A guide for facility and asset managers
It can be a tough gig being a facility or asset manager. You’re under a lot of pressure, there’s high expectations to keep things running smoothly, yet you face the challenge of not being as recognised, or valued, in your organisation as you should be.
The purpose of this seven-step guide is to help you to:
- create a measurable facility management plan and process
- collect the data and use it to improve your effectiveness
- prove the value of you and your team
Who this guide is for
This guide is for Asset and Facility Managers who need to improve the value of facility management within their organisation.
The Facility Manager is often invisible until something goes wrong in a building and requires urgent attention from the FM team. As long as everything is running smoothly, there’s no need for management to give you any more resources to enable better management of your facilities.
This is often the perception from the C-suite and the source of a continual battle for facility managers. The fact is, so much of the work you are doing today is preventing future maintenance issues but often goes unnoticed.
Contrary to what many building owners believe, you ARE contributing to the bottom line. Without you, there could have been penalties and fines for non-compliance, decreased productivity levels from unhappy staff, lawsuits from OH&S incidents, rising insurance premiums – just to name a few.
As a Facility Manager, you’re not only saving the company money, but you’re also mitigating FM risk.
You’re working on day-to-day operational tasks, from the management of OH&S policies, compliance, hazardous material, and dealing with contracts and contractors, along with maintenance scheduling and management of the building. Management often doesn’t appreciate how much risk you have prevented with solid facilities management.
At the same time, you’re managing the expectations of everyone in the company from management through to the general staff. You’re in direct contact with the legal team, the catering team, the security team, the HR team – everyone is relying on you to keep them safe and your buildings running smoothly. So why aren’t you recognised more?
It’s a hard truth, but it must be said that part of the problem may inadvertently be yours. How much does management understand about the complexity and variety of work that you have to undertake? You can ask 100 people what facilities management involves, and every one of those people will have a different answer. The truth is that this is an extremely variable role and generally includes so much more than building management. In the world of facility management, so many activities fall under the facility manager’s responsibility, causing frequent lapses into a reactive mode in order to respond to all the requests, orders, regulations, deadlines, and demands of the organisation.
But does the C-suite understand this? This is where we, as facility managers, need to educate and continue to teach to management.
The way to approach this is to be strategic.
By putting together a strategic asset management plan, and aligning it to the corporate direction of the organization, you will be recognised. You need to be a part of the planning process so that you can get the budget you need to improve the efficiencies of your buildings and to make sure your portfolio works at optimal efficiency for the long term. You need a way to measure and show the value of what you do – it’s up to you, as the facilities manager of an organisation, to help management understand this.
Facilities management has been under-valued since buildings became more than shells. Buildings are viewed as static, boring, and simple, so why should a business manager be hired to run the facilities department? But a business manager you must be and the way to show you understand the business is to align your priorities with the organisation’s objectives.
To realise the greatest value in time and money and the return on time and money, you need to think like an executive. Until there is a shift in mindset to think beyond the day-to-day workload, facility managers will struggle to have their voices heard.
Unfortunately, the C-suite belief that buildings are static leads them to also believe that the costs associated with operating a building are static. Their core focus is increasing revenue, decreasing costs, and minimising risk. What they don’t realise is that you are greatly responsible for each of these variables. To prove your value, align your facility plan to your organisation’s priorities, and ensure that the activities you undertake are properly measured and reported from this perspective.
The key is to start setting some measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) for you and your team. For example, if you decide that you are going to reduce the energy levels, it’s important to put a figure against it so you know what your target is. Determine how much and by when the reduction should be met then put together the strategy that will enable you to achieve it.
Lighting can account for up to 40% of energy costs in commercial buildings and up to 7% of industrial energy use. Many low- and no-cost measures can be implemented to reduce costs without adversely affecting working conditions. Energy savings of 75-90% can be achieved with day lighting and task lighting strategies and using the most efficient equipment. It’s also a visible way to encourage staff to take an active role in reducing costs while demonstrating that energy efficiency is a business priority.
Another KPI could be to improve indoor air quality to increase staff productivity. Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within buildings and structures, relating to the health and comfort of building occupants.
IAQ can be affected by gases (such as carbon monoxide or radon), particulates, microbial contaminants (like mould or bacteria), or any mass or energy stressor that can cause adverse health conditions. Source control, filtration, and the use of ventilation to dilute contaminants are the primary methods for improving indoor air quality in most buildings. Your measure in this instance could be to compare staff illness and absences today vs absences over the next two years once the air quality has improved.
Your strategy could be to buy a device to measure the IAQ or to invite a consultant to work with you. This approach could be expensive, but if it’s the right strategy for your organisation, building a solid business case will support your budget request as staff productivity is very much aligned to organisational priorities.
With an approach like this, you’re starting to think like a business manager and building your recognition with the executive team. Getting budget approvals and respect is going to be a lot easier as your priorities become more aligned with theirs.
Exposing risk in FM can have many variables. Looking at the role of a facilities manager, we need to assess where the risk is for us and the organisation.
There are obvious risks such as non-compliance of buildings. Fines are high and jail terms can be enforced on senior management or the facilities manager if a building is deemed to be non-compliant.
But there are other critical risks you may not have considered but should be considered within your FM plan.
For example, did you know that it’s an FM’s responsibility to ensure contractors are performing to the organisation’s expectations? As a facility manager, it’s up to you to ensure their accreditations and licenses are up to date. Do you have processes in place to effectively manage your contractors? In your contracts do you stipulate that all accreditations and licenses must be kept up to date and any renewals are immediately relayed to you?
Even better, do you have a process where you are automatically informed when accreditations and licenses are coming up for renewal? Any contractor allowed on-site to conduct work with expired licenses will put a huge amount of risk on you and your organisation.
Many facilities managers are also responsible for managing the leases or sub-leases of their buildings. Do you have effective processes in place to ensure you don’t miss an option or a term?
Many facility or property managers use an Excel spreadsheet to manage leases, which may work for smaller companies but could be highly inefficient for larger ones. Have you thought about more intuitive ways to manage this process? There’s a big risk associated with missing critical dates in lease management; it could cost your company dearly.
Another risk is not having a contingency or business continuity plan (BCP) in place. A BCP is an outline of procedures to follow in case of a major event, such as a server crash or building fire. A contingency plan documents how you will prevent the loss of vital information or reduce the impact on your business should a problem arise. Many quality-driven organisations and companies have contingency plans not only for individual systems but for whole departments. It’s imperative that the FM department has a solid plan in place.
Where does all of your FM knowledge reside? A lot of facilities managers have grown into their position from a different career and learn on the job. As the role is so varied, they accumulate knowledge that stays in their head and isn’t shared within the organisation. A common pitfall of this approach is maintaining the information if someone moves on from the company or is unavailable to provide it when it’s needed. Have you considered implementing processes and procedures to document this valuable knowledge?
What about if you outsource your facilities management? The perception is that outsourcing reduces risk as it’s the service provider’s responsibility to ensure the work is done. However, who is controlling the service providers? How do you know that what they say they have done is correct? Presumably, they have software systems in place to report on your maintenance management, but what happens if you terminate their contract and all of your data is residing in their systems?
Exposing the FM risk in your organisation gives you a solid foundation for future FM planning. Your plan must consider opportunities and threats, just like a corporate business strategy.
Showing the value of facilities management is, in its simplest form, about creating systems that make the invisible outcomes from FM work visible. The most powerful and often only way to achieve visibility is by surfacing and communicating metrics that represent the outcomes and benefits achieved.
The metrics we are most interested in are related to change or variance: how much did we improve X as a result of undertaking particular FM works?
To be able to report on variance, we need baselines to measure against. The baselines are your internal benchmarks as they stand now before you change anything. Once baselines are captured, the FM work begins and the goal is to improve against the baseline.
So, what baselines do you need to capture? We could make this a complex project in its own right, but let’s keep it simple and start with identifying perhaps two or three areas to trial. To start, always go for the low hanging fruit. There’s likely some obvious areas you recognise could be easily improved by introducing some changes. This could be equipment, process, or technology changes but either way, it’s something you can realistically achieve some positive outcomes. These are the first things to start benchmarking.
An example approach to benchmarking is to start tracking the costs of running some of your major fixed assets. Let’s take a chiller that is more than a year old as an example. You will have a record of all the costs to maintain this chiller over the year: work orders to contractors, invoices, and overall operating costs of that asset over the past 12 months. You also know what the purchase price was. By tracking the next 12 months of cost of works for that chiller, you can determine if it’s functioning as promised by the vendor, or if it’s costing you considerably and something needs to be done about it. It could be that the contractor is simply overcharging for their services, or it could be that the chiller is faulty and any work should have been done under warranty. By measuring the costs year on year, you can take appropriate action to improve the outcomes and save on costs.
It’s possible to do year on year comparisons on all of your annual maintenance, your contractors, and your sustainability. Baselines can be broken down month by month, or building by building – you have the raw data so make use of it and start to track the next cycle against it. Start with the KPI’s for maintenance. The usual KPI for maintenance is a cost per gross area. That KPI shows how your costs compare every year overall. With this data, you can start to analyse your data and start forecasting your annual maintenance costs, which is exactly what management loves!
Baselines allow you to analyse spending trends. This can be broken down into many areas such as how much money was spent on contractors this year vs last year; how your budget is comparing against actual costs – if there’s a discrepancy, where is it and why?
Without internal baselines and comparisons, you will not have a good understanding of how your maintenance activities are tracking or whether you are saving money with your innovative ideas.
If you don’t already have systems in place to assist with tracking activities and KPIs, start a spreadsheet. It’s as simple as listing the obvious KPl’s you can identify, their cost from last year, your forecasted cost for this year, and the actuals.
Examples of KPIs could be:
|KPI||Measure||Grouping or filter|
|Efficiencies of contractors or the FM team
By work category
By contractor or the FM team
Now that you’ve started to put some baselines in place, you’re on your way to a data-driven asset management approach. You are understanding the importance of collating data to become more effective, so now it’s time to start experimenting with your new-found knowledge and information.
Our aim here is to start testing how our business can improve. We have baselines and benchmarks in place, therefore we have comparisons and results. How can we now improve the results in a way that can be measured and provide evidence for what you’re aiming for?
Let’s take something simple like the condition of carpets. By analysing the data you’ve gathered regarding the carpets, you can see how much money has been spent in the past 12 months reactively replacing or steam cleaning carpet across your portfolio. You notice that every building, and in some cases, every floor is being attended to independently and this is costing you a lot, not just in money but also from a productivity viewpoint as staff are being inconvenienced without much warning.
There is a simple answer – and this is now clear to you as you analyse these escalating costs. The problem is that although your carpets should be checked or cleaned every six months, you don’t have any planned maintenance scheduled to check the condition of the carpets. Scheduling your planned maintenance will enable you to get one contractor out to replace or clean multiple tenancies at a planned time. A long-term agreement with a contractor will not only give you a set price so you can manage the costs but having a set date and time to conduct the maintenance means it can be arranged outside of normal office hours so as not to displace staff. By tracking your scheduled tasks across the next year, the benefit of this approach and the savings you have made will be clear and demonstrable.
The outcome? By being proactive and scheduling this planned task, you’ll have a demonstrable figure to show how much you’ve saved your organisation. It’s measurable and you can prove it.
Perhaps your next experiment could be in another 12 months after collecting more data pertaining to this contract and comparing rates with other cleaning companies to see if you can improve this even more.
With a data-driven approach you are able to continuously analyse your data and look for more ways to further improve the outcomes.
It takes time to start demonstrating tangible results, but with continuous improvement, you are building a solid and transparent facilities management plan. You can continue experimenting with your data but once an experiment is complete it’s important to document this new way of managing tasks. It needs to become part of the standard operational procedures. The way you process the logging of activity and the way you are capturing and analysing your data should now be a process for the FM team as this data is going to become part of the regular reporting regime.
There are various ways of managing your maintenance activity, some more sophisticated than others. Depending on the size of your organisation or the maturity of your practices, it could be in a basic spreadsheet, disparate digital systems, or a cloud-based facilities management platform. However you’re doing it, be sure that the processes and procedures are clear so that any data can be easily transferred into any reporting tool you may use in the future.
As mentioned earlier, hoarding all of this information in your head is a very large risk to your company. What happens when you leave or take a holiday? How onerous is doing a handover before you go? Even thinking ahead you can’t be sure that anyone will fully understand your processes.
One area you can systemise right away is by moving to a planned maintenance strategy. By setting up scheduled works for tasks such as Essential Services and Compliance, you will be comforted to know that these schedules will be dealt with by your team in your absence. If you’re using a manual system, this step could be as simple as setting up notifications in your Outlook calendar to remind you to send out a planned job work order to your contractor. If you’re using a job management platform, it’s very likely that scheduling planned work is a key piece of functionality. Whichever approach you take, knowing that your essential services management (ESM) has been planned for the next 12 months or two years means you can concentrate on your ad-hoc tasks and improvements.
The last six steps have been all about how to gather data, analyse it, and make improvements so that you’re recognised as a contributor to your organisation’s bottom-line savings. Our final step is to create a reporting framework to communicate the changes you’ve made in your capabilities in terms of revenue, cost, and risk.
Now that you have all of this data and you can provide evidence for anything that you present, you have elevated your position within the company and proven the value of the facility team to the strategic direction of your organisation.
You understand the corporate objectives are about increasing revenue, decreasing costs, and minimising risk. You have aligned your FM strategy with the corporate strategy and are ready to show the C-suite how you’ve decreased maintenance costs and minimised company risk. Some examples of the reports you could share are:
- Comparative and trend Performance matrixes
- FM team
- – Assets, vehicles, rooms – OHS
- – Security
- – Risk levels
- Organisational breakdown of resource usage and direct costs
- Risk levels
- Site/building breakdown of costs and usage
These reports should reach a wide audience. This type of information is very important and relevant for all areas of management, whether you answer to them or not. If you make your reports critical pre-requisite reading in all tactical and strategic management meetings, you have exceeded expectations and sealed the recognised value of the FM team at board level.
Not only can you set up standard reports to be delivered to management, but now that you have planned schedules and FM data processes, you can set up monthly or weekly reports to your operational managers or your contractors. This reporting should become a part of the FM operational procedures and should be anticipated regularly by your audience.