Retain vital facilities data with an integrated workplace management system

Worldwide Business Development Executive, IBM Analytics, Internet of Things - Asset Management, IBM

One of the benefits of an integrated workplace management system (IWMS) is that users know its information is available to employees at all levels. While the material may be used in different ways, the data is constant. This openness and clarity across departments enables better coordination and synchronization of goals and outputs. 

Capital planning is a critical part of this design, so you need a long-term outlook. One to five years is generally sufficient, but objectives could take longer if government mandates or contract terms are involved. An IWMS application must be able to answer the following questions quickly and in a manner that supports your decision-making, or it will be useless: 

  • is in my portfolio?
  • What are the organization’s needs?
  • What is keeping me up at night?
  • What am I going to do about this?

Portfolio creation is the first task—and often the most difficult one. This process starts with gathering the currently known lists of assets, transferring them into an IWMS and then building up the system. You can then start to address issues such as ownership versus leases, geographic variations, age and other important attributes. With this understanding, you can begin managing these assets in line with corporate objectives. 

Regardless of the knowledge source or amount of detail, it is crucial that you start documenting actual site conditions. Currently, many organizations are seeing experienced employees retire, causing the business to lose their decades-long knowledge of the facilities, or the work is being managed by an outside firm whose staff is unfamiliar with the information. Because intrinsic facilities knowledge is disappearing, an IWMS can help document and maintain this institutional knowledge before it leaves the organization.

Facilities usually have an overwhelming list of needs that has been recently exacerbated through large reductions in facilities expenditures. It is generally true that there will be more things to fix than is possible. While all requirements can be a problem for the asset, not all problems need to be addressed in the same way, and not all are equally critical. For example, issues in the headquarters building, the laboratory and the storage shed have different values and priorities. However, an IWMS such as IBM TRIRIGA can help document the decision-making process around where, when and how to apply precious and limited funds.

Most employees other than those managing the assets know very little about corporate assets and their terminology. If nothing else, perhaps the most important role of capital planning applications such as TRIRIGA (either on-premises or SaaS) is that they translate a facilities manager’s needs into a language that anyone in the finance and management organizations can understand. There is a direct relationship between the condition of the portfolio and the budget investment. The benefit is that instead of the facilities management group just asking for money, it is now in an open and clear discussion with the finance and management teams about the acceptable level of services and what it costs to deliver them—helping to eliminate questions to facilities management about “unknown spending.” With the plans created and the outputs agreed to, this creates better financial clarity and performance for the CFO, and brings the facilities management team to the table as strategic operational partners within the company.

Better yet, this is only the start. Once expenditures are approved, the IWMS tools begin coming into play. Data on all the facilities will allow the project staff to implement strategies such as volume purchases, see how many air handlers are needed across all sites or negotiate a more beneficial contract for the company. Also, the data could be used to improve project efficiencies by determining other necessary projects in that area, so that staging and scaffolding are not erected twice. These uses have real business benefits to the bottom line and reinforce the critical and strategic part that the facilities management team plays in the organization.