According to Gartner, a Stamford, CT-based provider of technology-related research, “The enterprise workplace represents the second-highest source of expense for most companies. Effectively deploying integrated workplace-management systems will deliver compelling financial returns.”
Ofer Azoulay, CEO at Los Angeles-based SFW LLC (www.sfwllc.com), an emerging leader in developing and delivering critical infrastructure management tools, concurs with this assessment, adding, “Regardless of the organization, the right technology solutions can make the facilities manager a hero.”
In fact, says Azoulay, many facilities organizations may have such technology in place, but in clearly disparate systems - all gathering similar information for use in different operational subsets (space and move management, engineering, maintenance, security incidents, etc). “And,” he adds, “these can work well. They just don’t work together.”
To compound the problem: Many teams rely on one or two of their members to be the technology expert, or - even worse - each system might have a different professional in control. “By putting all assets into one system, the organization - not an individual - owns it,” says Azoulay. “The organization controls the information and, therefore, the operation of the building. Key to creating a successful infrastructure-management system is that it be simple for all users, as well as customizable.”
Azoulay offers the following two considerations in gaining efficiencies with an infrastructure-management system:
- Determine the critical information needed. “This has no limit, but it’s an important consideration. Initializing a system takes time, so prioritizing the importance of certain pieces of information allows a facilities organization to proceed one step at a time,” he says.
- Ensure that there’s commitment. “The [physical] tools are there and they work, but without the commitment to enter and maintain the data, the tool is worth nothing,” adds Azoulay. “Remember that commitment means you own the information and you’re in control of your own operations.”
Although facilities professionals are clearly aware of their oversight responsibilities and the reporting of every incident - good and bad - many may find that the chain of communication is lacking. For many operations, it’s not uncommon for facilities professionals to ask themselves, “Why didn’t somebody tell me about this?” That might involve a relamping need, a slip-and-fall incident report, or a work-order request for some heavy-duty cleaning. Most solutions, according to Azoulay, begin with an understanding of the problems based on information about when, where, and why they are occurring.
Because of Azoulay’s prior security background, his company first developed a security inventory software module that assisted both end-users and local authorities in the event of security incidents. “Today, however, security is really a function of facilities management,” he explains. “In fact, I don’t look at any building-related event as a security breach or as a maintenance need; they’re all just issues [that are] handled as ‘issue-management’ clusters.”
That means that the integrated data collection and reporting benefits of infrastructure management allow facilities professionals the opportunity to find and address patterns. For instance, if a property records a history of seven slip-and-fall incidents outside a certain area, maybe there’s a history of documented water leaks or an adjacent cafeteria with multiple acknowledged clean-up needs. “You can analyze the past to fix the present or future,” says Azoulay.
Linda K. Monroe (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.