Everything You Need to Know About Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) and How to Implement It

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Security. Maintenance. First impressions. Facilities management is the backbone of any company that operates out of a physical space such as an office building or retail location. All too often, however, the FM budget is the first to get cut when a business needs to trim down their spending, much to the detriment of cross-organizational operations.

One solution to managing a tighter budget without sacrificing operational efficiency: Integrated Facilities Management (IFM). This new data and technology-driven approach to FM operations saves businesses money, time, and logistical headaches.

Here’s everything you need to know about IFM and how to implement it.

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What Is Integrated Facilities Management (IFM)?

Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) is a data and tech-driven strategy to FM that unifies all aspects of facilities management under one platform. IFM utilizes data analytics to track trends and streamline maintenance operations. 

IFM consolidates staff, contractors/service providers, KPI tracking, and all projects across facilities and functionalities on one easy-to-use, data-driven platform.

Some IFM partners also vet and source service providers, which saves businesses time, money, and energy when it comes to finding reliable, high-quality contractors for everything from cleaning to large construction projects. 

What Is the Difference Between IFM & Traditional Facilities Maintenance?

Traditional facilities management can mean many different things: It is an umbrella term for a discipline that tracks and manages facilities for maintenance, security, functionality, consumer-facing comfort, and more. In the past few decades, as FM budgets have been cut, such departments have increasingly relied on outsourcing work to outside contractors, hiring one company to clean several facilities here, another to perform maintenance at a few there. The logistical challenges presented by modern FM have become a headache for most organizations, which is where IFM comes in.

IFM tracks and manages facilities—and much more. Recruiting third-party providers piecemeal—a maintenance contractor and cleaning service, for example, for locations A, B, and C—takes time and resources that you don’t have. It is also rather difficult to keep everyone on the same page when maintaining separate communications with various contractors. That can lead to missed optimization opportunities, miscommunications, and mistakes.

It’s therefore unsurprising that companies are increasingly turning to IFM partners to maximize efficiencies. Using an IFM partner can reduce FM costs by up to 15 percent, according to an analysis of FM sourcing trends by global consulting firm McKinsey and Company.

IFM solutions streamline procedures across all locations, providing critical analytics and greater transparency, and enhancing communication between the C-suite, FM employees, and contractors. This makes assigning, tracking, and analyzing tasks worlds easier.

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Why Should My Business Switch to IFM?

FM is the future of facilities management, both for cost savings and ease of implementation, thanks to its data-driven analytics.

Pro: Increased Efficiency

Leveraging an integrated FM solutions provider can help boost productivity and increase program efficiencies. Let your IFM partner source service providers and contractors and take care of logistics so your in-house team can focus on strategic practices and other important tasks.

Pro: Cost Savings

Using an IFM partner means moving away from legacy cost models that rely on hourly rates, trip charges, emergency fees, and overtime. Instead, by taking a Total Cost approach and focusing on cost reduction initiatives, you’ll see meaningful savings where it matters most.

Pro: Risk Reduction

Leaving your service provider procurement to the pros means finding reliable licensed contractors vetted by your IFM partner. That also means your facilities team will spend less time working with inexperienced contractors, and more time focusing on strategic initiatives.

Con: Lack of Direct Control

Outsourcing means relinquishing a certain degree of control over your operations, such as picking your service providers. As long as your IFM partner understands your industry and brand, however, this won’t have a negative impact on your organization.

Con: Employee Dissatisfaction

The mere mention of “outsourcing” can incite fear of obsolescence, especially when the services being outsourced are traditionally handled in-house. More often than not, however, employees benefit from FM outsourcing, as their roles become more streamlined and strategic.

How Do I Choose the Right FM Partner?

In a retail environment that is subject to so much disruption, businesses can no longer afford to live by the outdated axiom, “If it ain't broke, don’t fix it.” Instead, executives are asking, “What can we do differently tomorrow that we’re not doing today?” The answers to this question can have significant implications on the future of your business, including your facilities management (FM) program. That means the relationship with your FM partner is more critical than ever. 

Unfortunately, some FM partners take advantage of the importance of this relationship and leverage the end of a contract to impose significant rate hikes. It’s a story that the NEST team hears far too often: A few weeks before the contract is up, a company might offer terms that will either increase rates by 75 percent for a three- year contract, or increase rates by 150 percent for a one-year agreement. 

And since many of these FM partners are focused more on increasing their revenue than improving their clients’ operations, they are unlikely to change. 

A business, however, can only take so much as it strives to improve. And after paying ever-rising fees and seeing no additional value-add to their work order management platform, retailers inevitably try to seek out an FM company that is going to be a true partner that provides value. But with so many options available, it can be difficult to identify ones you can truly trust.

Whether you’re exploring new FM partnerships, or you’re trying to evaluate a current FM relationship, here are several questions you should ask:

  • Do you have a technology platform that I can tailor to my organization’s requirements without tech fees?

    Your FM partner should understand that your specific operational and management goals are unique, and that you might require access to certain data and reports that require customized dashboards for your FM team. Be sure to find out if your FM partner can accommodate you, if you will be charged for it, and whether those charges are one-time or recurring.

  • Can I evaluate data and trends for my entire FM program?

    FM technology should have the ability to look at trends across your entire operations, and make appropriate changes as needed. Moving beyond legacy systems to house FM data in one easily accessible place can help you work more efficiently and strategically. 

    With customized dashboards for all levels of management, your employees will have the wherewithal to execute day-to-day work intelligently. For example, you may find that the same plumbing issue is occurring at the same location, or intelligently act on information gathered from analyzing your HVAC preventative maintenance versus the volume of repairs. Your FM partner should have the resources and expertise to identify these situations and communicate them so you can stay focused on more strategic initiatives.

  • Is there a team of industry subject matter experts that can assist me on my requests?

    When calling with a request, you want to speak with someone who is aware of your organization’s requirements and your facilities’ needs. Do you get access to a dedicated account team, or are you speaking with a customer service representative who does not know your business or brand, or doesn’t have the history of services?

  • Do you have a quality assurance team that ensures brand standards are maintained?

    The minute a shopper steps into your store, the brand experience begins: This includes the layout of the store, the employees, building and facilities. The best FM partners have a quality assurance (QA) team in the field to ensure that work is completed in line with your expectations and brand—at no extra cost to you.

    If your FM partner pushes back on any of these requests or does not provide clear answers, they may not be for you.

Bonus Tip: Be Proactive

If you are currently under contract with an FM partner, actively ask about what comes next. Request a review of the progress to date and discuss the fee structure for your next contract. You do not want to be blindsided by a steep increase in charges without enough time to move to a new partner.

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The Best KPIs to Track on Your IFM Platform

Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) is one of the most effective ways of staying competitive in today’s customer-driven market. But with all the data out there, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you should be tracking. Utilizing Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) technology will optimize the process and track only what you need.

Here are the five KPIs you should be using IFM tech to track.

  1. Work Order Management
    Track the following: total number of active, scheduled, and completed work orders; average time to complete a work order; and backlog of deferred work orders.
    This will give you a comprehensive look at your facilities operations, and by using IFM technology, you can share this information with independent service providers, executives, and facilities partners alike, keeping everyone on the same page.
  2. Preventive Maintenance Compliance (PMC)
    Preventive maintenance is essential: It’s less expensive than reactive maintenance, and prevents equipment downtime and other emergencies. By tracking PMC, you can predict maintenance patterns and optimize resource allocation in the future.
  3. Asset Condition
    Using IFM technology, you can track the health of your equipment and avoid costly breakdowns before they happen.
  4. Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
    Track your SLAs to ensure third-party provider accountability for timely, high-quality maintenance work, such as on-time work order completion.
  5. Time Spent on Reactive Maintenance
    Measure the amount of time your team spends on reactive maintenance versus all other maintenance costs, and suss out patterns where equipment is failing so you can prevent it from happening again.

Cost Reduction vs. Cost Savings in IFM

When discussing project costs with facility maintenance providers, it’s easy to get caught up in legacy thinking such as focusing on lower hourly rates, and end up committing to a rate that ultimately ends up blowing your budget.

That’s where cost reduction versus cost savings comes in: Fully understanding the true cost of maintenance above and beyond just the hourly rate will help you reduce overall costs while still hitting KPIs. 

How so? Let’s take a closer look.

What is the difference between cost reduction and cost savings?

Cost reduction is a raw dollar-savings approach, meaning that the primary objective is to change the scope of maintenance services without having a negative impact on the end result. For example: A retail store might reduce their facilities’ monthly floor cleaning services to quarterly during the months outside of their busy season.

That approach, however, does not account for the non-hourly costs associated with maintenance, such as additional service trip expenses, emergency repair fees, and overtime charges. That means potentially bloated costs.

Cost savings is a holistic approach to maintenance budgeting that considers more than just the upfront dollar amount of services. Rather than cutting those monthly floor cleaning services, for example, a retailer would look at alternative measures to compress service costs—such as leveraging a service provider network instead of a standalone contractor—while still fulfilling their objectives.

How to determine total cost.

Each provider you consult will guarantee different savings based on the tactics and billing models they use, so before committing to a provider, ask how they will achieve these numbers.

To protect your bottom line, ask for a holistic, cost-savings approach that creates maintenance strategies for all contingencies.