In my early posts, I encouraged readers of this blog to contact one of the higher education experts at AssetWorks if they had questions or wanted to learn more about the company’s Integrated Workplace Management Software (IWMS). But, then I figured out that it might be more helpful to interview each of the members of the team, so that you knew something about them before you call them about their IWMS software solutions for higher education institutions.
Actually, you will probably Google their name before you contact someone. But, that presumes that you know their name. And, it also assumes that you want to tap into their expertise and experience.
So, in this post, I will share the reasons why you should call Tony Stack, the Country Manager in Australia and New Zealand at AssetWorks. Below are my questions (Jarboe) and his answers (Stack).
Jarboe: Tony, if someone Googled you and clicked on your LinkedIn profile, they’d learn that you are a business strategies strategist and leader with over 35 years of experience. What else can you tell me about yourself that, let's say, a director of facilities at a college or university might want to know?
Stack: I’ve been in the game for close to 40 years – specifically in Asset Management, Facilities Management and Corporate Real Estate, in senior executive management roles responsible for large global portfolios. A lot of my early career involved architecture and strategic planning. I was on the cutting edge of technology back in the early 80’s when AutoCad AutoCAD was first released to the market. As the Director of Real Estate and Construction for KFC, I was instrumental in changing design management practices from manual to CAD and bring efficiencies and cost savings to the organization through adoption of technology.
Throughout my career I have relied on the right technology to provide me not only current and timely information for decision making. Given my “antiquity” I have bene been on the leading edge of many technologies which support the industry – from IWMS systems through to IoT, Smarter Building and Portfolios to Smarter Cities.
The insights I have gained over the past 40 odd years in leadership roles plus working with cutting edge technologies allows me draw on this experience and expertise when talking with clients. I have worked across 4 continents and 45 countries; the global exposure to the industry gives me unique insight when talking with customers about their business.
Jarboe: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing a director of facilities at a higher education institution – particularly one with a complex infrastructure and changing needs?
Stack: The Australian Higher Education Market is in a particularly hard spot at the moment. Australian Universities are probably the highest leveraged institutions when it comes to International Students. Australia has closed international border to all but a few people and this has had a traumatic impact on the sector with revenues down 35% on average and creating mass layoffs across the sector.
With the reduction in revenue and loss of personnel, there is more governance over capex and opex, ensuring funding is timely and purpose driven. As a result – even though 2020 was a good year for Infrastructure Development despite the pandemic, subsequent years will not have much activity.
I think therefore, the biggest challenge facing Facilities Directors in Australia is how to “sweat their assets”, make them last past their use by date without impacting tactical and strategic operations. This will bring out the need for more intelligent asset management systems that are agile in nature and support University initiative to adapt and change quickly.
A flow on challenge for Facilities Directors is to be able to negotiate for funding (the right amount and timing). Traditionally, this not been too big of an issue, but with the reduction in revenue and spotlight on expenditure, being able to make the case through timely, accurate and acitionableactionable data is paramount. I think this is where AssetWorks shines – replacing so many disparate systems and providing a consistent, single source of truth with streamlined reporting capabilities to ensure Directors are up to speed and clearly and concisely represent Facilities interests at the bargaining table
Jarboe: So, what do you think are the biggest opportunities that a director of facilities at a college or university would be interested in talking to you about in 2021?
Stack: If there is one thing the Pandemic has shown the need for – it is remote monitoring. Facilities Directors now have access to cheap and reliable IoT technology with almost endless array of sensor application including asset tagging, lighting, HVAC, fire suppression, security, inventory management, real time timetabling, etc.
Given that IoT devices rely on interoperability, interconnectivity of systems is a must. It’s a fact that 40% of Facilities Managers will retire by 2026 and incoming millennials will not settle for anything else other that a mobile first mindset or a user friendly platform that they can drive with the fingertips. I think we will see Facilities Directors accept the challenge of new technology as see this as a way to coral limited resources, interrogate data for new insights and drive substantial cost savings across their portfolio. You will also see the integration of systems across wider domains of responsibility to ensure institutions are operating optimally.
There will also be a certain degree of automation and robotics introduced in the FM area over the next decade include cleaning, security, data capture some types of maintenance.
I think in my discussions with Facilities Directors, I would be coaching them on best practice in the industry and helping them adopt the right technologies for their specific need rather than trying – as many companies do – deliver a one size fits all solution to their unique problem(s). Moving in that direction, while at a cost, will prove over the longer term to generate significant cost savings from an opex and capex renewal perspective.
Jarboe: You and I both know that when higher education institutions make complex buying decisions, they generally go through a six- step process: Problem identification, solution exploration, requirements building, supplier selection, validation, and consensus creation. When in this prolonged buying process is the best time for a director of facilities to contact you?
Stack: Complex buying decisions, by their nature, involve a lot of moving parts. As a Sales Person you are trained to recognize these “parts”, where potential breakdowns can occur and what is need to overcome what a generally internal hurdles.
That being said, there are many more pain points being experienced by Facility leaders these days due to COVID 19 and while the majority of the world is trying to get back to some sort or normal operations, Australia has lagged due to political posturing. And this has added a burden to the sales process which normal is not apparent.
I think for the Facilities Director, the obvious starting point is recognizing that they actually have a problem. Unfortunately, in this market – particularly in Australia, Leaders are so tied up in tactical decisions that the buying process is often circumvented and even compromised by other operating areas.
I feel that it is important that when a leader does identify a problem with in the organization – whether it be process or technology, that, before their thought processes become sidelined by other important matters, that they have a short discussion with me to understand what options are available to them. With around 40 year’s experience years’ experience in the game and operational knowledge of most IWMS technologies and many other EAM technologies on the market, I generally find that having a non-sales related conversation with the Director about current and future issues generally opens the door to more fruitful conversations that often translate into better though out buying processes.
Jarboe: Finally, a director of facilities at a college or university generally wants information that is relevant, useful, credible, and easy to use quickly and effectively. Why are you in a position to provide that?
Stack: AssetWorks is predominantly a Higher Education player. One of the biggest in the world. As a result our people, our marketing and our sales process is geared toward the industry. We are 100% geared to be responsive to customer requirements and to make that point, we engage with Special Interest Groups drawn from a variety of Higher Education customers that help us define and drive our roadmap. This keeps us not only relevant to the industry but aids in identifying future needs and direction before the more general software providers pick up on those needs.
As I said, we have a specific focus. When we work with you, it is only AssetWorks and you. There are no 3rd parties, no “lost in the translation” costs, no cost over runs because part of the vendor ecosystem was out of the loop. We are a genuine one stop shop and we are the single throat to choke.
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 “I'll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you” thing was merely an ad campaign to boost tourism.