FM Articles

How One Simple Shift in Thinking Can Improve Your Project Prioritization


When each of your buildings’ needs are treated exactly the same, effectively prioritizing projects can quickly become overwhelming. How can you ever find a place to start when every renovation need seems equally important?

However, the truth is that not every project is equally critical. Some projects will do more to further the campus’ goals than others will, but determining which projects come first requires a framework. To this end, it pays to think of each facility as an asset within a building portfolio.

The Value of Thinking in Portfolios
Just like in a financial portfolio, a building portfolio can be used to establish a framework that helps pinpoint the best use of resources. Your portfolio will be made up of different segments, or groups of buildings, that bear certain similarities. Through this framework, you can better understand how each segment of your portfolio fits into the overarching campus mission.

With this understanding, it suddenly becomes easier to determine which investment strategies will best serve certain problems, or portfolios. And now that you understand the magnitude of impact each portfolio has on your institution’s mission, you can better determine in which order to make improvements, and perform more strategic short- and long-term planning.

Because this big-picture process follows set rules, it can be implemented and then easily updated over the years. With these rules in place, portfolios also can be easily transferred from leader to leader. You’ll also find that this prioritization framework can be a useful tool when it comes time to secure funding for projects.

To implement your own system of building portfolios, consider the following three steps.

Do Your Research
Creating your portfolio depends on insight about both your buildings and the school’s mission. It’s knowledge that no facility manager has all on their own. The first step, then, is to bring together individuals from across the institution who hold some stake in developing the overall mission.


By involving decision-makers from beyond the facilities management arena, you will gain insight into considerations that won’t appear on a traditional facilities assessment. Talk to financial experts about funding mechanisms that might be applicable to certain projects. Get insight from both academic and residential life professionals to determine which areas are leaving students wanting more, and the big picture for the school’s future recruitment efforts. Talk to experts with insight into buildings’ legacy issues as well. Unlike financial portfolios, building investments often may have emotional significance for the donors whose names grace your buildings, for example, and that connection must be respected – and thoroughly documented.

It’s only through discussions with a broad group of interested parties that you can begin to effectively organize facilities into truly useful categories. Through these discussions, you’ll gain a fresh understanding of each building’s true value on campus.

Examine the Facts
Once you understand the value of various portfolio elements, it’s time to consider how these elements are performing. This disciplined examination of campus issues is necessary to best determine how to use your resources to get the maximum impact out of your improvements.

This step requires a data-driven examination of portfolio elements to understand if each asset is performing as expected. If you find in your research that an asset is not meeting users’ needs, this is the time to dig deeper to understand why. After all, there numerous reasons a building may be performing differently than expected.

For example, you may find that more students are gravitating toward your fast food options rather than the main campus-dining hall, despite recent updates to the dining hall aesthetic. Is it time for a complete dining hall overhaul? Or do students want more options spread out across campus for easier accessibility?

Talking with stakeholders can help. But anecdotal evidence is best supported by hard facts. Data can give you deep insight into your problem – and help uncover some possible solutions. Data also help persuade stakeholders make strategic decisions on using resources to turn your solutions into reality.

Put the Pieces Together
Once you have a created your strategic framework, you can now begin to examine how your pieces play into the bigger picture. Your framework will provide a strong overview of how project needs compare. It will also reveal which buildings, or building types, are most in need of investment dollars, and which can wait a bit longer for financing.

Through this framework, you’ll be able to take a more critical look at your assets, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they compare to other assets. With these pieces in place, you can have an informed conversation with financial decision-makers about how best to utilize the institution’s limited resources.

By viewing your building portfolio in its entirety, you can make more methodical long-term decisions and, in time, create a campus that better meets the needs of all faculty, students and staff.

Jay Pearlman is Associate Vice President, Marketing, Sightlines. Jay has been with Sightlines since its inception in 2000. Over the years, he has played a variety of roles across the company, including those in operations, business development, quality control, and product development.

As a key member of a new firm, Jay played a leading part in the development of the Return on Physical Assets Process, Sightlines’ member website, and the tools used to provide comparative benchmarking and analysis. Aside from his work on Sightlines facilities offerings, he led the successful development and implementation of both Go Green and Housing Measurement, Benchmarking and Analysis services. Jay continues to lead several key member engagements each year.