Function Guides Data-Gathering Form


By Mike Lobash  

Data-gathering efforts for facility executives run the gamut from simple, such as inputting data from an electric utility bill into a spreadsheet, to sophisticated, such as integrating employee address information from human resource databases with facility information.

While the simple methods cost less to implement, the more sophisticated efforts offer greater accessibility to reports and analyses when it comes time to use the data to make decisions.

Wells Fargo Bank, for instance, is able to plot where employees live relative to its facilities, says Jay Rietz, vice president and technology manager for Wells Fargo’s corporate properties group. That allows facility executives there to show how commute times would be affected if part of a business unit were to relocate.

Wells Fargo and similar companies use data in sophisticated ways as a result of software and hardware upgrades, as well as the commitment by the organization to take data collection to a higher level.

“In the last couple of years, it has gotten really exciting on my side,” Rietz says. “We’re starting to turn some of the data into true analytics.”

Building Blocks

The foundation of well-built facility databases may be modules of enterprise resource planning systems. Those modules provide information that can be broken apart, analyzed and put back together. The health care services company McKesson Corp., for example, invested in a real estate module of the company’s enterprise system. Facility data are tracked for each property using a standard BOMA chart of accounts, and those accounts can be compared from facility to facility, says Clayton Crawford, director of facilities operations and office services for the Fortune 500 company.

Meanwhile, the asset, liability and equity information for each facility is still reported into the organization’s general ledger, which maintains the integrity of the organization’s consolidated financial statements.

The real estate and facility modules of enterprise systems allow facility executives to access the information they want while making it easier to get buy-in from CFOs and others concerned with overseeing financial reporting requirements.

The level to which organizations go to gather data varies depending partly upon how important the information is to individual business units. At Wells Fargo, for example, business units track facility costs closely because managers at those units are charged back for actual facility expenses, Rietz says. That means the numbers must be absolutely accurate. He has confidence in his data-gathering system but he expects questions. His approach: “These are our numbers. If you’d like to challenge them, be our guest.”

There are multiple ways for organizations to collect data, including the use of hand-held devices to track equipment maintenance and advanced energy meters to capture usage information. Vickie Berry, assistant vice president of corporate real estate at AT&T, oversaw an effort to use digital meters to monitor energy consumption at 500 of the company’s 22,000-plus facilities. The facilities monitored are responsible for more than 55 percent of the energy used within the organization.

Managers at those facilities are able to review the previous day’s energy use in 15-minute intervals to look for anomalies. They can also use a system to compare energy use against 30 years worth of weather data. And at least three times a year, Berry, an energy manager and managers at individual facilities identify where operations can be expanded at the lowest energy cost.

All of the facilities under such scrutiny are data centers and similar high energy use facilities. So while there might not be much chance to reduce energy demand, there is opportunity to avoid creating additional demand.

“If you have a choice of where to put a new piece of equipment, it makes sense to put it in one where the energy cost impact will be the lowest,” Berry says.

People Matters

Not all of the data that organizations gather are related to space use and costs. Occupant satisfaction surveys are popular means among facility executives to gauge the performance of their staff members.

Those who use such vehicles caution that it is possible to survey occupants too often, which could lead to low response rates. To guard against that at AT&T, Berry says occupants are asked to complete only one survey within a six-month period and the surveys are held to five questions, which limits the amount of time occupants invest in the survey. The questions are aimed at finding out whether the service received was professional, prompt and met expectations. Participants aren’t asked whether they are happy with their facilities, and they’re not asked to wade through a paper document. The company uses Web-based surveys.

“It’s less costly, we know who is responding and it seems to be the survey method of the moment,” Berry says.


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  posted on 4/1/2006   Article Use Policy

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