An effective facilities management professional must have both a strategy and, at the same time, be strategic as they navigate their campus expansion and operation. The daily grind of being responsive to the wants and needs of the constituencies, students, faculty, and staff requires a sound plan in order to remain effective. However, without strategic thinking, those day-to-day wants and needs will cause even the most seasoned facilities management professional to deviate from their strategy in order to just keep up. ERAPPA educational opportunities, mentoring programs, and networking can assist with both the service strategy and the strategic planning for your institution.

Developing the Strategy

Facilities management professionals preside over the largest assets a college or university has in its portfolio – land and buildings. The current replacement value of these assets typically exceed the value of an institutions endowment by 2.5 to 3 times. Efficient and effective stewardship requires the facilities manager to make knowledgeable decisions and create a plan for continuous improvement. A data driven plan that utilizes key performance indicators to assist in formulating the strategy creates a pathway to success for the campus. Creating and setting business practices in response to the conditions outlined in the data will provide for a successful plan that can easily be communicated to the campus community. However, the plan must remain flexible enough to adapt to changing environmental conditions, funding, and other resources.

In addition, engaging stakeholders through formal and informal assessment will assist the facilities manager in building a strategy focused on issues important to others. The conundrum will remain the balance of the wants of the students, faculty, and staff versus the needs “behind the walls.” While the appearance of the facility is important to recruiting and retention, the reliability of the infrastructure is equally important to the total performance of campus operations. Effective preventive maintenance programs along with life cycle planning provide the framework for getting the most from your campus infrastructure while preparing for future required investment.

Being Strategic

While the facility manager must have an effective and efficient near-term strategy, many do not consider it important to have a long-term vision. Our daily priorities, typically distracting to even our near term plan, also create an environment that does not allow for long-term, critical thinking. The effective facility manager must break through the rut of the day-to-day and examine the bigger, long-term picture. No longer can we rely on the institution’s senior leadership to provide the strategy and direction. We must become partners in the planning, both physical and financial, and provide data to support our conclusions. Asking ourselves if our metrics are aligned with the mission and vision of the institution and if are we optimizing the use of our current assets to provide an appropriate environment for teaching and learning are important steps in looking beyond the now.

A Facility Manager must develop a partnership with the Chief Financial Officer of the institution and the senior leader in the planning, design, and construction area. Once that allegiance is formed, the conversation can begin around total cost of ownership and long-term operation and maintenance of our campus assets. The facility manager needs to anticipate the future needs of the campus and develop a strategic plan supportive of these needs. They need to think critically and challenge the current processes and practices. No longer can we settle for the “we have always done it this way” mentality. We need to then be able to analyze and interpret the data being collected through our short-term strategy and plan for the long-term. We need to use all of the information available, hard data and anecdotal to then make decisions and align those decisions with the long-term goals and objectives for the institution.

Last, but certainly not least, we must continue to learn. By nature of our environment, we often become complacent in our thinking and comfortable in our ways. In order to maintain the ability to create an effective short-term strategy while at the same time remaining strategic in our decisions, facilities managers must refill their toolbox and learn from our peers, colleagues, and business partners. Participating in ERAPPA affords the facilities manager with the opportunity to learn from the best and brightest in our field and network with those who have done what we are trying to do or understand where we are headed. We encourage both new and seasoned facilities managers to take advantage of all that ERAPPA has to offer in an effort to guide your campus both today and tomorrow.