Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is There A Number for Everything?

“We must consider the possibility that if we can’t measure something , it might be the very most important aspect of the problem.”

That from a blog post by Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School at the University of Toronto and one of today’s preeminent business thinkers.

It does raise an interesting question which I think is relevant in the FM domain. Have we become so focused on measuring, metrics and quantitative analysis that we have lost sight of the “soft” side of our business? And, exactly what are the elements we cannot measure but which are important never the less?

Is emotion an important business value? What about motivation, caring, empathy, mentoring, experience, and instinct? I would argue that all are important values and that we too often do a poor job of balancing them against the hard numbers we measure our performance by every day. SLA’s and KPI’s are fine but they do not present a whole picture of your performance or business health.

Take a look at your own organization and ask yourself, “Are we emotionally healthy around here? Which is correct most often, the spreadsheet projections or my gut?” You might be surprised at what you learn.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A New Look

My good friends at Blogger threw me a curve when I tried to do something I thought would be very simple. As a result, a small frustration led to a whole new look and better functionality.  The redesigned blog includes...
  • A new look complete with background graphic and new masthead (I intend to rotate the graphic image at the top on a random basis as the mood strikes)
  • Ability for readers to distribute posts (see the Twitter, Facebook, Email and other buttons at the bottom of each post - go on, make it viral)
  • A Google search function so you can search topics within the blog.
Drop a comment and let me know if you like the changes and what topics you would like to see covered here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Is It Strategy vs. Execution, or Strategy and Execution?

That may seem like a simplistic question with an obvious answer, but I wonder what the answers would be if we knew we were free to speak our minds on how strategy is developed, communicated and implemented in our own organizations.

I suspect that many FM’s would say that they are on the lag side of the strategy equation. Someone else formulates the strategy, hands it off to business units, each of which then does their best to align operations and initiatives with the new strategy. That’s fine as far as it goes. What it lacks, however, is cohesive and coordinated integration that recognizes and accommodates interdependencies between units. For example, an organization may have a strategy to improve its competitive position by increasing efficiency and lowering operating costs. That all sounds good, right? But what if IT’s response is to transition to new server and storage technologies while FM’s plan is to aggressively improve energy consumption efficiency? Are those two mutually exclusive? No, they are not. But they must be properly shaped, communicated and coordinated or they could create conflict between goals and execution priorities.

The current issue of the Harvard Business Review carries a series of articles about the linkage between corporate strategy and execution. Roger Martin makes the strong case that separating the two is a sure way to make failure a certainty. His point is that once strategy is decided upon it cannot just be delegated to others to execute. He prefers instead a model he refers to as a “Cascade of Choices” which links the two elements to create a holistic or “virtuous strategy cycle.” This model suggests shifting some decision making (choices) to lower levels as a way of broadening and deepening a strategy’s reach into an organization. It also helps make strategy meaningful to front line staff, a shortcoming that has sunk more than one strategy ship.

If you asked most of us we would say that the biggest obstacles we face include not having enough resources, lack of a clear strategy and conflicting priorities. A sound strategy and implementation plan that has been properly coordinated addresses all of those.

There are lots of homilies we could use to paint a picture most are all too familiar with. “Sometimes the good is the enemy of the best,” and “Catching the right wave is the second hardest thing to do, the first is knowing when to get off of it” are two that come immediately to mind. But a well conceived and communicated strategy identifies required resource shifts and priority changes needed to assure success, helping to mitigate against both conditions.

Said another way, creating and developing a strategy is the easy part. Its success will be determined by the organization’s ability to morph resources, priorities, energy and focus; supporting those things that help the strategy succeed and not supporting those things that work against it – even if they are long held favorites.

As FM’s we are in direct control of a very large portion of organizational assets. What we do and how well we do it makes a big difference at the strategic level. Ask yourself if you have the voice you need to effectively contribute to the strategy discussion and whether you are participating in the alignment and coordination dialogue, or simply taking a series of notes on a new “To Do” pad.

FM should be a thought leader within the organization, not just a bunch of folks working hard to get through today’s set of tasks. Your organization needs you to lead and, oh by the way…. You need you to lead.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Three Pivot Points That Are Influencing the Future of FM – Part 3

This is the third and final in a three part post on issues the author feels are affecting the FM profession

Pivot Point: The Explosion of FM Data

As building operations have increased in complexity over the years so has the data available from building systems and the need to analyze data and make fact-based decisions. FM’s and their cohorts are challenged to make sense of and synthesize data from different systems to present a complete and rational picture of operations. Not to say that we have arrived at a juncture of data and rationality, but at least we can see the intersection from where we are today.

Expanding beyond the building envelope, managing portfolios of multiple properties only increases the complexity of the equation and the challenge of reaching that desired intersection. While there have long been portfolio management systems and building management systems the two have not often worked hand in hand. Too often, in fact, they have not been viewed as part of the same equation. The real estate folks have their systems and the operations team has theirs. Seldom are they integrated.

In today’s world that simply is no longer acceptable.
Large portfolios represent large investment that must be optimized in all dimensions to support financial health and strength. That means that real estate portfolio management and operational systems management should be viewed as part of one whole, not two separates.

Corporate Real Estate (CRE) professionals care about strategic planning, forecasting requirements and business drivers. They understand the financials of the deal but not necessarily the life cycle operating costs of the deal. They need to track inventory, utilization, depreciation and implications to the corporate bottom line. Like FM’s, their operational cousins, they typically deal with a number of different systems to accomplish all of this.

FM’s who are focused on building or site operations deal with a different set of requirements, systems and data. On the building side of their domain they care about operating costs, risk mitigation, compliance issues, energy efficiency, lean processes and meeting service level agreements.

The two worlds seem different but are interdependent. New generations of software will integrate them in ways that improve operations on both sides of the equation, making the interdependencies visible and actionable. Portfolio information about asset management and utilization will help operators understand building profiles. Service KPI’s will be tracked across the enterprise and integrated with financials. Energy management will be dashboarded and enable financial modeling and troubleshooting using the same analytical tools.

One of the positive effects of the economic meltdown will be an increased focus on efficiency coming out of the experience. Capital investment will flow to programs and systems that help to lean operations, improve performance and increase efficiencies.

The Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE) has taken on the challenge of expanding the alignment agenda beyond organizational boundaries, with the goal of unifying core processes industry wide, including standardizing how information is shared. OSCRE aims to accomplish this by establishing standards that will be the framework for unifying information flow and execution. Already, standards for Work Request and Work Order Fulfillment, Lease Abstract Exchange, Lease Delivery, Occupiers Cost and Portfolio Information Exchange are in place, with others such as Investment Valuation in process. OSCRE has plans for the operational side of FM as well.

“Facilities Management: An interest group is forming to extend the seminal work on neutral work request and work order exchanges. Work management is fundamental to many categories of capital asset management, accommodations, and maintenance management. This group will first establish market drivers for ongoing initiatives and then start multiple technical workgroups and/or engineering initiatives.”
Excerpt from OSCRE website

FM organizations are now awash in data. But what are we doing with it, and how are we doing it? Is it coherent and meaningful data, or are we simply counting to count? How effective are we in gleaning wisdom from data, and what changes as a result? These are key questions to be dealt with if you have not already. Now and more so in the future, the FM suite will be home to analysts who sift data and look for patterns and trends, discerning nuggets of information that reveal truth, risk and opportunity.

There are others of course, but these three pivot points are vital to our profession in the coming years. Understanding the implications of the social and economic changes that seem to be everywhere these days, aligning ourselves and our organizations to improve speed and agility, and taking advantage of the information explosion are all first level concerns that demand diligent attention and action.

Our world is not the same as it used to be. Most people realize that fundamental changes are occurring. Those who interpret this as good news, as a chance to create and achieve will embrace the changes required to turn opportunity into reality.