Forget big, think small

For FM decisions, it’s better to start small and work your way up

In terms of Big Data, FM companies would do well to start small.
In terms of Big Data, FM companies would do well to start small.

You’ve probably heard about Big Data. That’s what your credit card company collects, Google too and even your grocery store.

For facilities management, it’s best to start smaller.

Many FM’s don’t even have the basic information they need to manage and make good decisions, mostly because they either don’t have an FM system or they don’t use it fully.

Without data, you are managing blind. Data is something you turn into information for decision making, performance management, benchmarking and even evidence for business cases and justifying initiatives.

If you are a smaller organisation, maybe even a facility manager with a single building, start with a spreadsheet. But be meticulous in populating, updating and then using it. You can track space, maintenance jobs, time spent on activities and even track occupant calls.

Then you can upgrade to a purpose-designed software package once you’ve proven the value of collecting data and analysing it. This small step also gives you a better idea of what you need, so you can procure a system with confidence.

Even financial data can be useful as long as it is organised and tracked the way you need it. Ask your finance department for a download into Excel and then use Excel features such as pivot tables to do some analysis.

If the financial data isn’t organised the way you need it, ask finance to add some sub-accounts or see if it has some fields you can use for tracking better.

When it comes to basic facilities related activity, you can track many things in facility management. For service calls, for instance, you can sort by department, floor, and issue, how long it took to respond or fix the issue and even trend these things over time.

All of this is easy to do with Excel and pivot tables or charts. If you’ve never used a pivot table, now is the time to learn. They are very easy to do, with drag and drop – no coding or formulas involved.

If you have staff, get them to use spreadsheets for tracking these things. Have a service provider? They may have data already and you just need to ask (if not, then include the requirement in your next contract or specification). Or they can simply enter the information for you.

You can design a spreadsheet to be easy to enter, with protected fields, drop down selections to ensure consistency and even data validation to make sure they entered a number, not letters, in a field.

If you don’t’ know how to create and use this type of spreadsheet, ask your office excel expert or do a Google search. You may even find a template online that you can use as is or with minor modifications.

However, before you start, think about things you want to track, what you plan on using it for and how you plan on analysing it.

You’ll then have more data than you have now and you will see the benefits as you review and analyse it, identify patterns and issues, and develop evidence for performance and initiatives.

If you are not sure where to start, ask your facilities management colleagues about what they track and how they use it. If they don’t, then ask someone else.

With data, even if it’s ‘little data’, you will be further ahead than you are now and you will be able to position your department for improvement.

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