CIO interview: Henrik Trepka, ISS

ISS CIO Henrik Trepka's vision is that ubiquitous internet-connected sensors will help make the Danish facility management company the greatest service organisation in the world

ISS CIO Henrik Trepkas vision is that ubiquitous and internet-connected sensors will help make the Danish facility management company the greatest service organisation in the world.

“Sensors will be a total game-changer for all industries, and for us they will change the whole service model. We will be able to be proactive, we will know that the milk in the coffee machine has run out, a plant has too little water, and that a rat has been trapped,” says Trepka.

ISS, which has more than half a million employees around the globe, has been experimenting with different kinds of sensors for several years, and has now gone from test phase to preparation phase.

“We already have the back-end technology in place, and it is really scalable. Now we just have to ensure that we have the right business cases and use cases for us to set it up. There are no limits to how sensors can be used to collect data,” adds Trepka.

An example of a solution already in use are sensors in conference rooms for monitoring temperature, moisture and oxygen levels. The system can, among other things, turn on the ventilation, although in old buildings there might not be a way to increase the air quality automatically.

“If that is the case, service staff are alerted instead. If the oxygen level drops too much, the front-desk personnel come knocking on the door and ask the people in the conference room to take a short break while the windows are opened and coffee brought in,” he says.

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Service staff are also alerted when participants leave the conference room, so that it can be cleaned straightaway and prepared for the next meeting.

“Another example is that we collect data from restrooms. We measure the traffic and if the soap is being used, and the information is sent to the cloud.”

The information is delivered to a cleaner’s smartphone or to a team leader’s computer, and the customer also gets all the data. “Of course, they do not have to act on the information, but we share it with them so that they have full transparency,” says Trepka.

The sensors will not only enable ISS to give better service; they also make it possible to manage energy and space in buildings better, according to Trepka.

“In two years’ time we will see a lot more sensors around. There are not really good off-the-shelf solutions yet, but development goes really fast, and in six months’ time, there will be better and cheaper solutions to buy.”

Despite the enticing possibilities, Trepka keeps his main focus steadily on the present challenges.

“We need to look into the future, but we can never forget the basis we stand on. The most important task for me as CIO is to ensure that the operations are under control and keep running smoothly.”

To have most of the IT operations outsourced is a given for Trepka, since ISS itself makes its money from outsourcing.

“We preach outsourcing. We tell our customers to use ISS since what we do is not their core business. And our own core business is not to run servers.”

Group IT consists of only 20 people, but each of the 77 countries where ISS operates also has its own IT manager and IT personnel.

“We are decentralised. In some countries there are up to 50 people working with IT.”

The local IT organisations run many systems, such as payroll and local services, by themselves.

“For example, we have a local system for window cleaning in Denmark, and a local system for snow removal in Finland. There are different price models and wages in different markets, and it would be too complex to have it all in one single system.”

Group IT delivers global services only if it can add value by doing so, according to Trepka.

We will know that the milk in the coffee machine has run out, a plant has too little water, and that a rat has been trapped

Henrik Trepka, CIO, ISS

“We take care of security, email, infrastructure, websites and the facility management system. But a window cleaner in Denmark and a window cleaner in Melbourne do not necessarily have anything to do with each other, so we do not add value by delivering a shared system to them. They can copy and learn from each other, since we have a common platform and transparency, but that is on a voluntary basis.”

ISS was founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1901 as a cleaning company. Over the years more services were added, such as security, support, property and catering services. Since the turn of the millennium, the focus has been on multiservice and integrated facility services.

“This shift made IT more important. Cleaning does not really require more than a payroll system, but when you deliver a lot of different services to a customer you have to coordinate it,” says Trepka.

The most important IT system is facility management, which is used both by ISS and its customers. It is a standard system that ISS has tweaked to its own needs over the 15 years the business has used it.

“We have only shared our production data with our customers for a few years. It differs from customer to customer how much transparency and engagement they want, but we make it possible for them to see where people are, if an elevator or window is broken, and so on.”

Securing the customers’ data and giving all customers BI dashboards are two of the most important projects right now, Trepka says. He has been in the post for 10 years or so, and while the projects come and go, his main goals have remained the same.

“Number one is always to be master of operations; it all comes down to that. Number two is to always strive to get more value for less money. And number three is to be a change agent for the business,” says Trepka.

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