If “information is power”, then there is no doubt that data is “the new oil”. The metaphor is almost perfect: they are highly valuable, need to be extracted, and refined for their ultimate use. The only difference is that, unlike oil – a rare resource that only a few countries have direct access to – any company can generate data to assess its performance and look for improvement opportunities.
Fortunately, all managers are aware that we live in a competitive world where every detail counts. Therefore, they live in a constant struggle to find the balance between service quality, cost, and speed. At the same time, and still with COVID-19 looming, they have to navigate supply chain disruptions (here’s a small example) and face rising raw material prices.
So, how can facility managers implement a data culture, use it to achieve company goals, find opportunities for improvement, justify continued investment in Facility Management, and achieve the much-desired balance? With all these in mind, we decided to recover our conversation back in November last year with Bárbara Magalhães, the founder of the Brazilian platform “Facilities na Prática“, which focuses solely on content about FM. The whole talk is available here (but only for Portuguese speakers, sorry!):
How to implement a data culture in your company
While almost every team understands the potential of data, few have concrete information on which to base their decisions. Take the test: do you know how long each repair takes on average? Which parts of the building spend the most energy on air conditioning? Or how many people use the building every day? We may be aware of the importance of data, but it is not yet part of our routine.
As Barbara reminded us in our conversation, there’s no excuse for not having software – it really is a cultural issue. “If you want to keep track of how many visitors your facility has per day, you can ask those at reception to create a log. Of course, it may not be accurate, and it’s a rudimentary record, but it’s a start. All computers have Excel, and even if you don’t have Excel, you can use Google Sheets. That creates routine.”
In fact, if you need to justify investing in facilities management software, this is really where you need to start. “If I can do [small improvements] with just pen and paper, imagine what I can do with the right software.” The only way to justify investment in data collection tools, such as a smart maintenance platform and sensors, is to demonstrate results and convey value.
Still on the subject of implementing systems for data collection, Barbara gave us two valuable tips:
1) Start by doing a workflow to understand what the ideal collection points for the data you want to collect are (more on this later).
2) Then, if possible, integrate the maintenance software with the reporting tool the team is already used to, so that they actually report breakdowns and consult work orders.
How to use the collected data for Facility Management (and justify the expenditure)
If a friend tells you that they spent £500 on a trip, is that a lot or a little? If it is to go to Australia it is a bargain, but if it is to go to the parish of Wells, in Somerset, it is a small fortune. Numbers alone don’t tell a story; you need to know the context. So, no matter how much you want to focus on benchmarking and achieving standards, numbers alone are not the goal.
The real goals are the company’s objectives: reducing maintenance costs, addressing breakdowns faster, retaining more talent, etc. You should define the indicators (KPIs) that you want to monitor according to those goals, and “refine” the data that interests you or not. Even so, KPIs are still not goals in themselves. They only indicate whether you are moving in the right direction and getting closer to the company’s objectives.
The idea is to monitor trends – for example, to understand where you can decrease energy consumption – and start making data-driven decisions. Also, remember that you have to measure your operational, financial, and qualitative performance. When you collect data, you can visualise how they all influence each other.
If you make a trade-off to save because the company wants to cut costs, this will negatively influence the service quality. On the other hand, if you decide to invest in new equipment or local suppliers, you can increase your operational efficiency. But only with hard data can you analyse costs in detail, return on investment, energy expenditure, etc., and monitor your performance.
“[the manager] has to analyse on an individual basis because that’s what gives strategic information. (…) We are a support department, a department that spends ‘a ton’ of money. It is the first, when the cost-cutting starts, to reduce costs. That’s why people say ‘the company only asks me to cut costs! You’ll have to cut back! To justify that it’s not possible [to reduce] more, you must bring arguments. What are those arguments? You have to study the infrastructure. Why does a certain service make sense in that environment? To reduce spending, you’ll need to reduce quality, which will impact people’s daily lives. If the company is willing to give up that quality, it will reduce the cost. [But] You can’t mess with one without messing with the others.”
Finally, don’t forget to generate reports and share the data with your facility management clients (or management, if you are not outsourcing). This way, management can also make informed decisions if they need to reduce the FM budget, especially on preventive maintenance. Again, it’s about communicating, being transparent, and demonstrating the value of your work.
Regarding this last point, we remind you that you can download our free eBook on Communication and Facility Management, in which we give 30 suggestions for improving communication with technicians, suppliers, and customers – with a helping hand from smart technology.
To recap: first, you need to ensure your team collects data methodically. Then, start using it to make Facility Management truly strategic. And then reuse it to prove that FM is not a luxury, but a service that helps the company achieve goals and distinguish itself from the competition.