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What is facility management software in the post-pandemic era?

By Greg Jarboe

Well, all you need to do is conduct a search for the term, “facility management software,” and you’ll find lots of articles that appear to have been written by someone in “the before time.  

What is that? Wellfrequent readers of this blog already know that I’m a Star Wars fan. But, I’m also a Star Trek fan.   

And the term, "the before time,was coined back in 1966 for the Star Trek episode “Miri. That’s where the Starship Enterprise encounters a planet inhabited only by children because a pandemic has infected and eventually killed all of the adults. The children refer to the time when adults were still present as “the before time.”  

Facility management software trends in “the after times”  

Well, we now live in the after times.   

So, I want to begin this post by urging you to read Gordian’s “State of Facilities in Higher Education” report for 2021I’ve read all 22 pages and I’m glad that I did.  

Gordian’s eighth edition of its annual report includes data from 325 higher education institutions in the US and Canada, which have a collective enrollment of 3.5 million students and 1.4 billion total square feet of campus space. Approximately 40% of the institutions in the study were private and 60% were public. So, the sample is relatively large and fairly representative.  

But, it is also worth reading if you’re trying to suss out the latest facility management software trends in the UK and Ireland or Australia and New Zealand.   

How do I know that  

Well, to produce the report, Gordian partnered with APPA, which represents more than 18,000 educational facilities professionals from over 1,300 learning institutions worldwide. Published March 1, 2021, the report found a growing backlog of capital needs, funding shortfalls, and enrollment challenges is facing you no matter which country your college or university is in.  

So, no matter where your campus is locatedI’m confident that you’ll find things in Gordian’s report that you’ll want to share with your colleagues 

For exampleit warns: Degrading campus conditions could disincentivize new students, present performance challenges, require more resources to continue operations, and increase the potential for safety risks.  

AlthoughI suspect that you already knew that.  

“However, a surprising upside has been the awakening on college campuses to the treasure trove of talent in facilities organizations that has been a key to keeping campuses open, students safe, and the schools focused on key survival issues for the future,” says Pete Zuraw, the VP of Market Strategy and Development at Gordian.  

I know. This seems like science fiction, but it’s real life.  

Turning facility management software features into solutions  

This rare opportunity doesn’t eliminate the need to examine key facility management software features.  

Facility management software is a vital tool for a Director of Facilities at a higher education institution with a complex infrastructure and changing needsA facility management software system should: 

  • Track detailed asset and equipment information
  • Manage maintenance costs
  • Streamline work orders and preventative maintenance  
  • Help maximize the useful life of assets 
  • Reduce space
  • Reduce maintenance costs.  

“Make it so, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) would often say on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  

But, in order to turn these features into facility management software solutions you will also need professional services and support, including: 

  • Strategic services to meet your organization’s goals
  • Implementation services to deploy the software and ensure adoption
  • Custom solutions for interfacing and automation
  • Technical and support services to keep it all running smoothly 

So, you need a bit of both to be successful.  

Benefits of facility management software in the post-pandemic era  

This also means that the benefits of facility management software now comes in two sets.  

The first set of benefits have been around since “the before times.” They can help facilities professionals like you solve longstanding problems, including: 

  • A need to streamline facility management and operations to provide better customer service
  • Lack of visibility across the entire inventory of real estate, buildings and facilities impedes decision making
  • Shrinking facility management budget coupled with growing deferred maintenance backlogs
  • Struggles to schedule and prioritize facility work orders and preventive maintenance
  • Rely on manual processes to aggregate data from multiple, disparate facilities systems 

That’s a daunting list. But, any Director of Facilities would have benefited from overcoming these obstacles before March 2020. And, hundreds did.  

But, this brings us to the second set of benefits which have emerged in “the after times.”  

According to an article in the McKinsey Quarterly Five Fifty newsletter entitled, “The Quickening,” which was published July 28, 2020, If you’re feeling whiplash, it might be the ten years forward we just jumped in 90 days’ time.  

What impact has this had on you and your campus 

WellLander Medlin, the Executive VP of APPA, says, “This is a rare moment to shift our thinking about higher education facilities — strategically invest or divest — and change the very way we do business.”  

In a post entitled, “APPA COVID-19 Message Following the January 8, 2021 APPA Town Hall,” she addan incredible opportunity to the list above of pre-pandemic benefits: Creating healthy, smart buildings. She then challengeconventional thinking by highlighting a few relevant facts, including: 

  • Buildings are central to our lives and livelihoods. We spend 90% of our time in them. Yet, the quality of the air we breathe is an afterthought. Air pollution – not outdoors, but indoors – is the environment that has the greatest impact on our health, how we feel and perform. 
  • The true cost of operating our buildings is the people inside. Making buildings healthier make people healthier and more productive, which translates to a healthier bottom line.  It makes good business sense! 

  • Buildings represent the largest consumer of materials (yes, fossil fuels) of all industries on earth. Unfortunately, the focus has been on energy savings and conservation rather than balanced with a human health and productivity perspective. 

  • The convergence of health science, building science, and business science are inextricably linked and reveals the greatest untapped business and health opportunity. Yet, we’re too siloed, even as disciplines, let alone the data capture.  

  • Building engineers and facilities managers are the true heroes of our health. People who manage our buildings have a greater impact on our health than doctors.  

The benefits of adding healthy, smart buildings to your to-do list, which was already long before the “new normal” rewrote your job description, are also significantly greater. As I mentioned two weeks ago in the post entitled, “What is the best IWMS software for higher education?,” the global pandemic has changed the role of facilities leaders going forward and this provides you with the opportunity to seize this moment to solidify your newfound seat at the table. 

 In addition, an article entitled, “Why It Pays to Think Outside the Box on Coronavirus Tests,” which was written by Emily Anthes and published by The New York Times on March 25, 2021, says a new study suggests that higher education institutions looking to protect themselves from Covid-19 may benefit from sharing their testing resources with the wider communityThat would dramatically change your role going forward.  

It’s too early to request a facility management software demo  

The need for colleges and universities to reimagine the kinds of campuses the should build going forward as well as the new opportunities to create healthy, smart buildings means that it’s probably way too early to invite you to get a demo.   

That fact that you can find lots of other blog posts about facility management software that have this call-to-action indicates that they were probably written in the pre-pandemic era by someone who was smart, but hadn’t worked in this field very long. Or, as Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) says in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, “He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking.”  

So, the first thing that you will probably want to do is contact the higher education team at AssetWorks and tell them that you’ve got lots and lots of questions.  

Now, they won’t beam down to your campus in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, or the US wearing an array of blue, red, and gold shirts. But, they can talk with you via Zoom about this or other related topics.   

And don’t be surprised to discover that they’re more interested in learning about the complex infrastructure of your college or university and changing needs of your higher education institution than in urging you to request a demo.  

They’re not only intelligent. They’re also experienced. And they understand that the best way to help you is to share strategic insights, critical data, tactical advice, and facility management software trends in “the after times.” Their pattern indicates four-dimensional thinking.  

Thenwhen you are ready for a facility management software demojust request one and the expert team at AssetWorks will be happy to assist you. They don’t consider that a violation of the “non-interference directive.” 

About Greg Jarboe 

 Greg Jarboe is the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, which has provided services to the University of the Pacific, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, and Dickinson College. Greg has been an instructor in several Rutgers Business School Mini-MBA programs.  

In 1999, Greg became the VP of Marketing at WebCT and he was a keynote speaker at the 2001 WebCT Asia Pacific Conference in Adelaide, Australia. That’s when he learned that Australians don’t grill shrimp — they grill prawns — and the whole “throw another shrimp on the Barbie” thing was merely an ad campaign to boost tourism. 

Tags: Facility Management, COVID-19, facility management software