Facilities management (FM) professionals using manual processes or struggling with complex, functionally rich software need a new paradigm allowing easier access to software. Facilities and estate managers are responsible for a huge variety of estates varying in extent and complexity. Controlling the information associated with these estates is challenging.
Larger estates have more data to manage but typically have greater resources; smaller estates with less of a data management issue have fewer resources so that in relative terms the pressures are similar. For example, managing site records, infrastructure and asset data might be a part-time role as is common in the education sector.
To help manage the disparate needs of these sites a range of software solutions are available:-
- Infrastructure site records management systems;
- Maintenance and asset management systems;
- Computer aided facilities management (CAFM) systems;
- Document management systems;
- Geographical Information Systems (GIS);
- Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.
The above solutions tend to focus on medium to larger sized estates and provide substantial benefits from a management perspective. The required investment in consultancy, training, licensing and on-going support fees is worthwhile due to the complexity of these environments. However, site or facilities managers responsible for less extensive estates may find themselves disenfranchised from solutions. They will often tackle their site records management challenges using paper or manual processes or in-house systems based on e.g. Access® or Excel®.
A recent survey conducted by Facilities Management Journal (FMJ) and Causeway found that up to 65% of estates with 6-10 buildings use paper or manual processes to manage property data and even for those with 11-100 buildings just under 50% were managed manually (1).
The antithesis to this situation are those sites with the capacity to adopt solutions but find themselves with systems which are over complex. As the complexity of requirements increases so does the sophistication of the software as illustrated in figure 1.
Manual / paper based – No systems in use.
Entry level – Some degree of software used to ease management typically through in-house means e.g. Access®, Excel® etc
Med-Tier – Greater use of software whether more developed internal software or the use of commercial packages.
Enterprise Tier – Large estates, complex data management requirements within a complex IT environment necessitates the use of complex commercial packages.
For some estates this creates a dynamic where the software becomes too complex for their needs which results in functional redundancy as parts (or all !) of the software isn’t used. The worst case scenario is when the software drives the business and not vice versa. Processes and work flows become complicated by the software – not as a result of a business need. They become more complicated simply because they can.
However, a new paradigm encompassing several factors is now available to help site and facilities managers:-
- innovative technology;
- flexible design;
- short and simple implementations;
- using the cloud as a delivery mechanism, and
- flexible commercial terms
This new paradigm reduces entry-level barriers to software adoption. Previously disenfranchised users now have the option to consider software solutions because the factors above have created a new solutions landscape. For example, those managers dependent upon manual and paper processes can now gain access to solutions scaled and fit for their purpose.
Equally, those with a need to manage sites on a temporary basis e.g. over several months on a construction site can now access software quickly and efficiently. Site records and the location of critical underground infrastructure, whether permanent or temporary, is sharable between client, contractors and sub-contractors.
Interestingly, managers also have a wider degree of choice. A choice which means they could even consider downsizing from an overly complex or expensive solution to one more appropriate to their requirements and without inherent lock-ins.