New-Generation Software to Meet Facilities’ Needs

The challenge for facility managers lies in knowing where to begin the technology journey and how to choose the right foundational platform.

By Bobby Magnano and Nick Hayden, Contributing Writers  

For facility managers who have not taken a close look at new-generation software aimed at the needs of their technicians, departments and facilities, the process might be jarring. Today’s software makes it easier than ever for facilities teams to record and track asset histories, costs and dates of preventive maintenance, replacement values and more to ensure that a facility operates as reliably and safely as possible. Integrations with innovative technologies expand the ability of the software to deliver on imperatives for ensuring uptime. 

While various facilities management technologies have been available for years, advances over the past decade have created an overwhelming range of options for software and hardware, and some of them are transformative. 

With today’s tools and platforms, facilities teams can infuse their operations with automation and leverage data and insights to reduce costs, streamline tasks and boost service quality. For facilities managers, the challenge lies in knowing where to begin the technology journey and how to choose the right foundational platform for the distinct needs of their facilities. 

Work order management 

As a core facilities management function, managing work orders and maintenance is typically a priority when making a technology investment. Foundational work-order management software leverages automation, data and analytics to help facilities teams increase asset life, boost return on capital investments and generally save time and money in their operations. 

Facilities management software also can serve as a system of record for costs, dates, maintenance histories, asset serial numbers and service providers, and it can be integrated with enterprise business systems for comprehensive reporting. 

Numerous platforms are available to accelerate day-to-day management of work orders and other critical functions. Some platforms offer capabilities far beyond tracking maintenance tasks and can assign work orders to internal technicians or third-party service providers, generate preventive maintenance schedules and prompt reactive repairs. Some also can integrate data from a range of technologies, including wireless data sensors, digital asset tags, energy management tools and digital security credentials to generate insights for advanced facilities management strategies. 

Sorting out software  

While managing costs is a high priority for managers in all facilities, managing operational tasks can be just as critical. Whatever a facility’s manager’s priorities and goals, leveraging the most appropriate technology platform will be instrumental in achieving them. The core software applications for effective facilities management fall into four categories: 

Enterprise asset management (EAM). EAM software is designed to manage building assets across their full lifecycles. The systems provide a registry of asset data and valuations, track maintenance schedules and actions and track asset location and use. Some EAM applications also provide work order management tools, but they generally are not designed for facilities management service delivery. 

Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). CMMS applications are ideal for managing work orders, assets and service providers, and some of them also support asset management and warranty records, preventive maintenance tracking, invoicing and budget management and business intelligence. 

In addition, some CMMS can be used on mobile devices for facilities teams serving multiple facilities. Some platforms support asset registries and aggregate data for generating business intelligence about facilities operations. It also is possible to use a CMMS for managing not remote sites but also data center facilities and other critical environments, although most do not offer this capability. 

Computer-aided facilities management (CAFM). Rather than focusing on service delivery and maintenance as a CMMS does, a CAFM system focuses on managing the physical space, occupancy, assets and associated data. A CAFM application includes space management, utilization tracking, floor planning, move management and occupancy management, while CMMS applications often do not offer these capabilities. 

Integrated workplace management system (IWMS). An IWMS is an all-in-one platform with separate modules for the six areas: real estate and lease management; space management; facilities management; sustainability; capital project management; and employee experience. An IWMS creates a central repository of integrated data from multiple functional areas and can generate operational and diagnostic insights for an entire portfolio of facilities. Some organizations choose to deploy only one or two IWMS modules, while others deploy the full enterprise suite. 

Finding a match  

The challenge for facilities managers is determining which software application best meets an organization’s needs and goals. Software in each category has some overlapping functions, making platform selection a definite challenge. The characteristics of an organization’s facilities portfolio and facilities management workflows also will inform decisions. 

One way to explore solutions is to consider critical questions about the way the facilities team works and the way it could benefit from access to leading technology tools. Key questions managers might ask themselves include: 

  • Does the organization have multiple sites and different kinds of real estate, including data centers and other critical environments? 
  • Can departments manage, share and compare data from all sites? 
  • Can managers and maintenance teams manage their daily workloads, or do they face ever-growing maintenance backlogs? 
  • Are managers maximizing employee resources? 
  • What is the maintenance team’s biggest challenge? 
  • How does the department handle maintenance emergencies? 
  • Is predictive maintenance part of the maintenance strategy to prevent emergencies? 
  • Do managers want to manage and track all work orders from a computer or mobile device so facilities teams can access data and tools wherever they are? 
  • Do managers want to manage and track all assets? 
  • Do managers want to be able to make data-driven decisions about retiring assets? 
  • Is the department’s parts inventory management keeping pace with technicians’ needs? For example, does an alert go out when inventory levels fall below a pre-set threshold? 
  • Does the department need to manage a fleet of vehicles? 
  • Does the department need to generate certain reports more quickly than is now possible? 
  • What maintenance key performance indicators or goals are managers concerned about achieving? 

For example, if the goal is to find a platform focused on managing real estate and facilities, optimizing space utilization and supporting strategic real estate decisions, an IWMS might be most appropriate. With its centralized data repository and integration with other business systems, an IWMS enables data-driven decision-making for improved outcomes. 

But if the focus is on managing assets, inventory and maintenance service delivery, a CMMS can provide all the functionality needed. Some CMMS also have business intelligence capabilities and enabling data-driven capital planning, vendor performance comparisons. 

Some organizations choose to implement a CMMS in conjunction with a CAFM system. While the CMMS expedites maintenance work, the CAFM solution provides tools for managing space, occupancy and moves-add-changes. Together, the two systems provide comprehensive support for all space and maintenance management activities. 

IT teams will want to know how easily a particular facilities management platform can be integrated with other corporate technologies. Managers also should consider technologies they might wish to integrate in the future, such as wireless sensors, business intelligence tools or asset tagging, a workplace experience mobile or space-planning application, and other tools to advance each organization’s facilities management goals. 

Platforms, workflows and outcomes 

Ultimately, the choice of platform depends on the specific needs of each organization. By prioritizing the outcomes each facility wants to achieve, managers can better understand the features and capabilities that are needed most. It is essential to thoroughly evaluate the features and capabilities of any platform and consider the way they align with an organization's workflows and objectives before deciding. 

Managers also should not ignore the importance of training for adoption as part of platform implementation. It is not unusual for an organization to make a significant investment in a technology platform, only to fail to optimize return on the investment because facilities staff are not making full use of its valuable capabilities. 

For organizations with complex portfolios and diverse properties, facilities management software is essential for optimizing operations, reducing costs, complying with regulations and enhancing the customer experience. Understanding an organization’s goals, desired outcomes and the way different platforms can help achieve goals enable managers to invest in the most appropriate platform. 

Bobby Magnano is president of financial services with JLL. Nick Hayden is executive managing director of financial services with the firm. 

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  posted on 11/21/2023   Article Use Policy

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