FM:Systems User Conference Insights : Ep 13

About the Episode

Join Jennifer Heath and Brian Haines in this exciting episode of the Hybrid Hangout Podcast as they discuss the highlights from FM:Systems recent annual user conference, Building Insights. Held at the historic Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC, Jennifer and Brian share their experiences and key takeaways from the event, including a celebration of FM:Systems’ 40th year.

From client presentations to panel discussions with partners, hands-on training sessions, and networking opportunities, the conference was packed with valuable content and meaningful connections. One of the major highlights was Vijay Sankaran, Chief Technology Officer at Johnson Controls, delivering the keynote, marking the collaboration between Johnson Controls and FM:Systems.

The conversation delves into the vision of autonomous buildings, digital twins, sustainability, and smart building technologies that emerged as key themes during the conference. Jennifer and Brian also provide a sneak peek into the future, announcing the venue and dates for next year’s conference in Scottsdale, AZ, where they plan to expand on these themes and offer even more in-depth discussions and networking opportunities.

Tune in to learn why we think FM:Systems customers need to attend Building Insights 2025 and receive your invitation to be there!

Watch the Episode

Episode Transcription

Jennifer Heath 0:19

Hi, everyone, and welcome to another edition of the Hybrid Hangout Podcast. I am Jennifer Heath Director of Product Marketing at FM:Systems.


Brian Haines 0:28

And I am Brian Haines, the Chief Strategy Officer at FM:Systems.


Jennifer Heath 0:32

And we are excited today to talk about Building Insights. We just wrapped up our annual user conference. It was a wonderful success. We’re excited to talk about some of the highlights of the conference and tell you a little bit about what we have in store for next year, it’s already time to start thinking about saving that date. So Brian, let’s start off talking a little bit about our few days in Asheville, North Carolina, which is one of my all time favorite places. We were at the Grove Park Inn which if you’ve never been there, it is just a fabulous venue. Brian, I know you have kind of a long history of visiting the Grove Park Inn, talk a little bit about it.


Brian Haines 1:16

Yeah, so Jen, it’s a little bit like delayed gratification. We we’ve been wanting to have the user conference at the Grove Park for a long time. And unfortunately, we got caught up in the pandemic. So we had committed to doing the conference, I believe it was 2020 and ended up having to cancel it. Which was really disappointing because our clients, our staff, our partners, everybody was really excited. It’s such a fantastic venue. It’s different. Honestly, I don’t know, Jen, maybe you can- it’s different from any hotel you’ve ever been to. It’s one of my favorite on the planet. I’ve spent a lot of time in hotels. So it’s a it’s actually just a very cool, very historic location. The venue for our clients was fantastic. The food, the amenities, the training, we had training classes this year with laptops, we had just really terrific space to be able to put the conference on. So everything was just, it was just fantastic. And delayed gratification really paid off.


Jennifer Heath 2:30

Definitely. So the Grove Park Inn is well over 100 years old, it has a feeling of an old Lodge. But there’s, I don’t know something a little almost eccentric about it. If you’ve never looked into it, I definitely recommend looking at some pictures. And really the centerpiece of it is from the front. There’s the gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And I know that all of our clients, and guests, and staff everyone really enjoyed being able to network and engage and get to know new people and reconnect with old contacts, all within this just beautiful vista. So the location definitely set the stage for what was really just a fantastic few days. We had client presentations, we did a variety of discussion panels with different partners, we had a really interesting panel discussion with our hardware partners. So we partner with different sensor providers, area sensors, flow sensors, environmental, IAQ sensors, as well as a company called Embrava that does desk check in devices. And we brought them all together to talk about how their different solutions work together and complement each other. And I think that was really a great discussion. We talked about myths in enterprise technology, we had a fun session around Mythbusters. And what else we did, as you mentioned hands on training, which I know was something that many of our clients had been really looking forward to and really got a lot out of.


Brian Haines 3:55

Yeah, and some of the additional things. So we sort of have a pre conference day. We host our business partners for some meetings, which is really fun. And we also have our Customer Advisory Board. So for our clients who, you know, self selected to be on our advisory board to help us really determine the future directions of our products. That was pretty exciting. And that was kind of the day before the conference really started off. And we ended up finishing up that day with the opening reception, which was really fun. I was just really excited because the event team had done such a great job of making sure that everyone knew that we are celebrating FM:Systems 40th year in existence, which is pretty fun. The opening reception we wore party hats and it was it was pretty fun. And everyone had a really good time. So that’s really the way the conference kind of starts. There’s more of a you know, networking get together, partner more meetings off to the side, if you will, before sort of the main formal conference begins. And this year, we had the opportunity after that really great opening sort of pre conference day of really celebrating something new for FM:Systems this year. And those of you who’ve been following along with our Hybrid Hangouts or if you’ve been watching the news, you’ll realize that FM:Systems was brought into the Johnson Controls portfolio companies last year. And so we were really privileged to have Vijay Sankaran our Chief Technology Officer at Johnson Controls deliver our keynote speech. So that really set the tone because it was kind of a coming together. Kind of a coming out party, I think a little bit for our clients with Johnson Controls and FM:Systems, sharing the same stage, which was really exciting. We had a number of Johnson Controls employees, but also some partners join us which really kind of broadened the topics, which was really exciting. We had a lot of stuff this year focused on smart building, sustainability, digital twins, just stuff that gets me pretty excited. But also shows the value of these two companies coming together. And we were able to share that, you know, that direction, as well as that thought leadership throughout the conference, which, which I thought was super fun. And I think that Johnson Controls really was excited with the opportunity to meet directly with our clients.


Jennifer Heath 6:21

Yeah, definitely, that was such a great addition to the conference. And I think for a lot of our clients, it really helped them better understand the vision that we all have, as moving forward as a part of Johnson Controls. Acquisitions are always a little unsettling for everyone. And I think it really helped our clients understand our vision and how we can partner with Johnson Controls, how it’s allowing us to expand our solutions, tap into some of their resources and their solutions. It’s really just elevating the things that we’re able to talk about the challenges that we’re able to take on. So I think that was really interesting and compelling for our customers to just see where this is all going. You know, it’s been almost a year now since the acquisition. And this is their first time to really get to meet some of those individuals and really dive into what our vision is as a combined company. So to me, that was a huge highlight of the conference, was being able to showcase what we see as the future of FM:Systems inside Johnson Controls.


Brian Haines 7:32

Yeah, it was exciting because Vijay really set the tone was showing kind of what that vision looks like. And the really nice thing is that we just docked right into their vision, right? It wasn’t like there was weird overlaps or disjointedness. It made sense, it makes sense to our clients. It makes sense to the market as we talk about sort of this kind of evolution of buildings from traditional buildings, which didn’t have a lot of connected technologies to connected buildings, which have things like connected chillers and things like that, maybe on the roof, to smart buildings where really we are kind of sitting now, which is sort of a mix of IoT devices and systems within the building beginning to communicate. And we’re picking up that information. And we’re doing things like predictive prescriptive maintenance, and being able to project future efficiencies within the buildings through smart building technology, and kind of ultimately ending up with sort of the brass ring for all of us, which is, and Vijay spoke about this quite eloquently and really in an exciting way, we’re really looking at a future where buildings are going to be much more autonomous than they are. And you guys may have heard me say this before. But you know, I think in the not so distant future buildings are going to feel more like an extension of us or a partner to us, versus a problem that we have to manage. Right. So where the building is actually communicating to us ideas about how its operating, and where we can make improvements almost real time through technologies like AI and machine learning. We’ve all heard about that smart buildings, digital twins, all of those things coming together, as the systems in the buildings get smarter, the data gets smarter, the insights get more compelling, and we can really look at the way our buildings are operating in a completely different way in the not so distant future. So we’re all sort of on that path. I think it’s exciting.


Jennifer Heath 9:23

Yeah, that was definitely a theme that just sort of recurred. And it wasn’t really something that we planned. But things kept coming back to that idea of buildings becoming our partners, the building’s themselves becoming a part of our teams and us being able to drive towards that more autonomous management of our facilities. So that was something that we came back to time and time again, in different sessions. I think that was really an interesting theme. So through the first day, we had, like I said, a variety of different trainings, client presentations, partner discussions, we had a couple of different business partners that are bringing forward some new capabilities for our products. So that was another really exciting component. We’re able to talk about integrations in a different way. There’s just new opportunities for us to connect and expand our different solutions, and so I think there was a lot of energy around that as well. And then Wednesday evening, so the second night, we had a dinner out on the pavilion, on the lawn there at the Grove Park Inn, which was just beautiful. We had giant Jenga, we had cornhole, we had a giant Connect 4. I know, everyone really had a good time. It was beautiful weather, we really couldn’t have asked for a better Wednesday evening.


Brian Haines 10:43

Yeah, which was crazy. Because like the sunset and everything, it was almost like someone scripted a movie. Like we were just in this perfect night, because they were calling for rain, which we were bumming about because we thought we’d be inside. But it never happened and ended up being kind of an extraordinary night. And what I think is really great about this conference is it’s sort of like a 24/7 networking event from the time that people arrive. First of all, we have clients, literally that we’re at the conference this year that have been using FM:System solutions for decades. Yes, back into the 90s, someone had mentioned 30 years, which is absolutely extraordinary. And mixing that with clients who are new, or clients coming in through different angles, like through their Johnson Controls, maybe through building control systems, and sort of mixing that with our legacy clients, which meant that there was, there’s this sort of really cool thing that happens at the User Conference, which I love. And that is, sometimes you just see somebody and you realize, gosh, I really miss that person, I haven’t seen them since the last conference. And you realize it’s a client and it almost feels like many of us have become friends over the years and colleagues and really have this sort of interesting relationship where you know one another quite well. Mixing that with new people, I think something like 43% of the attendance attendees this year, were new, which is really exciting, because they’ve never experienced an FM:Systems Building Insights conference, which was really exciting. We also grew our attendance by I think about 25%. So that’s really tilting up. Next year, it’s going to be, I think, a lot more exciting and a lot bigger, because we’re really going to blend Johnson Controls in more fully next year and bring their Open Blue clients in. And so it’s going to just sort of, you know, increase that level of networking that’s available. And even that dinner that night, Jen, it’s not just about, you know, it’s like cornhole conversations are just happening about networking and learning what each one of us do, as well as sharing opportunities for improving. So I think our clients just from like, minute they get there to the minute they leave, are just sort of bubbly, with excitement about all the new things that they’re learning, it’s always a lot of fun.


Jennifer Heath 12:53

Definitely. And I think that that is one of the big reasons that people come to the conference, it isn’t just for the content that we’re planning to bring, it isn’t just for the presentations, it is very much about that networking and finding those contacts in either your same industry, or maybe your same role in a different industry, and learning how they’re doing things, how they’re, you know, taking on different challenges, learning ways, they’re using our products that maybe you hadn’t considered before. So I think it’s always an opportunity for individuals to really think bigger, about what they’re doing, what they’re trying to do inside their organizations. And I think people come away really inspired to go back and, you know, share with their teams. And, you know, start maybe talking to some of our different business partners, our hardware partners about how they can bring them in and do more and do better and grow our solutions within their organizations. So that’s another real highlight for me is to see people getting excited about things that, it’s new to them. It’s a new idea. It’s a new product, it’s a different strategy. I think there’s just so much benefit in those conversations that are happening.


Brian Haines 14:02

Yeah, and I think some of the most exciting moments are when our clients get up and speak, right. So if they’re doing presentations, they’re sharing their stories, which resonates with the entire audience, frankly. They’ll be talking about lessons learned or something that they’ve tried and measured and adjusted based upon data. We’re really all about data, we’re talking about the value of actionable information and building insights at the conference, or, you know, our clients get up there and they tell their stories, and you get to hear their stories. And you just see so many head nods and people agreeing and asking really great questions who are experiencing the same kind of issues. And we’re really talking about enterprise level discussions about challenges whether that be you know, optimizing facility projects within your entire facilities portfolio, maximizing maintenance, maximizing occupancy, looking at new and emerging ideas, things like sustainability and improved health and wellness within the workplace experience. You know, you’re hearing from the people who are living this day in day out inside their facility. So I always just really love the client presentations and often our partners join clients and they bring clients on stage to tell that story about how they implemented the solutions and where they saw success. Frankly, where they solve challenges and how they solve them. It’s always just a really good, you know, sort of full circle, if you will.


Jennifer Heath 15:28

Yeah, it’s just a fantastic learning opportunity. Whether it’s, you know, hands on training, really getting into how do I, you know, create this report or implement this workflow. And then you combine it with that networking and that kind of insider knowledge of what we’re experiencing on the ground in our organizations. And you just come away with so many great ideas that you can take back to your team. So for the people who attended Building Insights, we do make most of those presentations available. It is exclusive to people who attended, and we’re leading up to, we want everyone to attend in ‘25 we’re going to talk about that in just a minute. But for those of you who attended if you have not had an opportunity yet to access some of those materials, everything is available inside the Building Insights channel in FMS Champions, so definitely go check that out lots of resources there that you can leverage. So let’s talk about 2025. Where are we going, Brian?


Brian Haines 16:31

We are going to the Scottsdale Plaza in Scottsdale, Arizona. We’ve never had our User Conference in Arizona before. I am a University of Arizona graduate. So it feels a little bit like coming home. Although it’s pretty close to Arizona State University. I won’t boo because we may have some people on who are listening. So anyway, bear down, go Arizona. So it’s a stunning location, I’m telling you, the hotel is fantastic. The conferencing venue is first rate, I think we’re gonna love it, I’m really excited to share that. It’s going to be April 28 through the 30th of next year. And it’s going to be in Scottsdale, so it’s going to be beautiful.


Jennifer Heath 17:12

Yeah, so definitely save the date, as Brian alluded to earlier, we will be expanding the conference, especially in regards to Johnson Controls and their digital solutions, their client base. But we will certainly retain the feel of Building Insights. Because it’s a wonderful event. And as you said, it’s a time for us to reconnect with clients who have become friends. And we absolutely want to retain that feel, while offering even more information, more in depth discussions, more opportunities to network with people that you know, maybe are new, and it’s going to bring a different focus I think on sustainability, on the drive towards autonomous buildings, more emphasis around digital twins, all the technology that supports that, because that is really Johnson Controls’ wheelhouse is the digital twin side of things, all that infrastructure that goes into that facility maintenance and the energy side of things, sustainability, net zero goals. I think all of that will be very prominent in ‘25.


Brian Haines 18:24

Yeah, so it’s interesting, because one thing I’m really excited about is that you talk about our digital solutions. We saw a ginormous increase in the number of digitally enabled solutions joining us this year, so hardware technology. You know, FM:Systems became a hardware manufacturer right at the end of 2019, and the beginning of 2020 with the Assure workspace acquisition, we actually have our own sensors and panels and things that we manufacture. But we started to actually, through our building, our insights platform, our analytics platform, started adding key best in class hardware vendors to our solutions mix. So XY Sense, Verge Sense, Air Things, Xovis, Embrava, like we really started bringing together a lot of digitally connected solutions that work with our products to help make buildings smarter. The best way to get to a smarter building, even if you’ve got existing building stock, is to start implementing technology that provides you active feedback. Combining that with the fact that Johnson Controls is one of the largest building systems manufacturers in the world, we’re really seeing this sort of prevalence of a mix between the digital and the hardware, which I think is really exciting the ability to be able to control or predict the future of buildings. I think you’re gonna see that increase, Jen. I’m excited about that next year because it was good this year, t’s gonna be better next. I


Jennifer Heath 19:49

It’s gonna be even better next year. I totally agree. And I agree that I was excited to have that broader presence from our hardware partners. Because one of the things that we have talked about consistently over the last couple of years, so the sensors that we manufacture our PIR sensors, passive infrared, their occupancy sensors, typically it’s a it’s a one to one kind of a thing. You have on a desk you can tell if someone is sitting at that desk. We have talked so much about the idea that utilization is one KPI that you want to measure, it’s one factor of your building performance. And by bringing in different hardware types, different data sources, you’re able to create such a richer picture of what’s actually happening inside your buildings. You’re able to be much more strategic in how you think about the performance of your buildings, you have so many different inputs. And so I loved that I loved having those different perspectives, and really kind of expanding the idea of what is building performance, what drives it, what impacts it.


Brian Haines 20:56

Yeah, that’s exciting stuff, everything ranging from indoor air quality sensors, from Air Things to open areas centers, like from XY Sense and Verge Sense, also Xovis and entrance and egress counters, the Embrava desk booking devices to eliminate ghost bookings, and really improving that efficiency. All of that data allows us to just, I mean, we’ve got such a fine level of understanding how facilities are actually being used and assets are actually being used. Now we’re able to apply that to all of the other real estate functions, right. So right now we’re working on integrating the Johnson Controls net zero energy data into our insights platform. So where you can really look at utilization, lay it over top of, you know, all of those other insights like energy usage, indoor air quality, maintenance performance, project performance of capital projects, like all of that you’re applying kind of utilization to as a multiplication factor, or division, whatever you want to look at it. But really looking at the efficiency through a lens and being able to weigh what your priorities are for your portfolio, because everyone’s different, they have different portfolios, they want to measure different things, we’re able to do that now. And you’ll see that continue next year. So it’s gonna be really exciting stuff.


Jennifer Heath 22:16

So Brian, what would you say was your favorite part of Building Insights this year? What was the highlight for you?


Brian Haines 22:24

My favorite part of Building Insights this year? That’s a good question, Jen, I would say, the delight that I experienced with talking to customers the entire week, starting with, you know, the Customer Advisory Board meeting and seeing how engaged our clients were all the way to the very end. I frankly, I mean, it’s the truth. People are sad when it’s over. They’re sad, really, that’s good and bad at the same time, right? Because they have such an amazing experience. I love the one to one in the group contact with clients. I love it. And that’s why I want to be there every year.


Jennifer Heath 23:01

Yeah, we kind of joked about it. There was a handful of us stragglers there Thursday afternoon, they couldn’t get out on Thursday, we left Friday morning. And when we were all saying goodbye, it had a real feel like summer camp was, you know, I mean, you do become so connected to these people. It’s an intense kind of few days. But you do form all these wonderful connections and relationships. And it is sad when it’s over. But it makes us so excited for the next year. I think for me, the highlight was probably the final presentation. So Travis Kemp, our VP of Product Management, and Julius Marchwicki, who’s the VP of Product on the Open Blue side, they did a joint presentation of the roadmap and vision. And to me it just solidified everything that we talked about over the course of you know, the three days. And to see it all presented there together, it was just inspiring of what we’re going to be able to do in the long run. And I’ll say also that I mentioned earlier, I feel like a lot of clients go home inspired to you know, take new ideas and new solutions and introduce them to their team. I think FM:Systems employees go home inspired because we see how the work that we’re doing is impacting people in their daily work lives and within their organizations. And I think that’s very rewarding for all of us.


Brian Haines 24:24

Yeah, Jen, I agree. I just love it. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. This was my 12th FM:Systems conference. Really looking forward to number 13 Next year in Arizona, it’s going to be a really super fun time and I hope our clients, our partners can join us that’s going to be a lot of fun.


Jennifer Heath 24:42

Definitely. And for those of you listening, who were not able to attend this year, but you’re interested in Scottsdale, we will be sending out more information you can reach out to me, Brian, your account manager, whoever you might know here at FM:Systems to get more information. And we are always excited for those client presentations. So if you have a story that you would like to share, if you’ve overcome a unique set of obstacles, if you’re doing something unique with your business partner, we want to hear from you so it’s never too early to raise your hand and say, hey, I want to participate next year. We love getting those speaker submissions and requests to present. So definitely start thinking about that. We’re already thinking about Scottsdale. Things that we want to do, presentations, we want to include, the kind of training that we want to include. But definitely the client presentations are what really, I think sings for the attendees. They love to hear how other people are solving the same challenges. So have it in the back of your mind, think about if you might want to be one of our presenters. You don’t have to be by yourself up on the main stage. We do discussion panels, we do all sorts of different things. So if you want to be a part of it, please let us know. And we will find a perfect opportunity for you.


Brian Haines 26:06

Yeah, so your homework assignment is to go into Outlook or whatever calendaring program you have, scroll to 2025 April 28th to the 30th, put a big block on Building Insights conference, Scottsdale, Arizona, because we really look forward to seeing you there.


Jennifer Heath 26:18

Absolutely. All right, Brian. Well, I had a wonderful time with you in Asheville. I’m so excited for Scottsdale, and I hope to see all of our podcast listeners there as well.


Brian Haines 26:32

See ya.


Jennifer Heath 26:33

Thank you. Bye, everybody.

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