By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering
What is facility management software? For many businesses, it’s a cornerstone of their operational management approach–specifically when it comes to workplace management.
Computer-aided facility management (CAFM) software provides a useful tool for multi-employee organizations with complex space management needs. From assigning seats, to planning a move or assisting in the collection and analysis of real estate utilization data, a facility management software system makes many aspects of facilities management (FM) easier.
Selecting the best integrated workplace management software (IWMS) for your needs is the key to getting the most from this useful tool. If you’ve never used a digital IWMS or CAFM system before, or are unsatisfied with your current program, this guide will help you make an ideal selection when the time comes.
Evaluate Your Current Facility Management Needs
Before you start shopping for FM software, take stock of your facility management needs. Getting the most out of computer aided facilities management software starts by first understanding how you’re going to apply it and to what degree. Some great questions to ask include:
How many employees do you have?
- What kind of building are you in?
- Do you share the space with other organizations or is your group the sole occupier of your current premises?
- How is your decision-making process, including project management, asset management, and maintenance management?
From move management, to space allocation and real estate forecasting, to workspace management, your IWMS should make your management efforts run more efficiently and smoothly. Also, think about what facility management tasks could be more effective within your organization as a whole. Examples include:
- Are you having trouble convincing management that certain changes are needed because you can’t capture the right data?
- Are employees getting into conflicts over who can use what space when?
- Does the office generally feel cramped and uncomfortable, even though you have plenty of room to work with?
- Do you have to print out old-school seating charts on paper and mark it with a pen?
This kind of introspection is the first step down the road toward unlocking maximum facility management benefits from software that meets your business’ day-to-day operational needs.
Identify Your Top 3 Most Critical Facility Management Tasks
After you’ve made a big-picture assessment of what you need from a CAFM software program, get more specific so you can zero in on the features that matter most. Specifically, think of the top three most important facility management tasks you need to take care of on a regular basis.
What would have the biggest positive impact on your office within the next month if you implemented a new IWMS program? For example, if you’re staring down the barrel of a big office move and are already starting to sense a non-digitized organization plan going off the rails, this could well be your most important issue. Likewise, if employees are reporting a lack of satisfaction over their ability to collaborate in the office and it’s having a noticeable impact on productivity, it’s time to get help today. A well-run facility management program can be a key factor in facilitating productivity for individual employees on a day-to-day basis in the workplace
The purpose of this exercise is to identify the features in facility management software that are most important and applicable to you. Few IWMS/CAFM programs have it all and, if they do, chances are they’re stuffed with features you aren’t going to use. But that may not always be the case. Every office is different, every organization is different and every facility management team is justified in taking a customized approach. That’s why it’s so important to take a personalized inventory of what
your specific needs are.
Consider Difficulty of Implementation
There are several reasons to avoid bloated software with features you don’t need. Chief among them is the fact that these programs are more complex than necessary for you, which means onboarding and implementation will be more cumbersome and time-consuming. The team members in your office probably already have a lot of work on their plates and plenty of skills they’d like to learn in order to perform their jobs better. Having to learn how to wrangle a too-complex IWMS/CAFM system likely isn’t on the priority list.
If your staff doesn’t learn to use the software, it means implementation and adoption will be far less successful than it would be if the program was intuitive and easy-to-use. Your goal should be to make implementation a smooth and easy process that requires minimal training to your employees. Often, the best facility management software requires less input from the IT department and offers a cloud-based facilities management program at the root of business operations to ensure you’re equipped to not only evolve with the times, but thrive in an agile, unpredictable environment.
Finally, consider your options when it comes to application-based platforms versus web based facilities management software. Depending on the deployment and accessibility options for your software, it may be more or less applicable to your workplace environment. For example, web based software can provide accessibility from multiple locations for larger companies, whereas application-based software may be suitable for single locations.
Assess User Interface and Features to Facilitate Widespread Adoption
Ease of use isn’t just about the figurative weight of the program. A slimmed-down IWMS that addresses your particular needs is likely to be easier to adopt, but the user interface is important as well. Even seemingly minor concerns like the quality of the design and the intuitiveness of the user controls will influence how happy your staff is to use the platform you choose. An easy user experience is likely to result in
better use of the product. This means that your initial investment in the software will pay off because it’s likely to become a part of the day-to-day operational culture of your organization.
It can also be useful to look for an IWMS/CAFM program that integrates seamlessly with the collaboration and communication tools you already use. Easy, clickable space allocation and employee location features are great facility management benefits that can make user interface effective, but it’s best if these tools don’t have to exist in a vacuum, separate from all the other ways your team communicates.
A system that keeps good records of your facilities management activities can also provide value by automating tasks that once required a lot of time and effort. This “system of record” feature alone can impact adoption and provide value.
Think Ahead to Future Needs
Choosing the top facilities management software for you is like choosing a car or buying a house: you’ll want to think about the ways your use of the platform will change over time. The needs you have today may not be the needs you have six months or a year from now. Thinking ahead can make it easier to find an IWMS/CAFM software program that can change along with you and continue to meet your needs regardless of what happens in the future.
For example, let’s say that move management isn’t in your top three priorities at this point in time, but your company is likely to grow by leaps and bounds over the next five years. Growth means bringing in new employees, which means planning new floorplans and performing close analysis of your real estate utilization. If everything goes according to plan, you’ll probably need to move into a new office to accommodate all those new team members and, at that point, move management would become a helpful feature in the IWMS/CAFM platform you choose.
This is just one example of the many ways in which anticipating your future needs makes it easier to select the right facility management software program. Think beyond what you need now and look for computer aided facility management software that can grow and change with you.
Future-proofing can also be a concern. Outdated technology like Java and Flash may have been the standard in the past, but these languages are becoming obsolete as modern technology relies on other languages to communicate. If you want your IWMS/CAFM to grow with your organization, you’ll need to select a platform that runs on updated technology like HTML5 and relies on cloud-based communication.
Don’t Discount Comfort and Word-of-Mouth
Making a final decision in this arena can be tough, so don’t hesitate to validate your assumptions and rely on other professionals’ words to narrow down your options. Often, the best facility management software is backed by glowing recommendations by users who have found value in the platform.
The decision you make can have a far-reaching impact on your organization, but you don’t need to feel too much pressure. If you use a system that just feels too impersonal and looks like it was designed 20 years ago, that alone may dissuade you from wanting to adopt that particular system. Look and feel of the platform matter, especially when you’re dealing with something that you want your entire workplace to interact with. Knowing that others have successfully adopted and implemented a particular technology can be valuable, as it provides a real-world context for the features you’ve seen in a demo.
The vendor you choose should also be willing to work with you and address your organization’s particular needs. For example, if there’s a feature you really want to see in a few years, it’d be nice if the vendor was eager to hear that feedback. FM software is a big deal and that’s a good thing. It provides a big-impact service for those who need it.
Each year there are also new facility management trends to consider.
Demo and Explore
If possible, be sure to demo or trial as many of your potential software candidates as you can. Not only will this give you a hands-on, real-time understanding and feel for the platform, it’ll clue you in on what to expect if you end up choosing that particular facility management software system.
A guided demo is a great way to get a step-by-step introduction to the platform and will also give you a chance to ask any questions you have, to be answered by a representative during your demo. Likewise, unguided trials give you the freedom to explore the platform for yourself without interruption. Both forays give you ample opportunity to set your expectations and discern what you like or don’t like about the interface or functionality of the platform. They also allow you to mark down specific features of facility management software you may want to look into further in other platforms or measure against your own needs.
Making the Final Decision
Once you’ve taken the time to vet the various facility management software systems against the criteria outlined here, it’s time to make a confident decision that will benefit you, your staff and your business. Check each platform against your criteria, notes, criticisms, reviews and positive checks to see which options make themselves apparent and viable. Also review if outsourcing facility management is a fit for your company. Then, narrow by things like price point, ease of implementation, preference and more. Choose wisely and you’ll see great ROI before you know it!
Read next, the ultimate facility managers checklist.
By Shahar Alster
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder
Space planning software is a modern staple in many work environments, chiefly because it provides facility managers with a visual understanding of the space available to them. It’s a top-down view of the square footage available and, perhaps more importantly, its potential for utilization. Space planning software incorporates elements of traditional floorplans, dynamic mapping software and facilities management benchmarks into a single resource that makes understanding your workspace easier.
More than just a way to set up your workspace, space planning software is also a critical contributor in managing it. Few modern workplaces are static—space planning software recognizes the dynamic nature of your facilities and allows you to keep up with changes before, during and after they occur.
To truly understand the power of space planning software, however, it’s important to know how it impacts the modern workplace and just how far we’ve come technologically in workspace design.
The Stone Age of Polylining
Not all that long ago, workspace planning was done via pen and paper. Much like an architect might draft designs on grid paper, facilities managers used pencils and rulers to draw scale diagrams of their workspaces. This practice was called polylining.
Despite once being standard practice in facilities management and space planning, polylining isn’t used much anymore. Not only is it extremely time-consuming and very prone to error, it’s simply antiquated in the face of CAFM software and more robust space planning tools. Today’s computer applications can accomplish the same task quicker and with greater precision.
The other major downside to polylining was the sheer amount of paperwork. If your business was large enough to span multiple departments, floors or even locations, you could expect to tote around dozens and dozens of floorplans at any given time. It simply wasn’t practical.
The one good thing to come out of polylining was the concept of dynamic space planning software. It’s not surprising that facilities managers everywhere were fed up with constantly drawing and changing their drafts! Space planning software was borne thanks to a combination of demand and technological capability. And it’s still evolving today!
Establishing a Top-Down View
Modern space planning software is establishing itself as a vital component of facilities management and it’s important to understand why, starting at the top. Specifically, it’s about creating a top-down view of your workspace.
Facilities managers need absolute oversight of their workplace. This includes where people are sitting, what spaces are unoccupied, the accommodations of the workplace, where utilities are located, the floorplan of the building and much, much more. CAFM software with space planning tools makes this level of oversight possible. Where polylining only delivered layout, CAFM platforms enable facilities managers to access just about anything they might want to know about the space they oversee.
At any given time, administrators can open a live overhead view of their workspace and see exactly where everyone is and, more importantly, information about their space—both available and occupied. This is useful for instant accountability, such as:
- Finding a hot desk for a contractor or consultant
- Locating a specific employee or workstation
- Seeing the current capacity of a certain space or department
- Visualizing floorplans side by side across locations
- Determining whether or not a meeting room is free for use
And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to modern day space planning software! The true power of CAFM tools can be put to use when it comes to dynamic interaction with your space.
Accommodating Dynamic Working Environments
A top-down, static view of facilities is great for reference at a glance. However, when it comes to planning movement or adapting a floorplan, space planning software is really primed to shine! Being able to physically interact with a responsive facilities template enables managers to calculate next steps and adjustment ramifications on-the-fly. Let’s take a look at an example:
Your business is expanding to occupy 2 new offices adjacent to your existing space on the same floor. You’re also adding 5 full-time employees and 5 part-time workers. Mocking up your new and existing facilities with a space planning tool, you’re able to drag and drop employees, arranging them dynamically between your cumulative facilities. You can also plan out hot desks for your part-time workers. CAFM software enables you to constantly arrange and rearrange until you have a layout that’s efficient and accommodating.
The above example is just one of a larger number of challenges facilities managers face in the modern workplace. Few workplaces stay the same month-over-month as they adapt to the needs of the workforce occupying them or the ebb and flow of business growth and development. Because space planning software offers scalable oversight of your facilities, it offers solutions for any situation that may require real-time administration, such as:
- Interdepartmental moves
- Workstation relocation
- Hot desk management
- Business expansion
- Department migration
- Collaborative space management
Space planning software also offers an invaluable approach to scenario testing. Save templates of your core workspace and duplicate them in order to test theories about department moves, workstation relocation, cluster and neighborhood groupings, dynamic workspaces and more. It’s possible to see the benefits and drawbacks of these possibilities visually on paper, before you set them in motion.
Getting a Grip on Facilities Efficiency
Above all, facilities managers are tasked with making sure the space they oversee is operating efficiently. For this to occur, a balance needs to be struck between the workspace and the people in it, as well as with sections of the workspaces as part of the cumulative facilities. It’s a hard line to toe! Space planning software makes it easier by providing insights that may not always be overtly present. As an example:
Looking at your floorplan, you see that 5 employees are seated in an area with capacity for 12. Likewise, several of your other office spaces have extra capacity. By dynamically mapping workstation relocations, it’s possible to reorganize your staff within other areas of the building to eliminate the need for the under-utilized space. You’ll save on rent and utilities by downsizing the space. And, your space planning strategy can be coordinated to mitigate any loss in productivity before and after the relocation.
Shuffling around employees to better utilize facilities is only the start when it comes to the optimization capabilities of space planning software. Consider managing an entire real estate portfolio across different countries, all from a dashboard that gives you insights into exactly how your available space is being used!
Efficiency through space planning is something businesses big and small can and should be paying close attention to. From eliminating unnecessary real estate costs, to maximizing square footage productivity, to optimizing utility costs within a workspace, it’s all possible through robust space planning software.
Collaboration with Those Who Have Insight
Let’s also take a moment to recognize the collaborative nature of space planning software. Facilities management isn’t always about oversight—it’s quite often about working in tandem with department heads or administrative professionals to execute improvements to the workspace. Having software that supports team-based inputs is a hallmark of good facilities management.
Being able to collaborate on floorplan proposals, relocation plans and other aspects of a changing workplace mitigates the potential for setbacks and unseen barriers. For example, consulting with department heads before a move can alert facilities managers to logistical concerns, such as the need for sales to be positioned next to implementation for daily collaboration. Or, it might yield foresight into complications with a proposed space that multiple departments may need access to. Getting feedback and input from the right people is necessary and convenient when consolidated into CAFM and space planning software.
Planning for a Better Workplace
Space planning software is at the heart of just about every major facilities management decision in today’s modern, dynamic workplace. Not only does it enable a clear view of facilities, it affords managers forward-looking opportunities, provides efficiency insights and offers much-needed collaboration with “boots on the ground” across all business departments. Simply put: it’s an invaluable tool for running a lean, efficient, mistake-free workplace.
Whether your business has 5, 50 or 500 workers, creating the ideal work environment is all about understanding the parameters and opportunities of your facilities. CAFM and space planning software unlock much-needed insights and afford managers tools to go about designing and implementing a workspace that’s optimized for efficiency, productivity and comfort. This, in turn, fosters a more engaged workforce and improves business productivity.
When you consider the fact that space planning software makes such a refined level of oversight possible in a dynamic capacity, each and every day, it’s no wonder modern businesses are putting huge stock in its capabilities! If you’re not currently utilizing a CAFM platform and space planning software, it’s time to get familiar with these technological tools and start planning for a better workplace.