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4 Best Practices for Data Collection Can Help Facility Managers Improve Operations

By Amy Gurske

Facilities management professionals often have access to a wealth of data, which can provide valuable information to improve operations. The starting point is understanding best practices for collecting and managing data.

Internet of Things (IoT) products are permeating organizations — connecting products from printers to HVAC systems — and bombarding facility managers with data points to consider. According to Gartner, 65 percent of professional organizations will be using IoT products by this year. Intel predicts the number of IoT products will grow from 2 billion in 2006 to 200 billion by the end of 2020. As a result, facility managers have an abundance of data. The challenge is finding a means to manage the information in a way that can help their organizations digitally transform. 

The explosion of technology — including the growing range of devices — gives data collection new meaning. Data within facilities has evolved from paper requisitions and clipboard inventory management to a robust infrastructure that often includes fully automated work order management systems and smart technologies. The integration of IoT into building systems is creating a Building IoT by fostering innovative applications that include building automation systems, the integration of building assets such as CCTV, to fire alarms, access control systems, and advanced security systems. These four data collection best practices can help facility managers use data to transform facility management.

1. Find a Starting Point by Creating a Holistic View of the Organization

In some situations, it’s easier to look at data as it pertains to one specific group, one activity, or one process. With the evolution of data science and data architecture, facility managers should construct a holistic view of the organization and understand where data resides. That view can impact the way an organization moves toward a digital transformation, so it’s crucial to get it right the first time.

2. Take an Inventory of Data and Know Where It Lives

It’s important to actually walk through a building (or schematic) and identify what data is being collected and where it is being stored. Inventory can be captured via a smart technology device, or something as simple as a manual work order. However as it is identified, facility managers should determine where data is being captured, what data points are being tracked, and how the data is being stored. 

For example, a ventilation unit may contain hundreds of data points that can be used to improve efficiency and reduce costs across multiple facilities. The performance of ventilation units may be available through a cloud-based platform, while a work order to fix the ventilation unit is likely available via a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) hosted on a local server. The work order contains data regarding the specific parts (and associated costs) needed to complete the repair, while the data points from the ventilation unit can be used to diagnose failure before it occurs, allowing facility management leadership to properly staff and conduct preventive maintenance.  This is just one example of how data collection in one area of operations can translate into ROI.

3. Define Processes to Create Actionable Change

A “smart” building is most useful when coupled with an ability to integrate as many other technologies as possible. Above and beyond this, the building must convert collected data into actionable change.

Leveraging the information created from the data collection phase, the next phase is knowing where valuable data is sitting and how to make it accessible. With the shift to data warehousing and cloud storage, facility managers have the ability to funnel all data (including spreadsheets that hold historic data) into a compilation that can derive valuable insights. Those insights can, in turn, position facility management leaders to execute advanced predictive and prescriptive models to optimize their workforce, increase the performance of their buildings with preventive maintenance, and increase their overall value to the organization.

4. Measure the Right Goals

To create successful key performance indicators (KPIs), facility managers should  start with metrics that act as building blocks to effecting strong, positive change. These metrics are valuable to measure, but they are typically just one part of a broader key performance indicator. A good way to establish solid KPIs is to think of the acronym “smart”: Goals should should be specific, measurable, agreed upon by all key parties, realistic, and time-sensitive.

For facility managers, KPIs may include:

• Improving space utilization by X percent. This takes into account data like the number of work stations occupied at any given time. Or how often meeting rooms and collaborative spaces are being used throughout the facility. 

• Reducing energy consumption by X percent. This involves many data points including heating and cooling, lighting, and total electricity use. 

• Improving building maintenance efficiency by X percent. This uses data points such as monitoring room use, and data from the CMMS system tracking total cost of work orders, just as an example.

By combining data sources, KPIs can provide informative, actionable insights. KPIs help bridge the gap between raw data and business strategy. A historical look back at facility management KPIs can deliver both leading and lagging indicators, resulting in cost savings, improved revenues, and even a stronger competitive edge.

IoT technologies are rapidly permeating organizations. Facility managers are becoming more knowledgeable about the possibilities of the new connected technologies, especially of Building IoT devices, and better understanding the data they deliver. Embracing Building IoT means better collecting and managing the data it provides, and figuring out how it can translate into metrics that are important to their business and its bottom line.

Amy Gurske, director of client strategy at Cause + Effect Strategy, has spent the last 20 years consulting with world-class organizations across the globe on business strategy and supply chain optimization.


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posted on 4/22/2020