If so many FMers rate space management as highly important, why do so few have the right tools?

by FM Media
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The disconnection between the space and occupancy management systems we have and the ones we need is discussed by MICHEL THERIAULT, principal at Strategic Advisor.

A key driver of an organisation’s facilities costs is space. Yet, a recent survey on space and occupancy management from FMinsight.com shows that 54 percent of facilities managers still use old-school techniques to manage their space, notably paper-based methods, such as Excel and CAD drawings. While this goes down to 32 percent for organisations with more than 100,000 square metres in their portfolio, it’s still high considering the importance of having tools for managing the number one driver of costs.
In fact, when asked how important the right tools are for managing space and occupancy, 87 percent of facilities managers say that it’s ‘highly important’ or ‘very important’. For facilities managers with portfolios over 100,000 square metres, this response jumps to 97 percent, even though 32 percent of them don’t have a facilities management system to manage space.
The results are surprising, considering the importance of the right tools and the changes in the software industry that have made software much more accessible to organisations of all sizes. Instead of needing your own server, software licences and heavy technical support, web-based services are easier to implement and operate, since they eliminate the time, energy and costs of implementing and maintaining software within company systems.
And these systems aren’t a luxury; they are a basic requirement for any facilities management department. Systems that enable the tracking and management of space provide vital information on how a valuable commodity is used. With this information, evidence and statistics about an organisation’s efficiency – not just overall, but department by department – can be provided. This helps to identify underutilised or vacant areas quickly and efficiently, and enables more efficient space allocation and move management. They can help drive more efficient use of space, present better information about the ability to accommodate growth within an organisation and provide data that can be used for business cases to implement alternative work arrangements for new furniture and space configurations.

Results space management survey by FMinsight

So the question is, if so many facilities managers rate a system for managing space and occupancy as highly important, why do so few have the right tools? As part of the survey, we asked respondents who had space and occupancy management tools to identify what the biggest factor was that supported their business case. The following is a summary of the factors identified by the respondents:

  • automated reporting
  • accurate and up-to-date information about space use
  • accurate space information for making major business decisions
  • a quick response to ‘what if’ scenarios
  • cost allocation among department users
  • the integration of space and occupancy with human resources software
  • the ability to calculate vacancy levels
  • maintaining and enforcing corporate space standards
  • tracking space as a facilitator of change
  • driving space reduction
  • generating benchmarking data for comparisons
  • tracking and accountability of space allocated to occupants
  • saving time on planning, document control, tracking and analysis, and
  • managing moves, adds and changes.

How often have you struggled to report on your space inventory accurately or had to do an inventory on the floor every time you had a new move requirement? Have you puzzled over a complex series of moves to accommodate one department’s growth needs? How much space is sitting vacant or underutilised that you could redeploy or avoid expanding the lease on? How can you drive accountability to the departments using space if you can‘t accurately track and report on it?
While the financial benefits of the factors above are sometimes difficult to quantify for decision-makers, making the case is still important. Start by investigating the more inexpensive options, including web-based services and single-purpose solutions, to establish the costs of implementation and operation. Then compare them with the time and energy you, your staff and consultants currently spend maintaining manual information and updating it each time you have a move or change request. Factor in the inefficient use of space that results.
Even if it just evens out, having a handle on the most valuable asset will be the benefit, particularly the next time a decision on whether to build or lease more space needs to be made, or a reconfiguration to capture wasted space is done. Talk to suppliers, who can easily provide evidence, case studies and the business case for implementation, and even link you up with other facilities managers who have won the battle to get funding. Their experience can help you get the tools you need to do your job.

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