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Keeping an organization abreast of its facility data takes more than numbers. Facility executives tasked with explaining how an organization’s properties perform eventually face the question of how to present the data. Are spreadsheets best? Bar charts? Tables? Although there is no rule book on how to present facility data to CFOs, building occupants or colleagues in the facility department, there still is the one basic rule of communication: keep the audience in mind.
“Accountants love the spreadsheets,” says Clayton Crawford, director of facilities operations and office services at McKesson Corp. “But it’s hard for others to see it that way. We would like to get the data into a more graphical format.”
There’s no doubting the power of tables, charts and other graphics to represent data clearly and concisely. Data that are represented graphically most effectively are those that need little explanation and those that can be tracked over time. But whether data can be relayed in a graphical format or not shouldn’t determine whether the results of data-gathering efforts are made known. Sometimes, all it takes is reporting a number to get things to change.
Fifteen years ago, the facilities group in the University of California system started tracking the number of design and construction projects that were on time and on budget and those that weren’t. From that, says Mike Bocchicchio, assistant vice president of facilities administration, grew a second measurement called augmentation rate, calculated by dividing the total cost of changes for projects by the total volume of projects. Just by making those in the facilities group aware of the numbers, Bocchicchio saw the augmentation rate drop from more than 6 percent to below 3 percent.
“Once you start collecting data, management responds,” he says. “No one wants to look bad.”
As facilities have come under more scrutiny from upper management, facility executives have developed ways to depict the performance of facilities in a quick view. Called dashboards, the collection of metrics is reported to give top management a glimpse of data that shows where facility costs and performance stand.
Some organizations include occupancy costs on dashboards. Others include space utilization metrics, including such things as the square footage per occupant. Deciding what to include on a dashboard, or any data report for that matter, is driven as much by who will see the data as it is the information contained in the data.
Steve Levine, vice president in charge of facility management and property operations in California for Wells Fargo, says the system in place to track the organization’s 5,600 buildings can track space utilization almost down to the desk.
While that information might be important to a business unit leader who wants to be sure they are not being charged too much for the space they occupy, it might not be as important to a lease negotiator, who is more interested in a report showing how many properties are due for lease renewals over the next six months.
Not all information lends itself to graphical representation. Certain types of data are not trend-oriented and need to be explained for them to make sense.
Vickie Berry, assistant vice president of corporate real estate at AT&T, says snow removal costs, for example, can only be compared from year to year if the amount of snow that fell in an area is tracked annually as well.
AT&T property managers report total inches of snow and number of days with snow so that the costs of any year can be compared relative to a 20-year average, Berry says. If costs rise in a given year, top managers at least know it’s because there was more snow.
“You have no choice on snow removal,” she says. “It’s dependent upon Mother Nature.”
How It’s Done: Building A Facility Management Dashboard
Like the dashboard in a car, a facility management dashboard is designed to present important metrics so that they can be taken in at a glance.
Adapted from material provided by Robert Gross, principal, facilities management, The Vanguard Group