By David Stephenson
From the April 2017 Issue
Do you remember when you saw your first integrated workplace management system (IWMS) demonstration? Remember how fantastic all of the tools were, how much time it was going to save you, and how great the reports were going to be? You imagined being able to manage space, moves, facilities needs, conferencing, leases, construction projects, and all of your documents in one place. Jump forward two years, five years. How you do you feel now?
All too often, software demonstrations fall short of actual results, and it’s not the fault of any one person. Software vendors have flashy demos that showcase the best of what they can deliver in order to stand apart from the crowd. Once it comes down to pricing however, value engineering comes into play, and “wants” get separated from “needs”. Staffing and resources that were promised during the planning and selection of the software never materialize. Implementations are split into modules to spread the cost over a longer period, extending the ROI period from months to years. Any one of these causes can disintegrate the original value placed on implementing an IWMS. If this has happened to you, keep reading for some tips and reminders about how to regain the value of your IWMS.
Value is relative… kinda. I have seen the benefits and cost savings of IWMS materialize but not without significant investment. If applied properly, that investment results in an invaluable tool that will help you better manage your first and second most valuable assets—employees and the real estate that houses them. Significant investment is relative to the size of the company. However, saving 5% of total rent and occupancy cost is a savings in any case, and will outweigh the cost of the software and implementation.
Staff it right! Many times, as an afterthought, the management of the IWMS is not successfully aligned to the skills and interests of the staff necessary for full adoption. For example, the responsibility may be designated to the space planner who may not have the skills or desire to grow as a data analyst—which is important when managing an IWMS.
To be fair to most companies, finding a data analyst with CAD skills is like trying to find Waldo; it is nearly impossible. The CAD component of most IWMS systems is very basic, so first find the data analyst skills, and then teach them the CAD skills. One well trained administrator should be able to maintain up to a three million square foot portfolio. This includes data integrity, CAD dwg updates, fielding requests, and generating reports. You may have two to four space planners for that same portfolio, but you only need one IWMS administrator.
Don’t forget the rules. The second most common issue we find is the abandonment of the original processes and data standards developed during implementation. The main culprit goes back to staffing and skill sets. When management of the IWMS gets passed around, processes and standards are not always clearly communicated. When the system is not managed with a data mindset, shortcuts become commonplace with unintended results.
Here is one real-life example from a past client: A CRE administrative assistant inherited the keys to the IWMS castle. Their job was to update CAD drawings, run reports, and update data. Over the course of two years, this person artificially inflated the occupancy and vacancy of this four million square foot portfolio by 7%—equivalent to four floors of leased office space—by taking shortcuts and not having the benefit of the IWMS data standards explained to them. After a few months of working with the client to reset standards and better communicate processes, the value returned to the IWMS and the CRE team began trusting the data again.
Reignite past relationships. For most organizations, implementing an IWMS means getting a nightly import from the human resources (HR) and finance departments to populate employee and department records. This is great for tracking vacancy and performing chargebacks, but there is more out there. Historically, HR has been reluctant to share its data due to privacy issues. You could get employee IDs, names, titles, e-mails, phone numbers, and a few other basics. But just like CRE and FM have become more tech savvy, so too have HR and finance.
HR has tools that allow them to understand the employee population better, and this information has great benefit to CRE and FM. HR may now be able to provide management hierarchy in their data import, allowing space planners to view occupancy by Director or Senior VP levels on reports and floor plans instead of just the individual occupant level. This should not be confused with organizational hierarchy, which provides the departmental rollup.
If you are not already integrating Rent & Occupancy (R&O) expenses on a monthly basis from finance, then that should be your first conversation. Understanding cost per person, square footage, seat, and other metrics is important when discussing future space plans with department heads, as well as supporting the effectiveness of alternative workplace projects. Finance may also be collecting quarterly headcount forecasts that include information such as location, title, or job type, and date or quarter for the additional staff. This is invaluable information for the CRE strategic planning process. Integrating a corporate-wide headcount forecast on a quarterly basis is much simpler than interviewing each department about their planned headcount each year.
A diamond in the rough. One of the most useful data points we have started integrating into IWMS is information on the positions that are actually approved within the organization. Some HR departments have started assigning Position IDs to every single position in the company, and when the position is filled, the Position ID is tied to the Employee ID. This has allowed us to switch from tracking employees to tracking positions. We can determine by location and department how many filled, open, and vacant positions exist and compare that to the current capacity of that location or department.
Open positions are new positions that have never been filled. Vacant positions are existing positions that were filled, but are not currently. When filled positions are vacated, we can retain the position information on the seat that was vacated, which allows the occupancy charge to remain with the department and provides information on the position as well. This position can be moved around like an employee, and when the position is filled again, the hired employee information drops right into the seat. These position designations provide a look into the very near future of hiring, which supports daily tactical planning needs. This provides additional value to CRE, FM, and the departments they serve.
Share it like it’s hot. An often overlooked source of data integrity is the many department liaisons and general users that might access the IWMS each day. Department liaisons have a vested interest in data integrity because it is tied directly to their R&O allocation, as well as the smooth execution of their moves and service requests. In addition, liaisons help distribute the workload to the departments, which lowers the staffing requirements for the CRE or FM team.
Casual uses can provide benefit as well. A few years ago, I accompanied an end-user on a walk-through during a yearly audit. We were talking with the occupants of a workstation bullpen trying to determine the location of an employee. One of the occupants stopped us and said, “Wait, you should check this website and look at the floor plans. I’ll pull up the plan of where John sits now.” This employee proceeded to pull up the IWMS and give us a quick tour. We couldn’t have been more proud to see firsthand the positive impact of this software implementation.
Create a new relationship with your IT department and connect your IWMS to the corporate intranet. If you have taken the steps outlined above, your data should be in great shape. Share it with the whole company, and remember to provide a link to “Like” us. Or, on the off chance someone finds some incorrect data, they can be a key to data integrity.
By reviewing or initiating some of these recommendations, you can begin to reclaim the value of your IWMS. It takes investment, the right mind and skill sets, adherence to data standards, a thirst for uncovering valuable new sources of enterprise data, and the faith to share it with everyone. You’ll be there before you know it.
Stephenson is director of Workplace Management Technology with Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, an international architecture and design firm. He focuses on the implementation and management of IWMS and works with real estate and facilities end users to ensure their investment in technology is fully optimized, providing insight into the activity in the portfolio through process improvement, data integrations with other corporate systems, and robust reporting solutions.
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