How to Improve Building Operations, Facilities, and Workplace Strategy
Universities, industrial, and corporate organizations all oversee large campuses and real estate portfolios. As much as it may go unnoticed, managing these buildings takes manpower, technology, and work.
So the question stands; how can real property managers optimize building operations, facilities, and workplace management? Usually, the solutions lies in tools that are efficient to use and don’t add more work to the process.
Enterprise solutions empower managers to elevate their decision making in this arena.
Built for large-scale portfolios and organizations exists to help service a demand for management software that can cover all the bases while keeping things all in one place.
The region of York, outside of Toronto is one example of an organization that went all in and integrated a full-scale solution to cover all their bases. Edmonton Public Schools is another, starting with space management and scaling their use to span other business areas like IT, Finance and HR. Their use cases lay the groundwork for what enterprise-level portfolio management can look like and the benefits that it can bring to an organization.
Three Pillars of Your Portfolio
Large real property portfolios have 3 areas of focus when it comes to management and their approach to real property. Facilities, workplace (the office) and portfolio/asset management.
If you cover these three areas, and align them with organizational goals, you will reap the rewards from ROI, building operations, and employee productivity. These areas work to create not only a campus that functions as a well-oiled machine, but create a place that employees want to make use of.
Making sure the why behind addressing these pillars is in line with your business goals and values as an organization is going to be the first step before you look at vendors, integration and the functionality of tools.
Prioritizing certain areas that need attention at that time and aligning them with your business values and goals is going to make integration and long-term use that much more lucrative.
Prioritizing and being honest about where your organization needs to invest in is step #1. For many in the last year, return to the office or implementing hybrid work was a top priority. In doing so, leaders had to consider what employees needed when they were in the office, along with space management, facilities performance, asset management, occupancy metrics, etc.
To succeed, having a direction for the hybrid office was important. Creating the modern workplace requires investments in technology and digital solutions to streamline processes.
Investments in digital tools like Archibus that support a host of management operations. Housing data on asset management and employee interactions with the workplace means that adjustments to areas like energy use and space investment can be made based on trends.
Pillar 1 – Facilities
The first pillar of your real estate is going to be the facilities and infrastructure that run throughout your campus and buildings. HVAC, lighting, energy use, security, doorways, the lists can be extensive. Effective facilities management is grounded in data collection and using said data to help the organization make informed decisions on optimizing performance.
Facilities management benefits greatly from new and emerging technologies, from IoT to digital twins and their visualization capabilities, innovative ways to improve data collection and monitor how your building systems operate are advancing every year.
Ok, now we’ve told you that data collection is important. But some context is probably useful here.
Your building systems and infrastructure can all collect data on how many times they’re used, when they’re used, as well as maintenance levels or energy use. Similarly, software can be installed to collect and monitor data for you to analyze and see what areas might be lacking or need to be upgraded.
Data analysis in areas such as energy use and green initiatives is going to be paramount in moving your organization in the right direction. See where you’re at, know where you want to be, plan, and alter your systems to adhere.
If your systems aren’t running as well as you’d like (or are running at levels where maintenance is occurring a little too often) then facilities are going to be a priority in your plans.
We’re used to fixing things when they’re broken and being reactive in our practices. When you’re running a campus or have several systems that are intertwined and depending on one another, this approach is neither sustainable or cost effective.
Here is where preventative maintenance and facilities management come in, as these systems and solutions track asset conditions and output levels which helps outline when things need a tune up to prevent downtime. Scheduled maintenance and notifications on when a system is approaching a certain threshold can mean significant savings over the long run and better performance.
Less time spent repairing means smoother operations and interruptions to services for those who depend on it, and most importantly a better ROI with lower costs over time.
Assets can range from a variety of things in a large portfolio. Buildings and systems that require upkeep and operation but can also support business goals while operating at a high level, are going to need to be tended to.
Planning, operation, and maintenance make up the three core areas of asset management, with specifics like conditions assessment falling under maintenance.
You’re going to need to tend to assets to keep things running while having a good idea as to what you’re dealing with in terms of budgeting, use, and projected maintenance schedules. Investing in the tools to track and record all this data in one place is going to make that job easier along with making decisions around investment and utilization as data highlights areas of improvement or inefficiency.
Life cycles are often talked about when it comes to assets, since knowing all the details or projected details about an asset is going to give you a leg up in areas like crisis management and condition assessment.
Pillar 2 – Workplace
Once we go past the infrastructure of a campus or building and look at the people and operations that are housed inside, our focus flips to workplace management.
This doesn’t mean tracking every employee like a robot or treating practices and office culture as if it should be predictable and cold. Rather this looks at how people use the workplace and elevating space to meet their needs. For York region, workplace solutions were a large part of their focus over the previous 2 years.
Integrated workplace management systems. IWMS can cover a lot of ground with their capabilities; tracking occupancy across floors with booking tools to show you who is in the office and when. This practice of space management helps paint a picture of how your space is being used and how much of it is. Ultimately the end goal here is to give organizations full scope looks at office space as it evolves so they can decide how best to improve it for the people who use it.
Space management began its rise in importance over the pandemic, as people were restricted in where they could go or how many people could be in an office space. With this, one of our clients, Region of Yorks BIIAM team, decided to take a unique approach to space management; opting to use space management to outline where they don’t want people to go.
Tracking foot traffic, moving furniture, and designating workspaces based on cubicle height were two ways they were able to eventually allocate a certain number of employees to return to offices based on each circumstance.
Managing space is about looking at your workplace, seeing how it is being used and adjusting it to your practices to best reach the goal you’ve set.
Space Performance & Inventory
Space performance and inventory is the side of space management that is going to look at how space is performing in different areas, and how much used space you have to work with. Your physical environment is going to have an impact on the way you feel and operate at work, this is unavoidable.
So how can we best manage this to give people a space that works for them? Planning how an office or physical area is going to be used is a good first step, considering lighting, furniture placement, outlets, and frequently used spaces or technology to plot out where people are.
If you’re using space to decide where you don’t want people to go, space inventory is going to highlight details of all areas so you can rule them out of the running. York outlined their safe seating criteria as “2.6m diameter circles of space” while other workstations and their cubicles with closer relative proximity to each other were ruled out for the time being.
The New Workplace
Obviously, this leads to a new-look workplace. Our office design, practices and even some of the people have changed. Some of our closest colleagues who we saw everyday might be fully remote or hybrid now, and what we work on in the office may be different now that we can work from home.
Not everybody is back in the office, but many organizations are seeing a portion of people return at least part time. With the federal government mandating a return to office but giving freedom to each department for what that may look like, some confusion is brewing logistics wise.
With the increased awareness of how much unoccupied real estate is out there without people in the office, a stronger push to return is on the horizon. Leases and real estate portfolios are a significant investment for a company and losing out on ROI because of remote work is seen as a less than ideal situation. Adjustments must be made, and it is likely we’re going to see a lot more full-time return mandates or downsizing of portfolios as a result.
Pillar 3 – Portfolio
Real estate portfolios. Large-scale campuses, or collections of buildings across a city are going to take some coordination to get them all in line. Keeping track of all the information and records from across sometimes upwards of 100 areas or facilities can be a serious headache without a single system of record for things like facilities, lease agreements and information, or capital projects.
As your likely largest investment, leasing management is going to come in handy at one point or another. Financial benchmarking and reporting to outline investment opportunities or risks while optimizing space utilization is going to give you the upper hand when it comes to maximizing your ROI. Being able to access lease information by building or floor from your mobile phone or tablet opens numerous opportunities in efficiency.
Capital & Portfolio
Project management and the organization between stakeholders needs project members to be able to synchronize information from different locations or organizational units.
Streamlining project oversight through consolidated milestones, tasks, and status changes is a pivotal part of project management. Software solutions exist to take the hassle off this process and give your team the flexibility and capabilities to carry out your real estate projects without a hitch.
Depending on your goals and where your portfolio stands, a real property solution is going to be customized to do different things. If optimizing your energy use and being more carbon-friendly is your organization’s current goal, focusing on facilities is going to be a priority, and your solutions will reflect that.
Taking time to evaluate your portfolio and how it aligns with your business or organization and the goals you have is going to make it easier to see a clear path to solutions.
Whether it be full enterprise level IWMS integration to cover all aspects of space, facilities and portfolio management, or just workplace and space management to upgrade your office space for the people who need it. Real property strategies are going to make an impact in the long term if done correctly, and most vendors are going to help you find your way to the best possible solution for you.