How ISS is Transforming Facility Services with the Cloud, IoT, and AI

In just three years, Danish facility management services group ISS, which has over 350,000 employees, has taken its digital transformation to a new level, turning a small IT support function into a global, agile IT organization. Technology is now a clear USP for the ISS brand. Digital products developed in-house complement the group’s traditional services of cleaning, food services, facility management, and workplace experience. None of this would have been possible without the cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), and AI.

Technology Leadership in a Non-Digitalized Industry

With a history dating back 120 years, leading provider of integrated facility services, ISS, is one of the 40 biggest private sector employers in the world, with more than 350,000 employees in 30+ locations around the world. Equipping the workforce with digital tools offered the potential to bring vast improvements for both people experience and operational efficiency throughout the company.

In addition to cybersecurity, cloud platforms are the key to a stable, secure, integrated, agile, and scalable IT infrastructure

However, there were also significant challenges associated with this. These included a major financial setback in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, a cyberattack, as well as uncertainty among customers about whether the future of the workplace would be more home or office based. The facility services market is complex, diverse, margin sensitive, and not digitalized for the most part. It is also difficult to recruit specialists and retain them in the long term. In addition, due to the increasing focus on sustainability and climate neutrality, ISS aims to transform the more than 50,000 buildings in its service portfolio into sustainable places.

In 2021, therefore, the Supervisory and Management Board committed to the goal of making ISS the technology leader in the facility services industry and developing ISS Smart Tech for people, places, and the planet.

The Interplay of IT Strategy, Organization, and People Focus

Our digital strategy is based on three pillars:

  1. The global ISS tech team provides customers and employees with intuitive digital solutions, such as a app for the scheduling and management of shifts and tasks. It also developed the MyISS platform, which gives every employee a digital identity and access to various services.
  2. ISS tech products are offered on a scalable and cyber-secure cloud-first infrastructure.
  3. The company’s globally integrated tech team is responsible for developing and managing a modular ISS Smart Tech Ecosystem. The three central tech team locations comprise the newly opened Technology Center in Porto, which focuses on software development, the hub in Warsaw, and the Group headquarters in Copenhagen.

A successful digital transformation relies on close cooperation between IT and the other departments within the company. Ensuring that IT management is represented on the relevant boards is crucial to ensure fair and equal cooperation. The global CIDO is therefore an integral member of the international company’s central Executive Group Management team. There is also a CIDO in each region and each country organization as part of the regional or local management team, with a direct reporting line to the global CIDO.

ISS pursues a product-oriented approach, meaning that an agile product team accompanies an ISS service product throughout its life cycle. IT and tech employees are represented in these teams, which helps to ensure close cooperation between business and IT across all levels. For IT, qualitative criteria such as satisfied users and, where developed for external customers, the commercial success of a product are much more important than the number of features or components developed.

As a people company, ISS believes that people make places and places make people. With more than 350,000 employees worldwide, creating a sense of unity and belonging is a major challenge. Technology can play a key role in this, which is why ISS set up the global platform MyISS. Available as an app or website, MyISS offers a central platform and resource for accessing the latest news, tools, and information, and learning more about the corporate culture and values. So far, it is available to 125,000 users, and more rollouts are to follow this year. MyISS has replaced local, sometimes unmaintained platforms and is constantly delivering new features, such as payroll accounting, office news, and events.

ISS’ strategic approach to digital transformation:

  • Digital transformation as a differentiation strategy: ISS has evolved from a company with traditional IT support to an agile, technology-driven organization. This move has clearly set the ISS brand apart and added digital products to the offering.
  • Establishment of a secure and scalable IT infrastructure: ISS is pursuing a cloud-first strategy to create a flexible, scalable, and secure environment for its digital services. This will enable the company to adapt quickly to customer requirements and use resources efficiently.
  • People experience: Digital solutions promote a sense of belonging and unity among the more than 350,000 employees worldwide. With MyISS, ISS has created a global platform for the sharing of experience.
  • Integration of AI and IoT in facility management: Using IoT and AI enables data-driven facility management to optimize operational processes and set new standards in service.

Over Ten Countries Have Already Migrated to the Cloud, with More to Follow in 2024

In addition to cybersecurity, the cloud is the key to meeting customer demand for a stable, secure, integrated, agile, and scalable IT infrastructure. A global bank, for example, expects all of its service partners to comply with the highest cybersecurity standards and zero risk when sourcing digital solutions from ISS. The fact that ISS solutions are hosted in the cloud is a big advantage.

ISS therefore continues to invest in state-of-the-art cybersecurity technology and a cloud-first architecture. Ten countries are already in the cloud, with more to follow this year, business case permitting. The use of cloud services that can be individually adapted to customer needs offers many advantages. For instance, cloud platforms offer scalability and agility, meaning that services can be provided quickly and capacities easily increased or reduced without the need for long-term investment (sunk costs). This is an important factor both for the company itself and for customers. In ISS’ experience, the cloud is also more cost-efficient in the long term in most cases.

Technology to Reimagine the World of Work: ISS Smart Tech 4 People, Places & the Planet. Source: ISS


From a central cloud transformation office, ISS conducts analyses in conjunction with the country locations and then manages the migration.

Data-Driven Facility Management with IoT in Buildings

As the largest cleaning company in the world, with more than 40,000 customers, ISS expects its services to be of the highest quality and efficiency. IoT plays an important role in this as the company is equipping customer buildings with sensors to work smarter and more efficiently. With many airports, hospitals, factories, and office buildings in the company’s international portfolio, the data from the sensors can be used to analyze and optimize business operations and increase customer satisfaction.

ISS’ customers want to leverage the data to understand their buildings and employees better and to save costs and energy. ISS’ Building on a Page solution is the control tool for data-driven facility management. The customer sees the most important information and live data about the building on one interface, the ‘page’. Key figures for the buildings include occupancy rates, financial data, and sustainability metrics. ISS is currently also working on an AI feature that will provide automated answers to user questions.

Artificial Intelligence Boosts Productivity and Employee Experience

The topic of artificial intelligence is currently dominating the world of technology and business. In the facility services industry, ISS sees enormous potential in redefining energy management, improving building sustainability, enhancing the workplace experience, and increasing operational efficiency. To gain maximum value from this disruptive technology, however, it is essential to develop a sustainable strategy, prioritize use cases, and put in place the necessary capabilities. To this end, ISS has launched a global AI program involving employees from across all departments and regions, which aims to consolidate AI use cases, promote collaboration and knowledge sharing in an AI community, and build a global AI portfolio.

In order to use AI successfully and responsibly, ISS has launched a global AI programme that brings together employees from different functions and regions. The aim is to develop and consolidate AI use cases, promote collaboration in an AI community and build a global AI portfolio.

AI will continue to be incorporated within ISS’ digital products for employees and customers wherever it offers tangible benefits and where responsible use can be assured. The company has a strict policy to use AI in the workplace only if it promotes unity, encourages human creativity, or supports well-being.

This might include, for example, developing chatbots based on generative AI for contract drafting (e.g. “Which services are included in this contract?”) or to support sales with the creation of text for quotations and tenders.

AI is also embedded in the company’s Workplace Experience app. In a hybrid working world, encouraging employees to spend more time in the office can be a challenge. The Workplace Experience app was developed with these new ways of working in mind and to connect people with each other and their workplaces. The app is used by customers, but is also used in ISS’ offices. Employees now have the digital office in their pocket. The app’s features are designed to improve wellbeing, engagement, community, and productivity by offering room and desk booking, indoor navigation, and event

information, for example. With the support of Microsoft and other partners, the app is continually updated with additional AI-assisted features; for example, for office visit forecasts or with chatbots that improve onboarding or make day-to-day work more productive.

After three years of digital transformation, ISS has found that a clear digital strategy not only helps to improve internal processes and the employee experience, but also supports sustainable business development and differentiation from the competition. The strategic use of the three technology pillars cloud, IoT, and AI is key.

The author:

Markus Sontheimer was appointed Chief Information and Digital Officer (CIDO) of the Danish ISS Group in 2021. In this role, he is responsible for managing the facility services group’s digital transformation into a technology leader. Prior to joining ISS, he held many leadership positions including CIO/CDO & Member of the Management Board at DB Schenker, CIO Group Finance GT at Deutsche Bank, CIO Financial Services and Global Mercedes-Benz Sales at Daimler, and CIO Daimler Financial Services Europe, Africa, and Asia Pacific. He has a degree in industrial engineering from Esslingen University of Applied Sciences and lives with his family in Stuttgart.