Today’s facilities managers are challenged with a seemingly ever-increasing need for compliance, cost efficiency, productivity, business flexibility and transparency. They are also challenged with the complexities of evolving technology and the ongoing drive for corporate social responsibility and sustainability.
There is a pressing need for dependable data on strategic, tactical and operational levels, allowing FMs to assume a proactive role in shaping the destiny of the organizations they represent. FMs need current information about real estate assets, their use and their cost profiles to benchmark performance. At the same time, FMs need to understand, respond quickly to and even anticipate future changes in demand patterns.
The new generations of integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) are specifically targeted at addressing these challenges. They provide the process and information infrastructure to manage facilities over their full life cycle.
Strategically, the primary goals behind the rollout of an IWMS revolve around achieving a global, holistic FM view for business agility. In turn, this enables cost saving and efficiency.
In the FM sphere, look for opportunities to optimize:
- Process efficiency: Examine costs and time to identify key services where output and value should be improved. For example, could employees report their problems directly, rather than working through a helpdesk? This would result in faster response times.
- Workplace efficiency: Monitor occupancy and the effective use of both space and workplaces throughout the portfolio to avoid waste. Improve alignment with core business goals by providing the right mix of space and property types.
- Portfolio transparency: Comply with financial portfolio reporting requirements, capture complete ownership profiles, and analyze life cycle by location, function and capacity. By having this information available in one database, it’s possible to get a true overview of a portfolio, enabling efficient business decisions.
- Customer satisfaction: Verify and monitor the results of process and quality improvements.
- Vendor/supplier analysis: Monitor vendor performance, incorporating customer feedback to improve the sourcing strategy.
The group of stakeholders in an IWMS is equally diverse. As a collective, all the stakeholders together will use the full set of IWMS capabilities. However, individual members will focus on the specific goals, contributions and requirements needed for their own particular field of work.
There are two primary stakeholder groups: the real estate and facilities management professionals and their internal customers — FM and RE business management, planners/coordinators, administrators, service providers and helpdesk personnel. These “back-office users” are typically interested in detailed FM functionality and need easy access to live status reporting via management dashboards that can provide trend analyses, occupancy reports, key performance indicators (also known as KPIs), benchmarks and other tactical and strategic information.
What’s more, these types of stakeholders often require pre-emptive dynamic alerts and notifications via email or text whenever a budget is at risk of overrun, a service level, such as heat or energy usage is (or about to be) breached or a process or system problem threatens to escalate, garnering the attention of senior level management. This allows FMs to operate proactively and responsively.
A proper IWMS rollout should not only provide the means for FM professionals to communicate with their internal and external customers, but equally support the continuous improvement and development of the overall organization.
A common goal of IWMS projects is “making sure adequate real estate and FM services are delivered at a good price worldwide.” This, however, can oversimplify the problem. The terms “adequate” and “good price” will vary dramatically from organization to organization, underlining the fact there is no simple one-size-fits-all prescription available.
Despite this, five clear themes stand out in the “why” for rolling out IWMS:
1. Governance: A general desire to apply similar practices for solving similar problems across the various sites; in essence, a framework of conduct applied consistently throughout the organization: “This is how we do things.”
2. Business transparency: The need to compare and contrast the effectiveness of operations across all sites. This speaks to the propensity for central FM to adopt a management-by-exception approach that focuses on sites that need the most improvement.
3. Business compliance: International organizations are confronted with differences in local legislation and compliance regulations at their sites. In addition, organizations have their own internal standards. This is about being able to ensure (and prove) actual compliance with those regulations.
4. IT rationalization and innovation: International organizations typically have large application software portfolios. IT management often looks to limit the number of applications available in order to reduce software-management costs and the total spend of software. IWMS can help reduce the number of systems in place, simplifying the landscape, providing better integration of information and thus lowering overall costs. Add in cloud-service models and the IT team no longer has to plan for monitoring of hardware, capacity and systems management.
5. Financials: It is critical to forecast required investment levels and return on investment for every project. Typically, an IWMS project will not begin until key decision makers are convinced it will offer a financial return. Improved occupancy rates, increased efficiency of operations, improvement in the quality and accessibility of business information can all help to provide a financial return. Additionally, today there are cloud-based models that offer subscription pricing for the software, allowing the cost of an IWMS project to be seen as an operating expense, rather than as a capital expenditure.
IWMS brings together all of the collected data as a structured, single source of truth, made accessible along with supporting software tools that model business processes. Every stakeholder gets to use the (reliable) data of others. Such an integrated approach is a prerequisite for continuous improvement in cost, efficiency and quality initiatives.
Fred Guelen is the CFO of Planon, a leading global provider of software that supports organizations that aim to optimize workplaces, services and assets. Based out of Boston, Guelen also leads the company’s American and Canadian operations.