By now, everyone knows that big data holds tremendous potential to unlock value in the world of facilities management – but I don’t see many people talking realistically about how to do it. And that’s unfortunate.
The fourth component of the Strategic Asset Management (SAM) framework, Analytics, is about unlocking that value. Using data to uncover hidden opportunities – and translating those insights into actions and initiatives that can both improve facility performance and reduce expenses. I’ll outline five key steps to make this happen – with some tips and tricks along the way.
The EFS Strategic Asset Management Framework
One – Choosing where to start…
This is where many organizations go wrong. It is critical to spend an appropriate amount of time thinking realistically about where your focus should lie. Don’t try to boil the ocean. Identify and prioritize the categories according to their operational importance or savings potential. To find these areas, surround yourself with thought leaders in your organization and develop a prioritized list of expense categories or operational pinch points that could benefit from a deeper dive. Don’t invest your scarce time and resources on items that cost you little or aren’t large corporate priorities – however tempted you may be. Here’s a list of categories to consider:
- Reliability (equipment performance or “uptime”)
- Asset longevity
- Vendor performance
- Staff utilization
Two – Define what you’d like to know
Once you’ve identified a category on which to focus, build a list of specific questions that data can help you answer. Here are two examples:
- If you’d like to reduce energy consumption, data can help you drill down to various layers of detail. Perhaps you initially want to identify the energy outliers in your portfolio (identifying which facility to focus your efforts). Or perhaps you want to get more granular and monitor specific energy-consuming assets to see if, when and how they are performing (identifying which building asset to focus your efforts).
- If vendor management is your focus, you might be interested in how quickly they are responding to work orders relative to contracted response time. Or you might like to know which vendors are making excessive trips to fix the same piece of equipment.
It is important at this step, to begin with, the end in mind – thinking about what you’ll do when you get your answers. Do you have the time and resources to build and manage programs, processes or projects to improve your metrics?
Three – Identify the data needs
This will help you determine if you already have the right data available or if you need to find ways to collect new data. Following the energy consumption example from above, you might need the following data to determine energy opportunities within an existing building:
- Submetered electrical data isolating specific assets or groupings of assets (HVAC, lighting, refrigeration, plug loads, etc)
- Operational data exported from a building management system to include: schedules, run times, temperatures, etc.
- Local weather data – outside air temperatures ( dry bulb and wet bulb)
For each data source, you’ll also need to answer the following:
- With what interval do you need the data? Monthly? Daily? Hourly? 5-minute intervals?
- Where can you store the data? In the energy management system? A central data repository? In the cloud? In a spreadsheet?
- What will the IT department need to know, or do, to ensure you get the right data?
- How confident are you in the accuracy of the data? Are sensors calibrated?
- How will you organize and normalize the data so various data streams can be used together?
Should you find yourself needing additional data, build a business case for investment in new data collection and analytical resources – and sell it! If you are just starting your analytical journey, consider focusing on a topic where you already have the data your need. It is important to start small – implement an initiative to get a quick win before biting off a bigger challenge. Having a success story in hand will vastly improve your ability to build support for subsequent investments in analytics.
Four – Define and implement initiatives to improve performance
Once you’ve answered your questions using the data you’ve collected, you may be ready to develop and implement initiatives to improve performance. This might involve a new process, a staffing or vendor change, a training program or a new piece of equipment. Whatever the initiative, you are now collecting the data to quantify whether or not the initiative had the intended effect on the key performance indicators.
The word “may” was italicized in the first sentence of the last paragraph because you’ll often find that once you begin analyzing data and answering questions, it is very common for the answer to drive additional questions – or help you realize that you actually asked the wrong question in the first place.
Five – Repeat for subsequent categories – one at a time
Once you’ve realized success and have demonstrated and delivered value, you can move on to the next category or series of questions. Don’t start something new until you can confidently see results – or a lack thereof.
Be patient – a strong analytics program is not a flash in the pan concept. The reason analytics is a core element of the SAM framework is because it needs to be permanent. Not temporary. Build out your department with the right staff and skillsets (internal or external) to make analytics a foundational element of your program. This often requires a non-traditional staffing model relative to traditional facilities staff. Consider a mathematician, statistician, computer scientist or someone with a strong finance background.
What are you doing to make analytics a core part of your facilities program?
Stay tuned for the next article in the series which will dive deeper into the 5th and final element of a Strategic Asset Management program – the importance of building the right organizational structure to tie all of the elements together.