In previous posts, I’ve 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 facilities management systems. But, it occurred to me that it might more helpful to interview each of the members of the team, so that you knew something about them before you talk about their facility management solutions in both higher education and government.
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 ring up Paul Sharp, an Account Director at AssetWorks, who is based in the West Midlands, England, United Kingdom. Below are my questions (Jarboe) and his answers (Sharp).
Jarboe: Paul, if someone Googled you and clicked on your LinkedIn profile, they learn that you are an MBA qualified, highly experienced sales professional with over 30 years experience selling highly complex IT / Software solutions to the UK Public Sector. What else can you tell me about yourself that a director of facilities at a college or university might want to know?
Sharp: I think I can build on those points you just raised, and that is that having been exposed for so long exclusively to the public sector, I now understand more about the processes, the trials and the tribulations people must go through to get any project done, or even getting to the stage where a project can be launched.
I also have a better understanding of how complex projects actually work. It's not just replacing equipment, or software. When you start to change people’s working patterns and roles, it becomes extremely difficult. Often, larger projects involve a lot of change to people and become organizational behavioral, organizational development projects, not just a hardware, or software, replacement. So, all those must be taken into consideration, its only then that you comprehend the real reason why there are probably a dozen people on a committee making the decision, all looking for different things.
So, it's being able to help people traverse their own systems, knowing what they need to do. Understanding the pressures that they're under in delivering what they need to do. So, from my point of view, I've learned to bring different parts of our solution set and people into an account at the different stages of the sale when they're required, it’s making sure they have access to the right people at the right time with the right information. I think it’s this detailed level of understanding I can bring.
Jarboe: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing a director of facilities at a higher education institution with a complex infrastructure and changing needs?
Sharp: I can't think of one that doesn't have a complex infrastructure because a lot of the infrastructures are actually built up over time, and many of them are made from point solutions. Nothing wrong with point solutions. They were the best available at the time, and that's when people had to make their decision. People made decisions and brought point solutions that do one job well, but they may not talk to other departments or other sections, so you never get a complete picture of what's going on.
So, today, I think COVID has shown this to everybody, that what we really need is a situation where a facilities or estates director is able to give authoritative information in real-time. So, it's the collection of information, drawing that together, having a single source of truth, and being able to share the data, enabling the right decisions to be made. They're the key issues that are really facing people at present. The information's there, the skill sets are there, the people are there. It's just combining that into a better working module.
Jarboe: 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?
Sharp: I think the one thing directors want is a single source of truth. They want to break down the silos that people have got used to working in. I don't think people are building barriers, it's just they're working with the tools they've got, and are unable to share information, or are only able to share information via spreadsheets. By the time you've drawn all the spreadsheets together, you've got a two to three-week lag time and the data is out-of-date. So, how can you take information-based decisions on that level of information? So, people want a single source of truth. They want data, they want accurate real-time reporting that they can share and integrate with university systems and be a part of the whole community.
They also need to focus upon agile working, and I don't just mean working from home. I mean, to be able to use their resources, their full-time equivalents, their employees to the best of their advantage and move them around. But often, that's precluded by having, again, single point systems where you must learn a whole new system each time you move sections. With AssetWorks, we do the whole thing. It's one system from start to finish, one set of data, one set of database. The whole software system has been created to make sure it works together, so there are no integrations or workarounds or links to get in the way. It just flows the information through to people who need it when they need it.
Jarboe: 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 buying process is the best time for a director of facilities to contact you?
Sharp: The answer, almost invariably, is as early as possible. There's lots of things that we have learned. We're an organization that's been doing these solutions now for 30 years. And, again, I've got experience outside Assetworks, earned by delivering high-profile public-sector projects in the UK. What I have learned over the time is things change, as you move through the project. What you thought you required and what you thought you wanted will changes you go through the process. What you need is a company that understands this and is able to adjust and create a solution that's built of known parts, but that solution is unique to your set of circumstances, and to help you deliver it. So, the sooner we can get involved, the better.
Things change, occasionally there's a leapfrog where organisations jump over the standard solution set and get ahead of a lot of the competition. At Assetworks we offer such a solution with a unified system that we're able to build modularly and deliver, not only to people in the workplace, but also out in the field. AssetWorks, takes requests from colleagues and students and pass’ them seamlessly through the process. If you involve us from the start, we will help you plot and determine what's is possible out of the box, so you don't end up, again, integrating and trying to make several systems work together and spend the next five years trying to keep them working together. So, the simple answer, I guess the one you expected, was right at the start.
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?
Sharp: I think this goes back to what I said at the start of this session is where we have a system which is designed and built to work together. the importance of this is essential for all of us. If it's the system is designed to work together. So, it's able to share that information, throughout the system. So, from a single pane of glass, you can manage your whole department, see what's going on anywhere, intervene if you wanted to, but overall, get the picture of how everything is working, how everything's developing to make corrective decisions along the way before things go astray.
The AssetWorks IWMS generates large amounts of information. So, we created our IQ module which will generate reports for you. The intention of the reports is that they can be shared with everybody, so the university knows, in real time, exactly what's happening and what it's doing with its budgets within the facilities and estates department. The information they contain can be exported to other powerful reporting tools such as Microsoft Power Bi.
Note: In future posts, I’ll interview Paul Sharp’s colleagues to give you a better idea of why AssetWorks is more than just the provider of facilities management systems. It is also a 30-year-old organization with a veteran team that’s dedicated to providing you with expert, authoritative, and trustworthy advice.
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.
Greg graduated from the University of Michigan, which was founded in 1817, but spent his junior year at the University of Edinburgh, which was founded in 1582, making it one of Scotland’s ancient universities and the sixth oldest university in the English-speaking world. That’s when he had his first bite of haggis at a Burns Supper.