We have advocated both benchmarking and strategic assessment programs as affordable strategies for medium size businesses to improve the performance of their facility assets and related operations. How should you decide which to use?
The answer is easy, use both.
Okay, I know that was a smart *** answer, but here is the basic difference between these approaches: Strategic Assessment is about your facility assets, while Benchmarking is about your facility practices (operations). Because these are both useful and low cost approaches, a better question might be “Which should you start first?”
Build a Self-Reinforcing Cycle
Let’s assume your organization is starting from scratch. Any information or practices that you already have will just let you make progress that much quicker. If you are not clear on what we mean by benchmarking or strategic assessment, read those related articles first.
Step 1 – Complete Your Inventory
The starting point is to build a complete list of all the facility assets (properties) that your organization has or uses. It does not matter if you own or lease. It does not matter if the property is active or inactive. And it does not matter if the properties are managed by different departments or organizations.
There may be the need to think about how you define your facility assets, particularly where they are not “one building on one site.” For example, are two different suites in the same multi-tenant building one facility or two? And separate parking area? Or the overflow annex near an owned building? Or two dramatically different uses in the same building? Or a three-building campus? There is no right or wrong about whether each of these situations is a single or multiple assets, just be clear with yourself.
For each of these assets, you need to start with the facts: Who owns it? When does lease expire (if leased)? What is the address? How big is it? What is the type of use? Who is responsible for maintenance, cleaning, and repairs? What is the available occupancy/capacity? What are the annual operating costs (all types)?
Step 2 – Benchmark Some Basic Data
Now that you have your facility data on hand, you are ready to do some benchmarking. Start simple and start “internal” if you have multiple facilities. By this I mean look at understandable things like $/SF, SF per person among your own facilities as the first step. This will help you get comfortable with the data and start to ask interesting questions about the data quality and underlying reasons/causes (which is really the value of the exercise more than the absolute measurement).
Expand the benchmarking to include a peer group or some other “market” metrics as a reference point. You should also be able to identify 1-2 areas of limited opportunity and 1-2 areas with high potential opportunity for improvement and some potential practices to consider.
Step 3 – Undertake Strategic Facility Assessments (SFA)
With the facts completed, and some initial benchmarking results to guide, a broader spectrum of assessments will provide a full picture of your facility situation. Follow the suggestions in a prior article for using preliminary levels of assessment to understand what additional information you need and the likely areas of most value before investing in technical studies.
The point of the SFA is to narrow the range of potential improvement activities to those that are most timely, important, or lucrative. These actions could be capital investments, changes in the asset portfolio, or best practice initiatives, depending on your situation.
Step 4 – Integrate SFA to Identify Actions with Benchmarking to Measure Progress
By this point of the process, you can be using your SFA as a basis for selecting actions to undertake. As you implement these actions, your benchmarking program can be structured to help you measure the effectiveness of these actions and quantify your progress. Also, benchmarking your changed portfolio/practices against the now current market or peer group let you know if your improvements are helping you stay ahead of the pack.
Maybe you are disappointed that there is no rocket science here? These are fundamentals, which means that you can apply then whether your organization is in a steady-state industry or one that is undergoing rapid changes. The rate of change may be different, as will the actions you undertake. The need to prioritize and measure progress remains.