Facilities Management as a Strategic Contributor: Move to the Cloud
By Tim McLean
Managing the facilities life cycle is second only to people as the largest expense item in enterprises, according to Gartner. With facilities and asset management consuming the bulk of their non-payroll expenses, it is no surprise that organizations typically view facilities management solely as a cost center. However, facilities management teams still can play a more strategic role in the success of any business.
Today, organizations are increasingly focused on reducing waste—of both revenues and natural resources—and often establish goals around corporate and social responsibility. At the same time, today’s more advanced facilities management software, including integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) and computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) systems, offer opportunities to deliver significant time, cost, and energy savings that align with and support these goals.
Strategic Opportunities for Facilities Management Teams
From managing work orders manually to tracking asset inspections and maintenance in spreadsheets, the daily operations of typical facilities management teams offer vast opportunities to increase efficiencies. Automating many of these types of tasks through a single system can quickly reduce the hours spent on manual processes. With time savings gained from new operational efficiencies, facilities managers can repurpose employees for higher value tasks that ultimately lead to cost savings.
Another consideration is that buildings consume up to 40% of the world’s electricity, much of which is inefficiently utilized or even wasted. Many companies recognize this and are attempting to reduce costs and become more socially responsible by reducing energy waste. Besides the inherent cost savings, this “green” approach has far-reaching benefits, including stronger community relations, and even an improved ability to attract and retain employees. In fact, a 2012 study by Net Impact and Rutgers University showed that 35 percent of the college students in the study’s survey said they would take a 15 percent pay cut to work for a company committed to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
While it may seem unusual to think of facilities management as playing a strategic role, it no longer has to. Your facilities management team can use modern tools and approaches to save time, decrease costs, and support sustainable, energy-efficient practices—effectively elevating your team’s role from a mere cost center to a driver of corporate success.
Move Your Systems to the Cloud
Managing facilities using on-premise systems requires internal IT hardware, software, and support, which translates into more cost, as well as more assets and people to manage. Today, an increasing number of facilities and asset management software solutions are available in the “cloud” as Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions.
Gartner defines the cloud as “a style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities are provided as a service to external customers." This means that the client can access the software from any internet-enabled device, as cloud systems are essentially websites for storing and processing data. Cloud software ranges from simple offerings, like web-based email utilities, online shopping carts, and document storage, to more sophisticated products like maintenance management systems, financial systems and even cloud-based enterprise resource planning systems.
The SaaS model offers two key advantages:
1. The software vendor manages the software and upgrades
Moving to the cloud is essentially the last upgrade you will ever have to complete. With cloud solutions, the vendor makes sure that your system is patched regularly, that you always have access to the latest functionality, and that you never fall behind on product and security updates. Removing upgrades from your system administrator's responsibilities will free this resource up to focus on the more impactful and strategic elements of their role—such as system optimization, user training, strategic dashboard and report creation, and facilitating an annual plan and budgeting process.
2. The software can be accessed anytime, anywhere via the Internet.
In addition to saving time by eliminating upgrades and system maintenance, your system immediately becomes more accessible because, as a relatively new technology, a cloud solution will offer native wireless support and accessibility from any web-enabled device. With a cloud-based solution, your users and customers will be able to submit and monitor requests from their PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Clearing the Fog
Moving to a cloud-based system takes you out of the business of managing software, allowing you to focus on managing facilities more efficiently and effectively, and giving you the ability to communicate directly and securely with your vendors and customers through a single, centralized system.