Turning Data Concepts Into Practice Often Challenging

Turning Data Concepts Into Practice Often Challenging

Part 2 of a 2-part article on gathering and analyzing data

By Laurie A. Gilmer, P.E.  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: No 'Easy' Button for Managers When Gathering, Analyzing DataPt. 2: This Page

One of my favorite examples of this process came up recently with a facility management team that wanted to determine the best way to allocate its facilities budget. The concept was to develop a program that, with a click of a button, could tell them what to do. It was a great concept, but getting to a one-click solution that would give them the information they sought would have required a great deal of time and effort they just did not have.

Instead, they took a stepped approach similar to the one described above, and they developed their program first. In a fairly uncomplicated way using database information, they determined their budget needs. Their database provided them with a high degree of manipulation, allowing them to slice, dice, package, and re-package approaches until they had the approach that matched their needs. By putting the right priorities in place, the team was able to move forward, guided by business needs, to determine the best way to allocate their budget.

Another example highlights a different challenge. A facility management team wanted to know the best, guaranteed way to reduce the cost of operations. They wanted “the answer.”

That was the first sign of trouble. With very little analysis, they found a few simple and obvious areas, and a more complex analysis highlighted additional operational improvements. The team was disappointed with the list of improvement ideas. It answered the question of the best ways to reduce the cost of operations, but the list only told them what they could do; it did not tell them what they should do. It gave them options, not answers.

Clearly, the team had to make decisions, but no one wanted to make the wrong decision. With more digging, though, the team found out it had quite a lot of performance data that could help them understand impacts and prioritize their decisions. They just were not using the data. It was a classic communication problem: Different departments managed different pieces of data, and no one was looking at the big picture.

Monitoring the impact of any change should have been simple, but they had not gone through the exercise of identifying the decision they were trying to make, the data available to them, and the way the story the data was telling them could inform their decision-making.

All managers have competing priorities that require them to balance high-performance-facility programs, financial limitations, and personnel constraints. They want simple solutions, and they want them fast.

But it takes work to get to any solution, let alone the elegant, “easy” button solution. Our job is not to look for the fast answer. It is to manage our resources well using the tools available to us. The “easy” button is not the solution. It is a tool. While that button might be tempting, it is our ability to grapple with the data and understand the influencing factors and impacts of our decisions that demonstrates our real value.

The easy button has a place, but managers must always apply it in the context of knowledgeable, data-driven decision-making.

Agree? Disagree? Have something to say? We want to hear from you. Visit myfacilitiesnet.com/LaurieGilmer, and start a conversation.

Continue Reading: Management Insight: Laurie Gilmer

No 'Easy' Button for Managers When Gathering, Analyzing Data

Turning Data Concepts Into Practice Often Challenging

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