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The Digital Data Era Is Here. Are You Prepared?
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How well do you know your organization's information technology (IT) director? The question is not nearly as random as it might seem, especially given the advance of digital technology into almost every area of maintenance and operations in institutional and commercial facilities.
If the answer to the question is, "Not very well," the first step should be to get to know that person better because he or she is likely to become a much more prominent influence in maintenance and engineering departments. What is behind this growing IT influence in facilities? The rise of digital data.
Managers have come to rely more heavily on the digital data housed in their computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) to enhance worker productivity, make smarter decisions, and improve the department's overall performance. In turn, organizations are trying to identify waste, cut costs, and operate more energy efficiently by tapping into data — from CMMS, but also from software that controls and optimizes such areas as HVAC, power-distribution, and lighting systems.
One driver in this growing demand for digital data is sustainability. Armed with goals of sustainability programs aimed at curtailing energy use and using resources and materials more wisely, organizations are analyzing data from every area of their facilities to identify the mismanagement of materials and operate more sustainably.
As sustainability efforts expand and organizations seek more data, the CMMS increasingly will have to share data with numerous applications throughout the organization, and other parties in the organization will demand an efficient and productive CMMS.
Maintenance and engineering managers who are unable to meet such demands might find that others in the organization — the IT department, in many cases — will have a greater influence over changes to the structure and integration of the CMMS in ways that benefit of the organization.
And with the inevitable advances in technology — software upgrades, greater mobility, expanding capabilities at all levels, etc. — managers who do not keep pace with change are likely to find themselves on the outside looking in.
What can managers do to remain ensure they and their departments remain vital players in facility decision-making?
Know your CMMS better than anyone. By understanding its strengths, weaknesses, and capacity to adapt and expand, managers can better influence its role in the future of the organization.
Know the players in the process. Understand the roles of the IT director and everyone else with a stake in the way different pieces of facilities technology are converging and integrating. These players also include other software applications — building automation, energy management, purchasing, and human resources.
Use the CMMS to demonstrate success. Perhaps the greatest challenge for managers involves demonstrating the contributions of their departments to the overall success of the organization. As the single most important link to other departments and their missions, the CMMS must be managers' top priority to meet the challenges of the digital era head-on.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.