ready to embrace it from an awareness and a capabilities perspective. But they didn’t see this as a risk. And we made a strong case that this was a situation ripe for disruption.


Chris Moriarty 14:13

Disrupt or be disrupted.


Ian Ellison 14:15



Chris Moriarty 14:18

So, this reminds me that when we were putting this report together, I was speaking to Allister Frost. Now, he’s had a series of senior marketing roles at various firms, including Microsoft, and today he’s a keynote speaker on future mindsets. When I was speaking to him about this work, he messaged me saying this: ‘Facilities management will be disrupted beyond recognition. Spaces will self-manage, self-clean and self-report. Routine maintenance will be fully automated and the people the facility exists to serve will have immediate, frictionless abilities to instantly redefine it for their unique needs. Anyone who still believes that it will be the same industry, but maybe with a few more screens screwed on the wall, is dangerously out of touch.’ So, it feels like there’s a cycle to be broken. I kind of get the feeling this is a disrupt or be disrupted message, which would explain why Phil said this.


Phil Bentley 15:11

We’ve spent the thick end of 100 million quid on systems and ways of measuring data. And that’s what’s now given us the platform to move from just facilities management to facilities transformation. Because people want to know what’s really going on in the workspaces that we take care of. And technology underpins that.


Chris Moriarty 15:33

Which feels like a bold move.


Ian Ellison 15:35

Yes, but it’s one thing to put your money where your mouth is, but you also need a vision, a plan to bring this to life. And that’s where Cijo comes in.


Cijo Joseph 15:44

My name is Cijo Joseph. I’m the Chief Technology and Information Officer for Mitie. I lead Mitie’s Information Systems team and drive Mitie’s technology strategy.


Chris Moriarty 15:54

So, is this the guy that’s been given £100m?


Ian Ellison 15:56

Well, sort of, and 100 million feels like a lot of money, which, of course, is relative. But within facilities management, this is potentially game changing. However, the temptation is just to imagine a huge army of robots and drones and whatnot. But the way Cijo describes it, it’s more fundamental than that. He spoke about their five C’s.


Chris Moriarty 16:15

Okay, so I’ve got these here. We need some sort of jingle to bring this to life. So, the first C is Cloud. So this is about getting Mitie’s massive physical data centres, with their huge data lakes into the cloud, so that they can be accessed anywhere.


Cijo Joseph 16:32

We don’t have a physical data centre. We are a completely cloud-ready organisation, which is all our core applications sit in cloud. In future, any technology investment we do, we do it in the cloud.


Chris Moriarty 16:44

The second and third C’s are Convergence and Consolidation, which refer to what Cijo described as…


Cijo Joseph 16:51

Standardisation. And simplification.


Chris Moriarty 16:53

This was about getting numerous disparate systems talking to each other.


Cijo Joseph 16:56

Roughly around 30 to 40 different operational systems. Eight million data points. 63,000 assets.


Chris Moriarty 17:03

Once they were able to get everything aligned, they’re able to start building solutions on top of that.


Cijo Joseph 17:08

Claiming this data from these systems, putting your time into a data lake. Now what does it help us to do is produce the real time reporting and insight for both our operational and financial reporting. And once we knew that we could manage it, once we started managing our own operational and financial needs through these real time systems, we then built a tool on top of it called Mozaic. And we started giving to the clients.


Ian Ellison 17:37

So that’s three of the five, what about the other two?


Chris Moriarty 17:39

The other two set Mitie up for a better digital governance. So it’s Compliance, where they adhere to all the relevant ISO standards, and Cyber, where they’re able to make sure that they have the highest levels of cyber security.


Ian Ellison 17:55

So, if I was going to use a layman phrase, this is like digital plumbing, right? It might not be visible to everyone from the outside, but it means that Mitie have the groundwork in place to build out their digital future from. And that presents the starting point for their client organisations to begin addressing the challenges we highlighted earlier.


Chris Moriarty 18:14

Exactly. And that’s something we talked to Phil about when we considered what organisations wanted to know.


Phil Bentley 18:19

I want to know, if I’ve only got half the number of people going through my property on a Friday, do I need the same cleaning support? Well, I need the data to do that. If I’m thinking about my energy bill that’s shot up, what’s the most efficient way of reducing my energy footprint? And whilst everyone’s rightly exercised about net zero and climate change, when it hits you in the pocket, and your bill has doubled, and your bill used to be £5m and now it’s £10m, again, that data of how a building has been utilised, and what drives efficiency. And if I can fix things remotely without rolling a truck, as it were, and sending somebody physically there, through monitoring, then I can drive efficiency again. So, at the end of the day, clients want value. It’s not technology for technology’s sake. It’s technology that drives insights into how buildings have been used. And what’s the cost of the building, and how do we drive further efficiencies.


Chris Moriarty 19:19

Which is all good, of course, but I still can’t help it. I want to know where the visible exciting stuff is. I want to see the drones, the robots, the AI.


Ian Ellison 19:29

Don’t worry. Cijo also told us about things like HoloLens goggles that can provide remote support to field engineers from more experienced technicians in service centres. And drones to enable building fabric assessments. So, Chris, the shiny stuff is definitely there too. And there’s AI underpinning loads of it to help manage the vast amounts of data that exist in an organisation like Mitie. Think about it.


Cijo Joseph 19:50

The FM sector is rich with the data because we deal with assets and each assets generate quite a lot of data. It’s filled with lots of data, but held in different systems and held in different platforms. There is no unified way of bringing the data together and get insight out of it, or make meaningful information out of it. That’s where the data lake comes into play. There are lots of decisioning trees you can have in FM. Say, for example, starting from a simple coffee spill on your table, or having your toilets unclean, or having a roof leaking. This load of decision tree you have to go through, before you can put it into an AI. And we enable a natural language understanding tool on top of it. You can just communicate saying that I’ve got a coffee spill, I’ve got a roof leak. It will ask you some basic questions based on the decisioning tree we put in, and it will create the right job for you.


Chris Moriarty 20:43

Okay, so I may have got carried away there and put my sci-fi hat on for a moment. But Antony did have a view on the role of AI in this context.


Antony Slumbers 20:51

The benefits of AI, ultimately, are going to be about creating autonomous buildings. Now, an autonomous building is a building that is self-monitoring and self-optimising. The amount of data that can be outputted from a real estate asset is enormous. The AI is there to give the humans who are in control of the building predictions as to what might happen. You try it, you monitor it, and then you optimise for it. The most important skill is to understand enough about technology to know how you could leverage for your human purposes.


Chris Moriarty 21:28

So, of course, the key is to how this manifests itself for organisations working with Mitie.


Ian Ellison 21:32

Okay, well, Cijo described it as…


Cijo Joseph 21:35

Now what people really mean by the digital transformation, or digital enablement, is how you are bringing value-add to your business, being a disrupter or a differentiator, using technology. That’s in my dictionary, that’s the way I look at it. If Mitie, as a facility management company, using digital technology to make its cost to serve better, or reduce the cost to serve, or make it much better user experience for its clients. That’s part and parcel of that particular business. That’s part and parcel of that Mitie as a business. But if Mitie then lead in proptech…


Chris Moriarty 22:15

Antony, what’s proptech?


Antony Slumbers 22:18

Proptech is simply a meta term, an overarching term for all the technologies that can be of use within the built environment.


Cijo Joseph 22:27

That means bringing technology to enable property market into a prop tech journey, then we are becoming the disrupter and differentiator. That’s the way I look at it.


Chris Moriarty 22:37

Phil described this in more practical terms.


Phil Bentley 22:38

There are two aspects of where we really need technology. We really need to know: where are our people? By that I mean workforce management. And equally, I need to be able to manage workflow, and I need to track that as well. Because if I’ve got parts that I’m waiting, I’ve got a technicians turned up; the part isn’t there. Or I have forgotten to bill the client because I didn’t understand the contract terms, that’s all workflow and it flows from doing work and then getting paid for it. And technology, again, is giving us huge insights into workflow management. And if we get workforce management, workflow management, working, we’ll be successful.


Chris Moriarty 23:19

So there we are. We get to the heart of it: how technology is changing the way facilities management works at Mitie. Powering the workflows, the workforce, and underpinning the decisions getting made, and all of it enabling facilities management to enter a new digital era.


Ian Ellison 23:36

But I have to say, I’m impressed with the ambition and remembering that research we published back in 2018, absolutely a critical step for the sector’s future. So that just leaves us with one question then: What is the Science of Service?


Maria Winn 23:50

The Science of Service gives us a platform to talk about technology in sort of three different vectors of: How do we deliver innovation? How do we use data intelligence to do things better? And then how do we package that together to help our people do a better job and be exceptional?


Cijo Joseph 24:05

Having the right information at the right time with the right technology tool for our frontline heroes, to do their job best, and for customers to get the best value out of our service. That is Science of Service for me. And technology is a core pillar for that.


Phil Bentley 24:21

All that data is threaded from all those different touchpoints through analytical tools, machine learning, artificial intelligence, data lake analytics. It pops up with something that clients can understand. And that’s the Science of Service. We set out to be the leader in that journey. And of course, where we go, others will follow and as far as we’re concerned, that’s a good thing because we’re raising the standards of professionalism of the FM industry.


Ian Ellison 24:53

Right, enough talk. I want to see this tech in action.


Chris Moriarty 24:56

Well, that’s the best bit. We’ve been invited to a bunch of different businesses from all sorts of industry sectors, and they’re using this stuff in their organisations. We’ve got the opportunity to go in, speak to the people benefiting from it, and understand how it’s changing what they do.


Ian Ellison 25:12

And not only that, Phil’s invited us to a number of Mitie Centres of Excellence to witness and play with the very latest tech innovations in their research and development labs.


Chris Moriarty 25:22

Does that mean I get to wear a HoloLens?


Ian Ellison 25:24

Oh I think so. And more.


Chris Moriarty 25:26

So next time you hear from us, we’ll be right in the thick of it. Join us as we get under the skin of the Science of Service.

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Meet the Workplace Geeks

Ian Ellison has spent 25 years in the UK workplace industry. Following a senior lecturer role at Sheffield Hallam University, he co-founded 3edges Workplace, focusing on workplace education, research and consultancy. Ian co-hosts the Workplace Geeks podcast and is also co-founder of the AI-powered workplace experience insights platform, Audiem.

Chris Moriarty is co-host of the Workplace Geeks podcast and co-founder of workplace experience analytics tool Audiem. He has contributed to the workplace sector for over 10 years and is a former Director of Insight at the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM).

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