FM Articles

Transparency Helps Deal With Facility Management Challenges


The demands on facility managers are significant. You have to battle on several different fronts at the same time. From occupants to contractors, from building owners to your team, everybody is looking to you for the success of the facility. In addition, you are often under pressure to further reduce operating costs.

This is a service industry where you need to continually look for ways to improve daily processes and deliver more value to your stakeholders.

But, the way FM professionals handle and respond to these demands and challenges can make all the difference between success and failure. On that note, it’s imperative that you consider avenues to make your job easier by providing insights – for yourself and all concerned – about those areas where the most challenges tend to crop up.

Whether these challenges are big or small, it’s essential to understand how focus and clarity on each of them will help to improve overall performance. What better way to achieve this than being transparent in your transactions?

The following is a look at exactly how transparency can impact facility management.

What Do We Mean By Transparency?
Transparency is generally considered as the quality of being easy to see through. The state of being open and honest about what’s going on. It’s asking yourself if your processes can bear public scrutiny.

Taking it a bit further, the Business Dictionary defines transparency as a “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.”

Looking at these and many more definitions out there, it’s easy to see that there are some common elements that any facility manager would want to consider when they’re looking to increase transparency. That takes us to the next point.

Why Be Transparent In Facility Management?
We mentioned stakeholders earlier on. These include your occupants, customers, the building owner, any investors, vendors/contractors, your employer, and your team. The goal here is to make it easy for each of these categories of people to see what actions you are performing and why. For transparency to have the desired effects, it implies that you need to communicate, be open, and be accountable.

Here are just a few reasons why you need transparency:

  • Transparency encourages trust. Transparency creates an atmosphere for trust to grow. If everyone that has reason to interact with you or use the facility has access to information when they need it and they can see the reasoning behind your actions, there is hardly room for doubt. They are more likely to get on board with whatever decisions are being made.
  • Transparency gets you more feedback. Feedback is vital for your success as a facility manager. It’s also a necessary aspect of the continuous improvement we seek in this industry. Feedback will allow you make little adjustments or even make major course corrections as you move along.
  • Transparency increases your commitment. All eyes are on you. This benefits and improves both the facility and you. First, it obligates you to keep your commitment and promises to the organization leading to better service delivery. Second, you show everyone how you’re holding up your end of the bargain thereby improving your value and positioning yourself for more leadership opportunities.

Most Common Areas That Need Transparency
Now, let’s take a practical look at some of the essential areas you’ll be looking to implement transparency. This list is not exhaustive but the major areas of interest include:

1) Maintenance Metrics
This starts with understanding what are your key metrics – if you are not measuring anything then you can’t improve it. Consider which maintenance metrics qualify as key performance indicators (KPIs) in your organization like total equipment downtime, deferred maintenance backlog, electricity consumption, mean time between failure (MTBF), or planned maintenance percentage, just to mention a few.

Then look at how you’re capturing and tracking them, and how much visibility everybody currently has. Whatever your metrics may be, they are useless to you and others if they are not transparent.

For instance, let’s take the metrics of total equipment downtime. You’re going to need clarity into:

  • How often are these machines breaking down?
  • Are the intervals between one failure incident and the other increasing or decreasing?
  • Is this a recurring problem?
  • Do you currently have a percentage allowance for unplanned downtime e.g. 10 percent or less?
  • How is this data being captured and is it accurate?
  • Have you made the best use of previous breakdown data to improve the time to repair?

And so on.

At the end of this exercise, it’s easier for everyone to see what’s working or not, how far away you are from your performance targets, and how to close any gaps. Fortunately, these days with resources like the Internet of Things (IoT), it has become easier than ever to capture real-time data from sensors. This gives you a better chance at a more complete picture of what’s happening as quickly and as accurately as possible.

Also, it is important to note that all of the mentioned metrics and data is way easier to track using a modern CMMS.

2) Communication 
Another vital part of transparency is developing the quality of sharing information – both good and bad – with your stakeholders. Transparent and continuous communication will help to create better cohesion between your customers, occupants, and team as everyone is focused on achieving the same set of goals and targets. You’ll need to find the most effective ways to communicate things like change of plans, current needs, future projections, achievements and setbacks, etc. so as to keep their trust.

Some ways to do this includes using electronic media, newsletters, and hosting regular short meetings. Sharing of information also includes the kinds of reports you’re generating. Regarding reports, it’s advisable to have a proper reporting structure in place – decide what kind of reports are needed, who is reporting to whom, how often, and how the reports will be utilized. Most CMMS solutions can help you generate useful reports in just a few clicks.

Last but not least, whatever information you are sharing should be frequent, clear, and use simple words. After all, the number itself doesn’t mean much when it isn’t put in the proper context.

3) Revenue and Expenses
Controlling costs is a primary focus that all facility managers can relate with and many times, your managerial skills will be judged by how well you manage funds.

There are so many categories of costs you’ll need to track and they typically include maintenance, labor, inventory and procurement, third party costs, and more. Each of these expenses will be competing for the available funds.

Again, transparency or in this case, cost transparency and a thorough reporting structure will help you catch any abnormal spending trends. Additionally, clarity into what funds are available aids the decision making process for scheduling expenditures optimally. Overall, it becomes easier to detect those areas that are consuming the most revenue and help you take steps to improve cost performance.

As buildings continue to get smarter and related technologies more sophisticated, proactive facility managers have better opportunities to find all the resources and tools they need to manage their responsibilities effectively. Even better, areas of FM that have been vague or hidden in the past can now be discussed openly.

However, note that this is a long-term and ongoing effort. As expected, there will be times you will worry about people’s responses or they may even react negatively. Remain focused and honest as it’s always better to come clean than put on a facade that all is well when it’s not.

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO at Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.