Facilities Managers Have to Make Things Work After Decisions Are Made

by Elizabeth Dukes on September 30, 2014

The facilities manager has long held the position of managing the back office, playing a critical role in the daily functioning of the company they manage.  Frequently, however, they have been left in the background when critical decisions are made regarding the workspace and how it is managed.  As a result, they have had to learn to make the most out of any situation.  Often placed in a difficult position, FMs have demonstrated the courage to turn massive mistakes, or no action at all, into positive outcomes, demonstrating their flexibility to adapt in a wide range of scenarios.  Not only have they had to adapt, but they’ve had to get their team on board to support the task at hand. Below we have highlighted a few examples of how successful FM’s have made things work after these critical decisions were made.

Making Things Work Requires Courage

While today’s facilities manager is often consulted in the difficult choices, the final decision rests on the executive’s shoulders. Once an investment is made, it is up to the FM to make it work.Facility managers have the courage to get things done

For example, many organizations utilize ERP systems (SAP, Oracle) and tools provided by corporations such as IBM.  Each of these software platforms have functionality that can be activated to perform real estate and space management or maintenance management.  Although these systems may have the basics covered, their core business is NOT managing the workspace. As a result these tools are cumbersome, difficult to use, and do not enhance facility operations.  But the C-suite said “Hey, we are buying IBM or SAP. It can’t be that bad.” 

So now you are stuck making the most of these new tools. Overcoming this challenge requires a great deal of determination, creativity, and courage. Since customization is typically time-consuming and costly, your FM team must try to ensure the implementation of this functionality satisfies your needs and identify ways to get the most out of the system long-term. It is important to ensure your entire team is well trained, as the system is likely challenging to use and you will need everyone to easily adapt in the event of staff reductions or turn-over. More than likely, you will be able to perform your basic tasks and garner the basic information. However, it is critical to stay engaged and educated about the market, as a business case may arise when changing software for managing the facility makes sense. The good news is that more user-friendly, modern tools typically easily share data with these larger, ERP systems.

Budget Is Still Not Approved

Many of us lack the necessary tools to manage our workspace at peak performance.  We are still forced to rely on a hodge-podge of older software and Excel spreadsheets.  Obviously, regardless of the tools at our disposal, we must still uphold our commitment to providing a high-level of service; but we can certainly continue to prepare a good business case for investing in the proper tools.  One way is to collect market statistics such as:

  • Lease Cost Savings- Through investment in the proper tools, such as Space Management Software, facilities have realized a savings of as much as 3.5% in lease costs.
  • Maintenance Costs Reductions- Increased visibility into maintenance costs provides companies with the necessary data to achieve an average savings of 3.3% in maintenance expense.
  • Occupancy Cost Savings- A recent study revealed that companies who increase operational visibility through investment in an IWMS tool saw an average of 5% savings in total occupancy cost.

Along with clear market data, it also critical to document your processes and measure the time it takes to move through each step. This will allow you to demonstrate the time/cost savings associated with eliminating manual, redundant steps. In your documentation efforts, do not forget to include the time and number of steps it takes you to prepare reports and proposals concerning workspace projects.

This would also be an opportune time to engage the other departments that support the workforce, such as HR and IT. Gain a clear understanding of the tools they use, discuss how your teams could share information, and possibly leverage an IWMS tool. By aligning yourself with other departments, you will find more success in demonstrating the valuable impact such an investment would have on the entire organization, not just on the facilities team.

The Majority Of Your Staff Are Baby Boomers Approaching Retirement

FMs make things workAs the facilities manager, you have likely inherited a diverse team comprised of young and old, fixed in their ways and open-minded. The Baby Boomers like to do things old school with email, paper, and spreadsheets.  Their record keeping is lacking, but their work production, knowledge of the space, and customer needs is superior.  On the flip side, you have a younger group that are excellent technicians but are still learning the ropes somewhat. They are demanding technology and are frustrated, perhaps even insulted, that they have to fill out a report.

Balancing and bringing together these two very different sets of workers is quite the challenge regardless of the tools you have in place.  However, the best strategy is to keep every team member involved, recognizing the skills and talents each individual brings to the table.  More than likely you will need to own any final project decisions but it is critical to keep folks engaged, ensuring that the team is aware you are making choices in the best interest of the entire organization.

Based on their successes and the dynamic shift occurring in the workplace, the FM is poised to enhance their image and impact on their organization.  With real-world experience in managing on the fly and knowledge concerning changing expectations within the workforce, FM’s have the opportunity to bring new ideas and solutions to the table.  The facilities manager’s role is no longer about just making sure there is a table to meet around, but rather taking a seat at the table with powerful ideas and solutions that impact the organization as a whole. Leading their organization down the path to success often means finding solutions where there are seemingly none. Making lemons out of lemonade; turning failures into success. 

With so many hats to wear, the modern day facilities manager has a role like no other. When things go awry, they hear about it from all sides; but when things go well, all is quiet. Leading their organization down the path to success often means making lemons out of lemonade, turning failures into success.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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