Better Campus Events Start with Better Communication and Visibility
Every event of any size has a checklist: all the items that need to be planned, organized and executed on in order to deliver the event experience on time and as promised. Every item on that list, big and small, needs an owner to see it gets completed. Many of these will be the responsibility of the events team, but many more will require careful coordination with other groups both internal and external, such as catering, custodial, technology, facilities and more..
But, who owns the checklist? How does it get updated? Where does it reside?
For most organizations, this checklist was a tangible thing at some point in time. Today, for many, the lists have become digital, but the questions above remain. Even events teams that have adopted a purpose-built event management system and facilities, AV, or custodial teams with a modern work order management system or CMMS, have to spend time and effort ensuring the system of record is accurate over the course of the full event process, start to finish. Often, this means countless emails, meetings, sticky notes and an address book full of phone numbers, just in case. It may look something like this:
Couple this with the reality that the very nature of event planning is adapting to accommodate last-minute, unexpected changes and this problem can be a significant burden on all parties involved. Communicating these changes without missing a beat is difficult.
So, what happens when communications fail?
- Events are missing expected resources – furniture, room configurations, A/V equipment, etc.
- Changes become difficult to accommodate.
- Spaces are not set up correctly.
- Activities are delayed.
- Technician time is wasted waiting for access to space and resources.
- Cost estimations are inaccurate and billing is manual and tedious.
- Work is outsourced to third parties with more reliable service level agreements and recourse if they are not met.
The Shaky Connection Between Teams
Let’s focus in on the handshake between events and facilities teams as these groups work together constantly at a variety of levels, including sourcing, transporting, setup, rearrangement, teardown and more. They also require very tight coordination to ensure that an event space is setup or re-arranged at exactly the correct time.
Part of the challenge is that facilities teams have a wide berth of responsibilities on campus and technicians often have a packed list of tasks to fill the day. This careful orchestration means up-to-date information is critical to the right thing happening at the right time. Packing the calendar with meetings is a hamper to productivity and email or phone updates can be challenging when those executing the work spend their time in the field fulfilling requests.
Assuming each group has their own digital management solution for managing tasks and timelines, communications are streamlined within each individual group based on who uses it.
This is an improvement, but cross-team communication challenge is still an issue. At this stage, however, a handful of options present themselves:
- Have an events team member dedicate 50% or more of their time to creating and tracking work orders in other teams’ systems.
- Share management system information across teams.
- Create a connection between respective management systems.
Sharing access to management systems across teams can be a viable solution for some. This approach comes with training and system maintenance challenges and requires time from events personnel that could otherwise be spend on higher value responsibilities.
Sharing information from management systems is a relatively simple solution, assuming the necessary information can be exported quickly and easily and it is easy to understand. While this still requires some manual effort to run and share reports, there is less opportunity for human error, especially if the reporting can be automated. Such a system can still fall short in a few areas, including that it is not agreeable to last-minute changes and keeping parties informed in real-time.
The best and most complete solution is creating a connection between the management systems of each group such that the right information is passed back and forth as soon as it is added or updated.
Bridging the Communication Chasm
Revisiting the diagrams above, this solution looks much more streamlined:
Each stakeholder works within their tool, the tools themselves pass only the most pertinent information back-and-forth in real-time and the resulting benefits become clear.
The events manager:
- Automates more manual processes and limits time wasted to data entry.
- Has a single source of truth for current workload, reporting and finance.
- Saves upwards of 20 hours per week with less administrative tasks.
The services teams:
- Can be more responsive to requests and changes.
- Have better information to offer more accurate cost estimates.
- Avoid time and cost intensive re-work.
- Become more efficient in work order scheduling by reducing reactionary demands.
The event requestor:
- Has a single point of entry for all aspects of their request.
- Gets better visibility throughout the planning process and less unexpected cost.
- Enjoys a flawless event with all support teams expertly coordinated.
The Accruent Solution
Accruent offers a suite of software and services dedicated to providing people the control they need to do their jobs better and for managing the full lifecycle of campus spaces and resources. Accruent’s EMS is a room and resource scheduling platform and academic planning tool that has for decades helped hundreds of universities and colleges across the United States make the most of their spaces and execute better events. Accruent’s FAMIS 360 is a cloud-based facilities maintenance and space planning solution that helps facilities managers optimize maintenance and gain efficiencies across their assets and buildings.
In late 2020, Accruent announced the first iteration of an integration between these two solutions to improve communication between campus teams with seamless, real-time work order creation, assignment, tracking, and resolution. This is a first step in a grander vision to connect silos of data about how spaces is created, tracked, assigned, consumed, monitored, and maintained.