How to make a facilities management strategy right for your business

Strategy is important in everything from board games to business planning. In the latter, strategy is often the key to success—a concentrated effort toward a measurable goal. If your goal is to leverage facilities into business success, strategic facility management is paramount. It’s a combination of facility management and facility planning, stitched together with a set of clear-cut outcomes in mind. 

Strategic facility management is all about focusing on the long-term. Applying strategy to facility management gives purpose to the workplace, making it a focal part of broader company initiatives. But, like all strategies, one involving facilities management needs clear motive. 

The best thing an FM can do to keep pace is pay close attention to the needs of facilities and the people using them. The demands of people and the way they work perpetuate trends within facilities management. It’s the duty of a facility manager to see that they’re adopted, optimized, and measured. 

What is Facility Management? 

Facility management is a broad term to describe the responsibilities focusing on building operations, workplace management, space planning, maintenance, security, asset management, and several other areas of real estate or real property.  

Using tools and technology like software solutions, facilities managers are tasked with keeping the environment around staff and the building itself running smoothly. Keeping an eye on maintenance schedules, carbon emissions, occupancy rates and data allow facilities managers to weigh in on decisions with insightful data on how a workplace is functioning. 

Supporting the Company Goals & Values 

Ideally, facilities management strategies are set up in such a way that they support the internal and business goals of the organization while aligning with stakeholder sentiments. Internal goals may focus on employee experience, lowering carbon emissions or optimizing the design of an office space/floor.  

Facilities management is often the unsung heroes of a company, supporting employees and the operations through their work with the building and collecting data on the one of several aspects they are responsible for.  

If your company values creating a workspace that is conducive to productivity and supporting the people within it, then facilities management efforts should reflect that and be aimed at giving their people the best environment possible. 

Key Considerations when Building a FM Strategy 

Now for the checklist you’ve been waiting for. 

1. Focus not only on cost savings but value creation 

Businesses traditionally operate from a standpoint of ROI and wanting to lower costs from any means necessary. Facilities management can do that, and often this is a product of good facilities management, but it should not be the only foundational reason for why you are doing what you’re doing. 

Creating value through your work can take many shapes and forms, whether it be changing the way a space is used, how maintenance is done so it costs less, or elevating how your organization uses and sees technology by introducing innovative processes or tools. 

Value creation uplifts the entire organization, not just accounting and facilities. Your strategies should have a goal to always improve some aspect of the workplace, leaving it better than it was prior. 

2. Implement a sustainable facility design plan.  

Sustainability might be starting to sound like a bit of a buzzword by now, but it’s far from it. The impact and the importance sustainability has on organizational success is prevalent across every industry. Many tips for improving facilities management plans revolve around creating sustainable business practices.  

Committing to initiatives like proactive maintenance, energy use, building operations and technology, are all physical asset focused things that can help the longevity of systems in the workplace.  

Design goes beyond the HVAC and lighting though; facilities management also encompasses space planning, space management, and workplace tools. Stuff like desk hotelling and reservations that leverage occupancy data to show a big picture of how the office is designed and being used. Designing an office to be best suited for the needs staff and people have has a compounding effect on what is put into work and the culture of a business. 

In some cases, such as manufacturing, sustainability is a main driver of growth and innovation as it gives a company the opportunity to evolve and adapt without expensive process overhauls. 

3. Know the total cost of all facility work done both directly and indirectly. 

At the end of the day most things do, in fact come down to costs and the bottom line. A successful facilities management strategy that is focused on the long run will have to consider costs and how much is being spent over time to make accurate assessments.  

Indirect costs can add up over time and should be tracked just as closely as direct costs to give yourself a clear picture of where your expenses are coming from and how your facilities might be responsible for certain downstream costs. 

Direct costs are the ones you see and handle from a cause-and-effect standpoint. HVAC maintenance? Repair invoice is a direct cost that goes into the long-term costs of your buildings life cycle. 

4. Consider the entire life cycle costs of a building. 

Buildings are long-term investments, and if you are the sole organization using yours, then the long-term life cycle costs are going to add up overtime.  

Considering things like leasing, maintenance, how your space use will evolve over time, and potential technology integrations are all going to be a part of the life cycle that adds to the list of costs. 

Considering short-, medium-, and long-term costs over the course of the life cycle forecasts budgets while giving you a look at the full scope of costs. Further, highlighting areas where investments might need to be made to make up for areas that are lagging or are experiencing issues.  

5. Optimize the use of available workspace by increasing ROI, not people per square foot. 

How you use your office space will be a key factor in if you are getting the best ROI, not how many people you fit into the office. That way of thinking that more people = more ROI, is simply not true anymore.  

Increasing your ROI on your workspace can mean investing in your workspace to give your staff what they need from an office. The use of a space management solution can help you on your way to optimizing this. Outfitting your space with everything your people need and keeping it that way is the best avenue to getting a better ROI on the space, by empowering people to get the most from it. 

6. Be the master of your company’s physical assets.  

Facilities management needs oversight of all assets and systems, from HVAC to lighting to office space and floorplan. Mastering these and the rest of your assets, knowing the reporting metrics and maintenance schedules means keeping everything in running order.  

Mastery means staying on top of things and keeping assets and their life cycles in line with business goals and values. Planning, operations, maintenance built into a robust strategy will eliminate headaches and unforeseen issues down the line.   

7. Automate automate automate! 

Successful and proper automation takes significant load off your team while streamlining processes surrounding maintenance, asset management, and even long-term costs. 

If you can ensure that you receive notifications, updates and scheduling reminders from a software solution regarding your ventilation system or the energy use from your lighting, that takes any guesswork out of it. You now have more bandwidth to address other areas and conduct analysis on reporting. In terms of cost, this gives you a clearer picture over the long and short term of where costs are going to be arising from and how often.  

This expands into total building automation, where the internet of things (IoT) and smart spaces are creating self-monitoring environments and systems to control things such as carbon emissions or energy use. Keeping levels under a certain amount without constant adjustment and checking of data makes reaching net-zero goals a more attainable end line. 

8. Introduce IoT to reduce costs and enhance capabilities. 

IoT systems are still relatively new, and their adaptation in a mainstream sense is yet to be realized. However, their benefits and application are readily apparent.  

Leveraging an IoT system in the future enhances what facilities managers can do as their network of interconnected tools grows as a result. Self-monitoring and data collecting IoT networks give greater reach and insight into how a building or workplace is interacting on a facilities level.  

In an increasingly digital dependent age, introducing IoT into your toolkit could be the catalyst to complete control and facilities optimization in your office using data on the connected areas. 

9. Ensure KPIs highlight both errors and opportunities.  

Analytics, data, reporting, all this information without context and clear KPIs loses some of its importance. Developing clear KPIs in your facilities management strategy that highlights both shortcomings and errors, as well as opportunities for improvement gives direction and purpose to your goals.  

What these look like is going to differ with each organization, but some core principles can include monitoring all areas, including those which your organization is actively working on improving. From there, establishing what constitutes the difference between an “error” and an area of opportunity in both a quantifiable and qualifiable way.  

What levels reflected in a system should be marked as a red flag? Where are areas that are not at their peak performance and could benefit from optimization? Optimize KPIs and your ROI will improve as a result, getting the most out of your facilities. 

10. Understand how workplace digitization plays a role in lowering costs. 

You’ve likely heard this term thrown around a lot during the last couple of years, with digitization rising to the top of priority lists in organizations to navigate a remote world. Digitization and the integration of in-house data and servers means less expenses through third parties as well as access to all data when needed and can be used as needed. 

Digitization leads to better decision making and innovation, which obviously leads to better IT decisions and business decisions to improving ROI on things such as infrastructure and usage. Integrating this into a strategy will optimize your facilities approach. 

More efficient processes and decisions will lead to lower expenses and better outcomes if things such as facilities management are digitized, as automation and better maintenance means more regular preventative action and less reactive action that could cost significant downtime, repairs, or replacement. 

11. Keep industry evolution in mind 

Things are changing and evolving every day, it may not be a groundbreaking piece of tech every week that changes an industry, but the gradual adoption of ideas and ways of doing things that lead to true evolution. To effectively draft a facilities strategy with this in mind, digitization and being open to new technologies is an important step.  

Understanding that things will change means keeping an open mind and staying up to date with trends. A good way to do this is subscribing to reporting entities like Verdantix for industry reports and trends that are developed with the help of key players in your space.  

Using these resources and listening to professionals around you who are in the same role can shape your outlook and have a forward-facing goal in mind when creating a facilities management strategy rather than only focusing on managing day to day tasks.  

Integration of a workplace management system to keep things in line, as well as visualization software or digital twins for asset management and insightful data collection only adds to your arsenal of tools to help get your facilities management strategy to where you and your business want it to be.