By Leigh Jasper
Leigh Jasper, MD of Australian company Aconex, stresses the importance of information collaboration.
How much information does a facility manager need to manage? Tenancy layouts, health and safety information, as-built drawings, lease agreements, structural drawings, asset registers, operations and maintenance manuals, emails, correspondence... the list is almost endless.
Information management is a critical business enabler for FM professionals and despite being fundamental to the role, there is little current validated data on how facility information is managed or on how processes can be improved and best practice achieved.
For this reason, the Facility Management Association of Australia (FMA) partnered with online information management company Aconex to survey the practices, systems and tools used in the Australian FM industry and to assess technology that may take the industry forward.
Research for the report was conducted via an online questionnaire, which was completed by 555 FMA Australia professionals. The majority of respondents were facility managers, with directors, general managers, project managers and consultants also represented.
The vast majority of respondents (85%) identified the following three areas as most critical to facility information management (FIM): Finding and retrieving information, collaborative information access among multiple parties and capturing and storing information efficiently.
Managers stated that finding information is an area of significant cost, both in terms of time spent searching and in terms of consequential damage as a result of dealing with dated and/or inaccurate information:
• Only 25% of respondents can find the information they require within 10 minutes;
• 70% have worked from out-of-date data;
• A quarter of people regularly reproduce information because they cannot find it;
• Up to a third of organisations have suffered financial loss due to missed deadlines on lease renewals/agreements or service contracts;
• 7% can find all the information owned by their predecessor.
Respondents said that they were faced with the task of managing multiple sites, managing teams of varying numbers, dealing with multiple stakeholders and reporting to senior management. It is therefore little surprise that ‘collaborative information access for multiple parties' was the second highest priority for FMs:
• In 70% of cases, five or more people were responsible for information management at a facility; in 29% of cases, 20 or more people were responsible;
• Email, phone and fax are still the most common methods of communication with external parties;
• 77% of respondents need access to information for more than one facility at a time.
Capturing and storing information is the third greatest area of concern for respondents:
• Excel spreadsheets, shared network drives and hard copy filing are widely used, but inherent problems were reported;
• Facility managers are facing legal disputes due to lost or inaccurate information;
• 55% of all information a FM uses is from the design and construction phases, yet 44% of facility managers stated that little of this information was available to them at handover;
• When asked: ‘How useful would it be to capture documents and correspondence into a central archive from the start of the design and construction phases of a project?' 98% said it would be ‘useful' or ‘extremely useful'.
Respondents overwhelmingly (80%) indicated they want to move towards electronic information management. Therefore the solution to information management issues will most likely be resolved by technologies that utilise electronic document management and storage. Use of collaboration technology in the construction industry has doubled each year for the past five years and more recently, an increasing number of facility managers have started to use such solutions.
Collaboration technology solutions are web-based systems that allow users to store, track and share documentation online. In practice, this means that documents are archived in a central, online repository where they can be easily retrieved or distributed.
Because the system is web-based, consultants, designers and other suppliers are able to deposit, update and distribute documents electronically in real time. This streamlines communication between facility managers and their supply chain and decreases printing, distribution and storage costs.
The solution allows information for any number of properties to be archived centrally and accessed instantly, helping FMs control physical assets and manage relationships with tenants and other stakeholders.
The FMA-Aconex research indicates there is still a large gap between what FM professionals need, and their current information management practices.
Collaboration technology can address the industry's most critical information management ‘pain points': finding and retrieving information; collaborative access among multiple parties; and capturing and storing information.
This suggests that collaboration technology can provide a valuable information management tool for the facility management profession.