If you’ve read “Why You Need Your Facilities Management Software Provider to Be More Than a Vendor,” then you already know why you need to call Ken Jordan sooner rather than later if you’re considering a facilities management system for your college or university. As a former Facilities Director, he knows that one of the most important decisions you can make is the selection of a facilities management software provider.
But, it occurred to me that it might be more helpful to interview Ken so that you knew something about him before you start talking shop.
So, in this post, I will share five reasons why you need to call Ken Jordan, an Account Executive at AssetWorks, if you’re considering the purchase of a facilities management system. Below are my questions (Jarboe) and his answers (Jordan).
Jarboe: Ken, let me start by saying if somebody Googled you and they clicked on your LinkedIn profile, they'd probably learn some things about you. But what else can you tell me about yourself that, let's say, a director of facilities in a college or university might want to know about you?
Jordan: Well, Greg, I guess the first thing that I'd want a head director at a college or a university to understand is that I’ve literally been in their shoes and sat in their seat before. I can, if nothing else, empathize with them. Certainly, I didn’t go through the last year of directing facilities during COVID-19, but certainly, I can understand where they’re coming from and understand the challenges and the pressures that they’re facing. I first managed facilities at a relatively small university and then moved to a larger university, so I got to see a couple different sides of the coin.
But, at the end of the day, all of the challenges from what I saw remain the same regardless of the size of the institution. Some are just more magnified than others. And, certainly, it’s all people business. And I, more than anybody else who they're going to talk to on the facility management software side of things, understands that for sure.
Jarboe: So, 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?
Jordan: That's certainly a good question. And the number one challenge is personnel. Right now, facilities is a very people-centric business. You’d think it's all about the buildings, but really, it’s all about the people who maintain them, clean them, and make sure that they’re a suitable environment in higher education for living and learning. So there's always going to be challenges with personnel. First of all, just based on the dynamics of being humans, right? There’s always conflict, or consternation, or turnover that you have to deal with.
But, this leads into the second challenge. You have to find personnel who can deal with and work on increasingly complex buildings. Buildings are much more complex here in 2021 than they were even 30 or 40 years ago. The level of complexity of systems and the interactivity of systems is just so complex where you need very, very specialized people with, in some cases, degrees to be able to operate and maintain those buildings. So, that level of complexity around those buildings just compounds the issue of dealing with personnel because you have to have those right folks on your team, and if you don't, it can be catastrophic.
And so, the third challenge, along with complexity of buildings is the aging of campus infrastructure. There was a post-World War II boom that saw the flourishing of college campuses in the United States and Canada, where more people went to college, especially in the '50s and the '60s. So, because of that, you have all of this infrastructure being built. So, on campuses, you see a lot of the buildings are the same age.
And then, things slowed down a little bit, for the most part. And then, again, in the early 2000s, we had another wave, another surge of building on campuses. And now, when you think about it, a building that was built in, say, right around 2000, now is, lo and behold, 21 years old. So, it’s hitting a lifecycle where things need to be refurbished, things need to be refreshed.
You know, a lot of us still are caught in that trap of thinking, "Something that is built in 2000 is a new building." Well, not really so much anymore. That building that we thought was "new on-campus" now requires attention, and in some cases, more attention than some of the older buildings, because it has more complex systems, including building automations and other systems that are, in some ways, software as opposed to hardware-centric. So, put those all together and it's a pretty full plate for a director of facilities on campus.
Jarboe: So if those are the challenges, then what are the biggest opportunities that a director of facilities of a college or university would be interested in talking to you about this year?
Jordan: Well, I talked about those two waves of campus construction and campus infrastructure at large. I think, for the industry as a whole, the aging of those mid-20th century facilities all of a sudden caught everybody off guard. There was this kind of surprise element that everybody had. We’re going, "Oh, my gosh. All of a sudden, we have a bunch of deferred maintenance and deferred modernization, and we've got to figure out some way to deal with it."
And, the answer, for a while, was to build your way out of it, which was by the early 2000s and that time period saw so much construction. Well, with the way funding has become much harder to secure and, also, thinking about the implications from a sustainability perspective of not just razing buildings and building new but trying to utilize what you already have on a campus... We can’t build our way out of this mess now. But, we had a lot of folks who had seen the effects of not dealing with that deferred maintenance. So now, we have a group of seasoned veterans in facilities who can start to be at least a little bit more ahead than we were last time.
And, second of all, now we have a lot more tools at our disposal from, certainly, a software perspective to be able to, one, manage all those backlogs, manage all those different types of projects that we see as needs, and then, two, also be able to help communicate those needs to senior executives within the university. At AssetWorks, we call this capability within AiM Assessment and Needs Analysis. It’s great because those tasks that I would perform as a Director in Excel and Power Point now have a home in a purpose-built tool. We’ve got supporting tools now in our arsenal, like Power BI, that we can use, especially if you have it connected with your central facility management software, like AiM, through REST APIs and those sorts of connections, where you can give senior leadership very real-time visibility into the state of your campus, which is something that is relatively new when we think about that. So there’s certainly a lot of opportunity in, one, how to continue to get ahead of the increasing age of campus infrastructure and then, two, being able to document and communicate that information.
Jarboe: Cool. Well, you and I both know that the higher education institution has a very complex buying process that can generally go through, oh, a six-step process from problem identification, solution exploration, requirements building, supplier selection, validation, and consensus creation. So, within this long, complex buying process, when is it the best time for a director of facilities to reach out and contact you?
Jordan: I think that the short answer is the earlier, the better. The sooner that they can get on the phone with us and talk through what their needs are, what their unique challenges are, the better, because the further you get down that road of the procurement process, it begins to tighten up from a couple different ways. One is, certainly, the further you get down that buying process, you have the constraint of time, and secondly, you get to a certain point in the buying process with RFP and bid procedures, you actually can't engage a vendor directly and have those informal conversations that are so valuable. Everything is formal. It's going through a procurement officer. So, get all those questions answered and have those really in-depth conversations before that formal process really starts, and that'll help you get more out of the formal process because hopefully, you'll have answered some of those very, very basic questions, you know, particularly around capabilities within a software before that formal process ever starts. You don't want to be asking somebody, "Can you integrate with my ERP system? Can you integrate with my financial systems?" Once you're already in that RFP process, you should have that basic information from vendors before you ever get to that point. So you can really focus in on the details and those things that you really want to make sure that you are gaining through, you know, that really long and, sometimes, drawn-out discovery process through a formal bid process.
Jarboe: Cool. So, final question: a director of facilities at a college or university generally wants information that is relevant, useful, credible, and easy to use quickly and efficiently. Why are you in a position to provide all that?
Jordan: Well, the simple answer is that our software was designed exactly to do that, and designed for individuals within higher education to gain that information. So we take a holistic view of facilities management, particularly in higher education. We're purpose-built for that industry, so even things like the way our space management component of our software was designed and implemented was with higher education in mind, not the corporate world, for example.
But, at the end of the day, the one thing that we certainly pride ourselves on is the aggregation and easy consumption of information, right? And I alluded to tools like Power BI a little bit earlier in the conversation. Some of those tools have made it even easier. We certainly do have in-app reporting and in-app dashboarding, but some of those business intelligence tools do such a great job, especially for very senior-level leaders, of being able to consume so much of the information that you’d get from a software like ours and be able to put it in a very useful format that tells you a great deal about what’s going on within your facilities from day to day.
And I would say the second reason that AssetWorks is uniquely qualified to do that is because the power of a facility management software, or really any software, for that matter, comes in the implementation of a software. You can have the best software, the most capable software out there, but if it's not implemented properly, you're never going to get the speed to value, and you’re not going to get the ROI that you bargained for as part of that, as you alluded to, that long, drawn-out formal process of procuring the software. You want to have that value, and if you skip on the implementation, chances are, you're just not going to get there.
Our implementation services team, our professional services team, has, on average, 15 years of experience in working with a higher education facility software. Many of them, like me, actually came from that side of the business and now work on the software side of things. So, certainly, they can understand and have been in your shoes as a director of facilities information there on a college campus.
So really, to maximize the value out of the software, the implementation and also understanding your unique business requirements, because what's important to you, what's important to that particular campus or particular individual in a leadership role on campus may be different than a pure institution. So in addition to spending the time and the effort on the implementation, it’s also having a software that’s flexible enough to be configured to your particular business needs.
Note: In future posts, I’ll interview Ken Jordan’s colleagues to give you a better idea of why AssetWorks is more than just the provider of the best facilities management system in higher education. 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.
In 1999, Greg became the VP of Marketing at WebCT, which had been developed by Murray Goldberg, a noted Canadian educational technologist and a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia in Canada. That’s when Greg discovered that the “California roll” had been created at a Vancouver restaurant in the late 1970s.