Facilities Information Management for those managing the workspace

Facilities decisions, no matter how insignificant, are made on the basis of information. The better and more timely that information, the greater are your chances of making a sound decision. Since managing information is such an important aspect of facility management, it is critical to understand some basic concepts of information management that apply to facilities, starting with an understanding of our dependence on information.

The facility manager must have enough of the right type of information. By extension, we become dependent on the vehicle that provides that information, whether it is an inventory list, an automated database, a calendar, or a set of drawings. The complexity and interrelationships of facility systems make us dependent on more information to make decisions than we had to consider in the past. Consider the simple task of reconfiguring one or two workstations of modular furniture. To perform this task, the following three types of information must be collected:

  • Detailed information about existing conditions
    1. Where the workstation is located.
    2. Who sits there; what job is done there.
    3. The manufacturer, series, panel color, and work surface color; whether the panels are the same color on both sides; if not, what the two colors are; what parts are currently installed.
    4. Whether there is any acoustical treatment or electrification of panels; the present load on the circuit; who else is connected to the circuit; whether electrified panels are ceiling or wall connected; what circuit supplies electricity to the workstation.
    5. The wall paint color and floor treatment under the workstation.
    6. Who sits in the adjacent workstations; what jobs are done there.
    7. Which department ‘owns’ the workstations; how much depreciation has been claimed.
    8. Where furniture is located (every part and piece).
    9. Existing technology—desktop requirements, fax machines, printers, other equipment; is the technology networked or specific to the location? will the current technology platform(s) work with the revised layout of new tenant?
    10. Filing and support, and client areas.
    11. Square-foot rent.

  • Information about the intent of the occupant
    1. How the occupant’s job has changed.
    2. The new demands of the job.
    3. The needs and wants of the occupant.
    4. When the occupant expects the changes to be completed.
    5. Whether any special circumstances exist that may influence the work or its completion.
    6. Who will pay for the changes.

  • Information about preparing for the change
    1. Whether certain space standards must be adhered to.
    2. Whether existing furniture standards apply if a custom design is necessary; who will complete the sketch, and when.
    3. Who will approve the layout; who will arrange for the telephone move or reprogramming its number.
    4. What parts are in inventory for this system, series, and color; what parts need to be ordered; the lead time for the parts.
    5. What skills are necessary to complete the change; which person or people have these skills.
    6. Which tools are required to complete the change.
    7. When the change is scheduled (the day, time, and date).
    8. When notice should be given to the occupants about the schedule for the change; which manager(s) should be notified.

This simple workstation change could not be completed without this information. (Whether all of the steps must be automated is another matter, however.) Although much of this information may already be on hand, or in the head of an experienced mechanic or tradesman, the potential for problems or delays exists if the information is not readily available. Large capital projects require information several orders of magnitude greater than this, and each situation requires its own set of information.

The example of a work order above is one example of our dependence on information. Some others include space allocation plans, lease abstracts, energy management, preventive maintenance, and there are many others. Other key aspects of facility information management, in addition to understanding our dependence on information, include:

  • Providing support for decision-making.
  • Understanding the relationships among information, change, risk, and management.
  • Mitigating risk in stable environments.
  • Employing information technology to streamline facility service delivery, reducing the time for completion and the number of workers needed.
  • Taking advantage of the capabilities of technology to increase automation.

Automation is not the panacea that many believe it to be. Automating every conceivable type of data may not be practical or even desirable. The facility manager must first consider what type of data to store and manage, how to store it, and then decide exactly which data should be managed—not the other way around.

Automated databases are very effective and valuable—once the data have been entered and as long as the database is updated to ensure its accuracy and timeliness. Thus, facility managers must be prepared to commit the resources necessary to develop and maintain an automated database. The magnitude of this commitment is almost always underestimated.

This article is adapted from two of BOMI International’s course: Fundamentals of Facilities Management. More information regarding this course is available by calling 1-800-235-2664. Visit BOMI International’s Web site.