Laurie Gilmer, P.E., CFM, SFP, LEED AP, CxA
Gathering Data, Assessing Needs: Successful Technology Selection and Implementation
Columnist Laurie Gilmer helps managers selecting new technology separate shiny new gadgets from systems that deliver
Review current data. What data does your department already collect? The quality and completeness of the existing data will tell you a great deal about the effort that lies ahead. It also will help you understand if inconsistencies exist in data or if there are odd conventions in place. This is where data standards such as Uniformat, MasterFormat and OmniClass, which is used for building systems-related data, are important. They provide guidance for consistent naming conventions that lead to consistency of terminology and ease in configuration of the new system later. It also helps to speak the language of the industry for successful information comparison later. And if the new technology needs to integrate with existing technology, data nomenclature must consistently and easily translate between systems.
Summarize technology needs. By this time, you should have a solid understanding of your desired outcomes. What process improvements came to light as you assessed where you are now and where you want to be? Are there any changes you need to make to your data configuration, nomenclature or structure? Do you need to obtain missing data before you implement the new technology? Define and map the current processes that will remain in place, new processes that will be put in place, and the data needed to support them.
Besides looking at the program itself, think about where to house the technology and how to host it. What security risks might you encounter? In this stage, input from the information technology department is helpful and important.
Identify staffing and support needs. We like to think the implementation of a new system is a one-time experience, that once we purchase the new system and put it in place, we are done. Set it and forget it. Sometimes, we go so far as to think once a new technology is in place, it will run itself and provide us with useful information with little effort on our part.
Outside of simple systems, however, that rarely happens. Managers need a plan to maintain data, stay on top of processes, and train users on interacting correctly so the technology truly helps meet our goals.
Create a communication and training plan. In this step, managers should identify the types of information the application needs to share, with whom and how. Will facilities staff need training on data nomenclature? Will they need to understand new processes and terminology? Will customers see a different interface? What do they need to know about how to interact with the new technology?
Given the desired outcomes, what should leadership expect to see in terms of organizational improvement? When will events be initiated, and who will be affected? When and how often will training occur? Training is typically arranged to accommodate varying levels of detail and interaction based on responsibility and role.
Making a selection. All of the planning and detail documentation has led to this point: selecting the right technology solution for your defined needs. The process is straightforward now. Just stick to your desired outcomes and program plan.