The continued growth of the Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) tools and solutions in Australia and New Zealand Market underscores the desire among Facilities Leaders and Managers to adopt an integrated approach to effectively manage all major aspects of their occupied space. But as the tools available to facilities managers become - in theory - more sophisticated and easier to use, questions about the best approach to implementation of an IWMS strategy ramble on.
The “do more with less” era
Today’s challenging financial environment continues to place significant pressure on Facilities Management professionals to deliver costs savings and business value from their portfolios. It’s no wonder Corporate and Institutional Facilities Management executives are looking more carefully at adoption of Integrated Workplace Systems that offer the promise of better and more accurate information management for help. However, how to select the best IWMS Strategy to match process and workflow and which software solution approach to consider (suite-based solution vs. best-of-breed) for your organisation requires careful thought, an evaluation of ALL available options and a proper vendor/solution provider selection process. Which is better? A number of factors, including organisational structure, detailed and specific information management needs and the existing systems and IT infrastructure need serious consideration.
It has to with the structure
Managing the multiple components of a large occupied space portfolio often requires an organisational bias toward managing real estate as an integrated function. What many of the suite-based IWMS proponents miss is that it’s not the toolset that keeps organisations from a successful integrated approach, it’s the underlying real estate management model at fault. Without a centralised organisation in place to drive business process and workflow, facilities managers may find the true benefits of and form of IWMS solution harder to manage when in place and harder to justify during the business case and acquisition phase.
How much is too much?
The challenges involved with the selection, acquisition and implementation of a suite-based Integrated Workplace Management System can prove daunting to even large-scale organisations and has even been compared by some to the challenges of implementing an enterprise ERP system. Given the number of data touchpoints, required integration to existing infrastructure systems, multiple stakeholders with varying information management priorities and the overall software complexity of many suite-based IWMS systems, it’s easy to understand the comparison.
Single-platform, suite-based IWMS systems can offer the promise of broad functionality across the main real estate management disciplines. And the logic that a single system will improve information access and data integrity by minimising input points. What is often missed in the evaluation, however, is the trade-off necessary to achieve this level of functionality. To justify the larger initial software costs associated with suite-based IWMS solutions, it’s often necessary to build out a project plan with longer time to value metrics dependent on implementation across a wider footprint of departments and real estate functions. Especially challenging is the decentralised organisation where multiple stakeholders across diverse functional groups must endorse the acquisition and by default become part of the ongoing implementation team.
To counter the challenges of a single large scale implementation, many software solutions are available in modules offering organisations the opportunity to implement in stages or just acquire the functionality most critical to their operation. While often a better solution to the large-scale implementation requiring months or years of resource time, significant software customisation and associated service fees, this approach can end up negating many of the promised advantages of a broad-based IWMS solution. If an organisation opts for a complete IWMS implementation they should be prepared for an ERP-like project implementation cycle.
One size may not fit all
Beyond business process and project scale, there are a number of factors that can enter the decision process surrounding IWMS. One things that becomes clear quickly in evaluating corporate real estate management across different market sectors is the diversity of requirements that exists. Matching functional business requirements to specific software features during the acquisition phase is critical to avoid paying for unneeded functionality or paying for significant customisation during implementation.
The right strategy
With the variety of functional needs, available options and increasing pressure to transform real estate into a strategic asset, which approach should Real Estate Professionals pursue? The answer may not be instantly clear, but basic process and evaluation recommendations can be made. These include:
Perform a fundamental and comprehensive needs analysis
Evaluate existing organisational structure and workflow
Determine the approach that makes the most sense for required functionality AND quick payback
Understand that not all “integrated” solutions are alike
Choose a software platform that allows for growth
Don’t overlook implementation and customisation costs, in time and dollars
Select a vendor with a history of delivering the promised solution
Minimise costs for maintenance and application management
BeyondFM is a vendor neutral provider of strategic consulting solutions. We do not subscribe to, support, or endorse any one specific product or service. We invest in our client's future by working with them to find the optimal solution which meets current and future strategic initiatives and operational requirements.
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