Strategic Facilities Planning

July 2015—The process of strategic facilities planning translates the overall strategic business plan into the built environment. The goal of strategic facilities planning is to maximize the real estate value for the building owner or owners.

Like a strategic business plan, the strategic facilities plan is forward thinking and attempts to anticipate, plan for, and accommodate change. All effective plans share five key elements:

  • Trends analysis, which is an environmental scan of business directions
  • A review of the corporate vision and mission, as well as workplace culture
  • A written short- and long-range facilities plan
  • A project plan tied to specific objectives
  • An evaluation mechanism

While no hard-and-fast rules exist, most facilities managers think in terms of five-year plans for macroplanning and 12- to 24-month plans for microplanning.

Facilities Managers Must Be in the Loop

To accomplish any type of strategic facilities plan, facilities managers must first be involved in the overall strategic business plan or, at the very least, have access to it. Preparation of a facility strategy based on the business strategy is the most effective way to make decisions on facility actions. Facilities managers are responsible for managing valuable assets, which, in many cases, generate revenue in the form of rent for their organizations. They must plan and facilitate change on an ongoing basis by integrating people, information, technology, and facilities. They are charged with a responsibility to provide facilities that truly facilitate business activity.

The fact that facilities affect a person’s ability to produce work is undisputed. Physical surroundings may have either positive or negative effects on the accomplishment of work. Positive physical arrangements can increase productivity and employee satisfaction. Negative factors will detract from an individual’s ability to produce high-quality work and can result in wasted time, added stress, and a low-quality work product.

Study Workflow before Planning

The trend in most effective organizations is toward a flattening of the hierarchy. This trend is reflected in the built environment by large workspaces with ample window access, spaces for hoteling and telecommuters, conferencing, and uniform office furnishings. Travel, highly specialized workers, new product development, and project teams call for more physical and budgeting flexibility, as well as more fluid, nonspecialized infrastructures. Virtual and remote teams, particularly in global organizations, demand an environment of variety and creativity in planning.

In organizations where facilities managers may have trouble getting information or where leadership is prone to crisis management, a number of creative solutions exist. Networking with those who are in the know or studying available data can prove useful for general planning purposes.

If a facilities manager has historical trends about a company, he or she can, for example, forecast approximate staff-to-facility ratios. Product development plans most often have facilities planning implications. New or renovated production facilities usually require down time between the end of one production run and the start of the next. Facilities managers can check with product and production managers to plan for and accommodate these changes. Similarly, they can consult with human resource managers to estimate the number of planned position increases or with program managers to determine relevant outsourcing information. Growth objectives stated in dollar-to-staff-to-facility ratios can provide general guidelines. A number of other methods can be employed to bridge the corporate information gap, including:

  • sitting in on business unit planning sessions and management meetings on a regular basis so that information reaches the facilities planners as soon as possible

  • improving communications and planning with existing local area networks
  • educating staff on the benefits of cooperative facility planning through use of an in-house manual or an in-house marketing effort directed at facilities customers
  • using an in-house accounting system that bills each working unit for its space needs and administrative support, and offering feedback to strategic planners

Another proven strategy is to present solutions in terms of dollars and cents. Long-term thinking in relation to lifecycle costing is a widely accepted practice. Unless the organization is scrambling in a day-to-day survival mode, most executives will welcome and give serious consideration to facilities planning efforts that will save substantial dollars over a one- to five-year period.

Long-term thinking is generally market share- and cost-based. The three main reasons to change a facility are to lower present costs, to provide a more appropriate environment for staff or customers, and to help a company better position itself in relation to the market to maximize the property value. Long-range planning can save a considerable amount of money. Increases in stock value, for example, can be realized through profits sustained over the course of 10 to 15 years. Prudent facilities strategies will make a significant contribution to the long-term value of a company, as well.

Facility planning and subsequent project implementation must be an ongoing process. This must be strategically managed to ensure that facilities actions are driven by business survival and effectiveness and that all other nonpriority actions are eliminated.

This article is adapted from BOMI International’s course Facilities Planning and Project Management, part of the FMA designation program. More information regarding this course or the new High-Performance certificate courses is available by calling 1-800-235-2664. Visit BOMI International’s website, www.bomi.org.