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Digging Into the Data



Facilities professionals are now flush with data — but understanding how to utilize it can be tricky.


By Amelia Bridgford


The modern era of facilities management has arrived, and with it the promise of a more efficient, data-driven approach to the job. With new software and digital platforms for data collection and management popping up every day, facilities managers are armed with more options and information than ever before. But what is the best way to capture this data, and more importantly, to generate value from it?


Adapting to the Digital World

Jim Owens, SDI
Jim Owens, SDI

American workplaces have become increasingly tech-dependent, and multi-site facilities are no exception, despite the industry’s reputation for being slow to evolve. “The world is digital, and the facilities management space can’t stay analog anymore,” said Jim Owens, Chief Growth Officer at SDI. Owens explained that due in large part to facilities managers historically being under-resourced by their organizations, there has been a general reluctance to embrace new technologies and best practices. “Facilities managers in that scenario tend to live in reactive mode,” he explained. “They’re spread so thin — they don’t have time to seek out new technologies and methodologies.” In other words: they’re just trying to keep the train on the tracks day-to-day.

Matt Race, Avanath Capital Management, LLC
Matt Race, Avanath Capital Management, LLC

Ironically, these data management systems are designed to create efficiencies that would alleviate this very issue. “Data impacts everything we do from a facilities standpoint,” said Matt Race, Vice President of Building Services at Avanath Capital Management, LLC. “It allows you to know what you have to ensure that systematic, preventive maintenance is being done, and to create strategic capital forecasts to replace these assets when they come to the end of their useful life,” he said.


Indeed, a dedicated asset registry is at the top of the list when it comes to the data collection priorities of many of today’s facilities managers. These databases are appropriate for any asset in a facilities manager’s portfolio — appliances, machinery, fixtures, you name it — and are able to track nearly every aspect of its life cycle. Purchase date and service history, specific parts required, assigned technicians; all of these data points allow facilities managers to make more informed and proactive decisions about each individual asset, no small feat in the multi-site facilities world, where each manager can be responsible for thousands of such assets at a time.


And the benefits don’t end with physical assets. Providing this type of visibility can reduce strain on personnel throughout the organization, as well. From reduced overtime to better and more consistent communication across sites, good data governance can help streamline the employee experience company wide. And, of course, all these increased efficiencies ultimately help an organization’s bottom line. “When you manage your data right, you get actionable insight to drive better decision-making overall,” Owens said. “And that’s incredibly important.”


From Collection to Action


But managing all that data can be the tricky part. “Between enterprise asset management systems, computerized maintenance management systems, building information management systems, supply chain systems — we now have so many devices that are remote and increasingly connected,” Owens said. And these systems are constantly generating data, which only grows as the organization brings on more locations and more technology. “Sometimes you can really go data-blind, because it’s just too much,” Race agreed.


So what’s the best way to harness the true strategic and practical value of all this information? Race recommended partnering with a platform that can assist with the entire process, from collection to storage to analytics, particularly if you are managing facilities for a larger retailer. “You can then utilize their software to provide useful and clear reports that you’re able to take back to your C-suite,” he said.


Additionally, Owens emphasized the importance of maintaining a consistent taxonomy and language when organizing data. “This is a crucial part of a good data governance strategy,” he said. “Ensure that any data that gets added to the system is compliant and in a standardized format. There should be ongoing management and curation of that data taking place all the time, so that when certain data points are no longer of value, they are removed from the set.”


Providing Tech Expertise


Owens and Race are Co-Chairs of the ConnexFM Technology Council, which is working to provide awareness to the greater membership of the various options available to facilities managers when it comes to data governance.


“There are so many great resources for ConnexFM members to tap into,” Race said. “There are a wide variety of technology companies that can provide whatever solutions you need, large or small — you’re definitely able to right-size it to your organization” he said.


Owens agreed, and invites ConnexFM members to reach out to the Technology Council if they would like more information on creating a data governance strategy. “We have a task force specifically for data governance and integration,” he said. “It’s a complex issue, and we want to make sure members know that help is available to them.”


This year's ConnexFM Mid-Year Conference will take place from October 9–11 in Schaumburg, Illinois, and will focus on FM technology and its applications. Registration opens in July — visit the Mid-Year Conference site for more information.

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