Given the increasing complexity of today's organizational and IT structures, it's no wonder facilities managers find it difficult to achieve their basic business objectives - objectives that include:
- Insight into cost.
- Control of increasing facilities costs.
- Real estate and asset performance assessment needs.
- Service agreements.
- Enterprise resource planning/management (to respond quickly/accurately to information requests, integrate and publish data from various IT systems, and support the needs of business operations).
To meet these objectives, facilities managers need to overcome some difficult challenges. They need to know what spaces they have and where, where they have unoccupied space and how much, and who occupies these space(s). At the same time, they need:
- The ability to collect and access data from one location.
- To establish easy ad-hoc query and report mechanisms.
- Web-based tools to give users an access point they understand and accept.
- Security concepts to prevent users from seeing/modifying sensitive information.
- The ability to modify data for scenarios without affecting the "as-is" data in the system.
- The ability to support the overlap between space and asset planning needs.
- An effective and reliable communication chain with other departments.
Data Centric vs. Document Centric
The problem boils down to trying to support a data-centric system with document-centric information.
Facilities management is traditionally addressed with database applications for information browsing, queries, and tabular reports. Many of the decisions made and analyses done are based on numbers that can be quantified and qualified (in other words, the systems employed are data centric).
However, critical information regarding physical facilities is highly document centric. Buildings are built, described, and maintained using engineering documents such as CAD drawings and facility specifications. The information these documents contain is valuable, but typically not well integrated with data-centric systems.
What's needed is a data-driven facilities management system tightly integrated with CAD and the engineering world through an engineering document/drawing management system. Such an approach can provide facility management data access in the context of the information that best describes the facility (the engineering documents). With this type of solution, the facilities management system acts as an integration platform capable of managing, coalescing, and visualizing the complex, dispersed collection of facility-related information, connecting finance, HR, engineering, strategic planning departments, and their different facility management information needs.
As a result, organizations can estimate, evaluate, and plan ahead when supported by powerful change management capabilities that allow them to make proposals for change to both the engineering documents and the data-centric information - all while leaving the production systems unaffected and available without interruptions. Thus, organizations can really see and quantify the effects of changes without altering their "as-is" data. Moreover, information can be leveraged by creating an environment in which documents, engineering, and asset information are made available to the global enterprise via a desktop Web browser.
Huw W. Roberts is global marketing director, buildings, at Exton, PA-based Bentley Systems Inc. (www.bentley.com).