Estate Management – The Rise of the Single Technology Platform
Estate management can be very complex, with a requirement to capture huge quantities of information and ensure it is managed effectively, to ensure optimal performance, maximum return on investment and that compliance is maintained. With this in mind, why wouldn’t you manage your estate with one single technology platform? It’s a no brainer.
What is an estate management platform?
This is open to interpretation. My view is that an estate management platform is a consolidated collection of technology (software and hardware) that has been specifically chosen to facilitate the delivery of the estate management strategy. It should be the single point for data entry and management for all aspects of the estate.
Most organisations see the holy grail as an estate management solution which allows them to enter, store, manage and drive improvements from a single database for all information covering every facet of the entire estate.
Is it possible to adopt a single estate management technology platform? Or are there just too many competing needs and too many people pulling in too many different directions?
There are still more Excel and manual processes in place than most organisations would like, replacing these processes is a challenge. In other instances, asset/building/space information and locations/data is being entered multiple times into multiple systems, that are not always updated at the same rate.
Facilities management, estates, lease management, accountancy, compliance, health and safety, energy management teams often adopt different CAFM software with no joined-up approach. A lack of collaboration is leading to the purchase of/requirement for multiple systems. This can happen accidently as departments have a lack of alignment on estates management technology strategy or intentionally with departments wanting their own system to meet their specific needs.
The first thing that must be done is to work more collaboratively, understand what all the challenges are and adopt a platform which meets as many of these as possible. This platform can feed other solutions to stop double data entry and management. In order to do this, organisations need to create a culture where all departments consider the impact change will have on the technology platform. They need to understand that their solution must be able to feed a central repository of estates data rather than just coming across an issue and impulsively buying a point solution to fill the gap.
Considerations when reducing the number of estate management solutions
I’m not necessarily advocating the adoption of one software solution. It is not optimal for all organisations, but one integrated platform is. Organisations must strive to get to a platform where data is only inputted once.
Organisations need to consider tradeoffs between configuring a single system to meet organisational needs and looking to integrate a point solution which is loved. The challenges around any integration are firstly getting two systems to work with each other, but then supporting and maintaining that integration. Who do you go to with support queries? If one solution is upgraded, what are the impacts on the other integrated solution(s)? Having said this, it may be more efficient than heavily customising a solution which isn’t originally fit for purpose and then experiencing restrictions in upgrading this solution as a result.
Point solutions have been developed to meet a specific need, so would be expected to be good at doing this single thing. More comprehensive IWMS/CAFM software/Estate management solutions have been developed to meet a wide range of challenges. This may mean that they do not meet a specific challenge in exactly the right way and require configuration to do so.
Do you want to rationalise all estates management software and commit to just one supplier?
Potential risks to consider:
Benefits to consider:
- All your eggs in one basket - is the platform provider financially secure?
- Are you able to get data out of the solution, should you wish to change?
- Will the platform continue to be developed based on your future needs?
- Solution may have to be heavily configured to meet organisational needs or processes that may have to be changed to meet the solutions limitations
- Economies of scale
- Potential reduced infrastructure costs with hosting in one place
- Single supplier to manage; no danger of multiple supplier challenges
- Maintain training on one single platform will ensure the team is more involved, and it will be less likely to lose a system champion. With more champions using the same platform, there will be better understanding of the platform and processes
- Improved data transfer, with no need for unnecessary integration and associated costs
- Enables simpler expansion and quicker growth
- Simplification of technology environment with centralised data storage and hardware management
- Removes duplicate technology capability
Benefits of working towards a single estate management platform
With a single area for management reports, the head of estates or operations directors will no longer need to chase each department for performance data. Data can be gathered from one dashboard/suite of reports. Think of the time saving for all involved. The demonstration of alignment with colleagues and ability to work together as an estate’s management team, can drive improved efficiency and reduction of costs across the business. This will assist with making project and business decisions, and increase the ease of justification of business cases for all departments. Those allocating funding can see where investment is really needed, based on highlighted issues or strong performance.
The inputting of all information into one platform creates a single source of the truth and ensures that all members of all teams are looking at the same data. It also makes data much easier to find and access by all those who need it, as it is stored in a central repository.
Rather than having multiple self-contained systems, the adoption of a single platform will bring additional benefits, allowing visibility of information and works progress across teams.
Systems will be bought more rationally ensuring there is no duplication of functionality and are plugged in to the platform in a cost-efficient way (with cost of addition/integration always being considered). In addition to this, there will be a huge saving of employee’s time, with reduced data entry, time wasted looking for information and reporting.
It is no coincidence that those organisations who have most effectively deployed estates management technology have co-ordination and an overall strategy. This can be led by any of those involved in estates, Facilities Managers or IT, but needs to be controlled and all parties need to be given visibility of the solutions under consideration by each team and procurement.
Consider configuration of a single solution versus integration of multiple, but all organisations should be moving towards a single estate management platform.
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