IT solutions

Building a business case for, with IT solutions

Using technology to improve FM processes and report back to the C-suite
Thursday, June 1, 2017
By Michelle Ervin

As facility management and information technology become increasingly intertwined, there are business cases to be made both for and with IT solutions. Computer-assisted facility management (CAFM) systems can be used to track trends in data, identify opportunities to improve processes and report back the results.

Presenters of the educational session Making a More Effective Business Case to the C-suite for FM utilizing IT recently shared how to do this at IFMA Facility Fusion in Toronto. One of the key takeaways was that cost savings is not the only compelling argument for executives to approve funding for a project.

“I’ve seen powerful business cases for what sort of inventory of parts should we keep within our properties so we don’t have to go out to Home Depot and buy new light bulbs as we need them,” said Simon Davis, vice president of business development at Serraview.

Improving FM with technology

Davis discussed how to show the benefits of enhancing processes with technology, highlighting the importance of aligning business cases with corporate strategy. He pointed to a large investment bank he worked with in New York, where all facilities requests required at least a response, if not a resolution, within 15 minutes — a performance target that could be measured and managed.

“As an organization, they didn’t care about efficiency or cost savings, they cared about the satisfaction of the employees on the floor,” said Davis.

But there are efficiencies and cost savings to be had, with support from technology, for organizations that do have these goals. For example, systems with heat maps are being used to identify to the most and least used areas on floors to tailor cleaning schedules to the space, said Davis. Another trend he is seeing is organizations wanting to maximize their space utilization, which could lead to savings if a lease can be collapsed when it comes up for renewal.

Davis worked with an organization that was able to grow substantially within its existing real estate footprint by raising its space utilization from 49 per cent to 92 per cent.

“It’s not necessarily a cost savings, but a cost avoidance,” he noted. “They literally added 8,000 people without adding a single square foot of space.”

Davis recommended asking the following questions when reviewing a process:

  • Is it effective?
  • Can it be computerized?
  • Will it justify the effort?
  • What are the risks?

The business case for adopting a CAFM system can fall apart if the risks of roll out are not mitigated, Davis explained.

Building effective business cases

Kevin Janus, business manager, Maximo CoE, Computerized Facilities Integration, said that the data accumulated through technology can reveal trends and guide FM efforts based on what initiatives stand to have the greatest impact.

Janus echoed Davis in underscoring the strategic value of crafting pitches to the current objectives of the organization, whether they’re cost-cutting or growing. He added that FM goals, such as risk mitigation, can be framed in a way that speaks to the corporate goals of the day.

“If we see a crack in the sidewalk, we know that someone can trip, fall, break their leg on it, lawsuit,” said Janus in another example. “But if the company is more about persons’ experience, the crack in the sidewalk could actually show a lack of caring about the appearance of the company or the experience of someone walking over that.”

In addition, he said that when making the case for an initiative to the C-suite, anything that is intangible must be translated into something that is tangible.

“I’ll show you how, by changing the hot dogs to better quality in the cafeteria, you’ll have more people spending time in house, eating lunch, which will increase productivity,” Janus offered by way of example.

He also noted that different messages may be required for different audiences, depending on how the FM department reports up to the C-suite. Finding allies in stakeholders such as HR can help pave the way for approval, especially if it means executives are hearing a similar message from more than one group.

Janus offered further tips for preparation, including anticipating possible alternative solutions and leaving room to negotiate, so there is at least an opportunity to start small and prove success to be able to build on an initiative.

Post-approval follow up

Janus recommended following up with the C-suite to communicate the outcome of initiatives that secured funding, whether positive or not-so-positive. It’s a matter of maintaining credibility and providing transparency, he said.

“You don’t always want to go there with your hand out,” said Janus. “You want to go there and show results of the business cases.”

Michelle Ervin is the editor of Canadian Facility Management & Design.

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