The Complexities of Communication

Sept. 30, 2002
Peabody, MA-based International Society of Facilities Executives (ISFE) recently released its membership survey, which was designed to identify trends in outsourced and in-house real estate activities, as well as the communications support in-house facility staff receive from executive and departmental management. Of the entire ISFE membership contacted via e-mail, 25 percent completed and returned the questionnaire. According to ISFE, a broad range of industries was represented, with the majority of the respondents in the design, construction, and real estate management sectors. Additionally, respondents were generally upper management, filling director and vice president positions.Following are some of the highlights:Of the respondents, 77 percent indicated they were in-house employees serving one organization. These organizations spanned almost 5,000 facilities, with respondents managing anywhere from one to 2,400 facilities. Forty-one percent managed 1 million to 5 million square feet of space, and 31 percent managed less than 1 million square feet of space.Fifty-one percent of in-house staff respondents reported that they manage facilities with outsourced support. Sixty-nine percent of in-house staff respondents utilizing outsourced support reported that they manage real estate with some assistance by outsourced real estate management consultants. Sixty-one percent of the respondents said they utilize Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) program support, but only 34 percent use Application Service Provider (ASP) Internet Website third-party program file management and transfer program support. Of the ASP services, respondents used reports, communications, and CAD drawings roughly equally, but only seven percent used on-site cameras for real-time observation of construction via the Internet.Lead time for space configuration for existing facilities and planning for new facilities or major building additions was also addressed. The lead time reported for small and large space reconfiguration within existing facilities was reported as not adequate by 37 percent of the respondents. Thirty-one percent indicated they did not receive adequate input from in-house departmental staff to meet short-term (one year) and long-term (three to five years) space planning needs. Responses to questions concerning lead time with respect to new facilities/major building additions were generally similar.When respondents were asked to rank the importance of communication relationships in programming new facilities or major additions, it was clear that all relationships were considered to be important by the majority of respondents. (“Very Important” was generally cited with respect to the communication with executive management, departmental staff, architectural/engineering design teams, construction managers, general contractors, and mechanical and electrical contractors. In contrast, communication with legal departmental staff and outsourced real estate consultants was deemed “Somewhat Important.”)Analysis of the survey indicates a need to improve communication between various departments and the facility function – a complex process since it likely involves many in-house department personnel as well as outsourced professionals. The question remains concerning who will take the lead to encourage changes to help facility functions be more inclusive in the business process.The survey has a wealth of information about facilities professionals’ organizational concerns. For more information, go to ( ISFE was founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989 to address the needs of senior-level facilities executives.

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