Managing Your Facilities in a Modern World

I love my smart phone.  I have friends who still use flip phones.  When I ask them about it, I’m always a little careful.  People who use flip phones can be a little touchy.  If I ask why they don’t use a smart phone, they invariably tell me that the flip phone does everything they need; that they’re used to it; that they don’t need the complexity, bells, and whistles of a smart phone.  If I’m riding with them and use my phone to navigate, or use it to divide the tab at a restaurant, they’re very quiet.

I love Integrated Workplace Management Systems, ARCHIBUS specifically.  I know people who still use spreadsheets and a loose collection of other applications to manage their facilities.  They’re a little like my friends who use flip phones.  They say that spreadsheets do everything they need.  They’re familiar with spreadsheets.  They say they don’t need the bells and whistles that IWMS offers.  Fair enough.

A few months ago, I was visiting with a potential client to talk about implementing a comprehensive Personnel and Occupancy system.  We had a committee of people in the room.  Most were in favor of moving to ARCHIBUS.  A smaller group didn’t see the need.  That smaller group was comfortable with the current system of shared spreadsheets they had in place.

Each building on their large campus had an administrator who was responsible for maintaining the personnel locator spreadsheet and keeping it up to date.  They communicated by email or phone calls to coordinate their efforts, to be sure everyone had an appropriate work space and that there was no duplication.  We gathered the spreadsheets from a small sample of their buildings to do a pilot project, to show them how ARCHIBUS might help them.  When we loaded the data from the spreadsheets into ARCHIBUS, we got some interesting and surprising results.

Some enterprising staff members had taken advantage of the multiple sources of truth for employee locations.  Some had more than one desk or office in a building.  Some had offices in multiple buildings.
Without a single source of truth — an integrated Personnel and Occupancy system — it was impossible to stop people from assigning themselves the luxury of multiple offices.

Now, the Integrated Workplace Management System is fully implemented.  Some of those people still have more than one work space.  They have the political clout or the actual need for that flexibility.  But the space is managed and allocated to meet the goals and purposes of the organization, with consideration for the needs of individuals, of course.  The organization’s investments in real-estate, maintenance, and energy are being managed more effectively.  It’s easier to find people, to make connections, and collaborate.

My impression is that, in some ways, Integrated Workplace Management Systems and smart phones have a lot in common.  They help us manage our resources thoughtfully and purposefully in the face of complexity, change, and limited resources.  It’s possible to get along without IWMS or without a smart phone.  But why would anybody do that?

This week’s article was brought to you by one of our Executive Staff, Tawn.  Tawn is an incredibly valuable member of RSC.  He has 30+ years of experience in Architecture and provides useful insight.  His ability to communicate thoughtfully and thoroughly is one of his best assets


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Making the Move from Excel to IWMS

Recently, we came across an article on the importance of Facilities Management Departments (FMs) moving away from Excel and toward a reliable IWMS or CAFM system.  This article truly inspired us, so we decided to put our own twist on the subject.

Too many companies are taking on extra work and stress by recording their facilities data in excel spreadsheets.  No matter how large or small the company is, we at RSC believe that every Facilities Department deserves more than what excel can provide.

Facilities Management is a dynamic role.

Over time, FM’s have found themselves playing a greater part in strategic decision making within a company.   This has increased the need for facilities management as a whole to have constant access to immediate, accurate, real time data that enables them to provide meaningful information for the business that has direct impact on the bottom line.  While excel can provide a very basic and inexpensive solution for small business with no risk of financial penalties for any potential under-performance, an excel spreadsheet can’t:

  • Provide accurate complex reporting
  • Provide real-time data updates on work order
  • Can’t assign or prioritize tasks to send out jobs

Excel spreadsheets often have gross data inaccuracy, causing a lack of integrity in reporting.  Relying solely on excel can result in serious errors in data as Facility Managers attempt to track a variety data (e.g., moves, work requests, hotelling, lease renewals, etc)  across multiple workstations and geographical locations. “. . . [R]elying on spreadsheet as a primary source of information for FM, reactive and planned maintenance, and asset and performance management has severe limitations. . . .  They can even become counterproductive to FM, causing it to lose impact and detract from its business critical function.”   Even more spreadsheets cannot provide data security.  Once you have released data in spreadsheet form, it’s out in the world.  It can’t be controlled.  If you have sensitive data, it is significantly safer to record, maintain, and report inside an IWMS application like ARCHIBUS which has proper data access controls.

Luckily, if you or your company are still using excel to track your data, there is a light at the end of the tunnel!  Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) Software like an IWMS can solve all those issues. An IWMS application, like ARCHIBUS, can:

  • Be Proactive. An IWMS is made to notify people when things happen that are of concern to them – new work requests, or leases coming up for renewal.  It sends emails reminding people of what they need to do next.  It’s tough to get a spreadsheet to do this.

  • Segment Data. When someone has access to a spreadsheet, they can see what’s in there and change it.  In an IWMS application, you are assigned a role that only allows you to update the data you need to update.  This means people aren’t confused by seeing what doesn’t matter to them.  Segmented data forces data integrity, because only people that should change particular data can change it.

  • Global Functionality.  Although these days spreadsheets can be shared, it’s awfully difficult to have many people update the same spreadsheet (say, add on-demand work requests) simultaneously.  IWMS systems are great at making functionality available to multiple people simultaneously.

  • Collaboration.  Many processes require that a group of widely-separated people work together.  One person makes a request, another assigns it to a workman, the workman completes the work, an inspector reviews the work, the person who requested the work answers a survey about the quality of the work.  It’s difficult for such a detailed process to happen via a spreadsheet, especially one where different versions are kept on different desktops.  For processes that involve multiple people, you really need an application (like an IWMS) with true workflow.

We at RSC are dedicated to helping you seamlessly make the transition to an IWMS application, like ARCHIBUS.  Ditch the stress that comes from working with excel spreadsheets and make the move to an IWMS application.  It will be one of the best decisions your Facilities Department and company makes.  An IWMS truly is the best solution for your Facilities needs.  For more information, check out our Keys to a Successful IWMS Implementation or contact us directly at info@rsc2lc.com


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ARCHIBUS Client Server & Excel Pivot Table Reporting

BAATUG is a wonderful training event because it is more than just information on ARCHIBUS.  Often times, head of Robert Stephen Consulting, LLC, Bob Stephen, demonstrates tips, techniques, and best practices that make your workflow significantly easier.

A while back, Bob Stephen shared some tricks at an amazing BAATUG event hosted by Stanford.  This little technique Bob taught was so good that we created a tutorial to share with all you who missed the event.

This tutorial is broken into two parts:

  1. Writing reports in Microsoft Excel
  2. Exporting ARCHIBUS data to Microsoft Excel and updating it regularly

Sometimes you need a report that just isn’t in ARCHIBUS, or that you don’t want to be in ARCHIBUS, because you’d rather use the flexibility and power of Excel to combine the data from ARCHIBUS with other sources, or to slice and dice it using Excel Pivot Tables.  All of these things are possible using the technique described below.

The reason this works is because ARCHIBUS Client Server uses ODBC connections to reach the database, and so can Excel.  From this point forward, we will assume you know the afm password to the database.

Below are the steps:

  • Open a new, blank workbook in Microsoft Excel.
  • On the “Data” tab, choose “From Other Sources” then “From Microsoft Query” from the drop down, demonstrated in the image below.
  • A box will appear that lets you choose from which database you want to pull data. 
    • These are all ODBC data sources.  If you don’t see the one you want,  go into Client Server and set up a Project to connect to that database.  Once you’ve set up the Project connection it will become available.  (ARCHIBUS Client Server creates ODBC Data Sources to make its own connection to the database; we are piggybacking off that.)
  • Choose your data source and click “OK”.
    • For now, we’ll leave the “Query Wizard” box checked.
  • A database login dialog box will appear.  The Login ID will likely default to “afm.”  In order to move forward, you will need to know the password for the database.  Enter the password and hit “OK.”
  • The Query Wizard will now appear.  You should be able to choose which database table you would like to use for the data.  In this example we will use the em and rm tables.
  • Pick the columns you want and hit the “Next” button.
    • NOTE:  If you pick data from different but related tables, the Query Wizard does the join for you.
  • From there you will be taken through some other forms;  it is safe to click the defaults to get the data into Excel.
  • You should see something that looks like a grid — a rich set of data about rooms and the people that occupy them:
  • With just a little more effort a more detailed analysis can be done with Count of seated employees by Division Department sliced by Region/Site.
  • If and when the data in ARCHIBUS changes, you just need to Refresh it using the steps below:
    • Return to the “Data” tab.
    • Right click on the data, and click “Refresh”.
    • Your data is now up to date.
    • If you are using Pivot Tables, you will need to refresh these as well after making the changes.
  • Want to Edit your Query?
    • Click on the data table.
    • Select the “Data” tab, then “Properties” from the drop down menu.
  • Push the button to the right of “Name” to get “Connection Properties” dialog box.
  • Click the “Definitions” Tab, then “Edit Query” tab.
  • And you’ll be right back to editing the Query.
  • A Quick Note of Caution:
    • Queries are not portable.  They want to be run from the machine on which they were created.  If you email the spreadsheet to a friend, they will be able to see and change the pivot table, but will not be able to refresh the data or access the query.

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