What to Do With Facilities Data – Insights From APPA 2019

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By Adam Gogolski, Product Manager at Gordian

Denver, Colorado hosted the annual APPA Conference with the theme of “Preparing You for the Future.”  Conversations across the conference focused around a central topic – data.  Most attendees agreed that they had data, but there were persistent questions about how to use it:

“Am I collecting the right data points to make change?”

“How do I get others to buy in to the information we’re trying to collect?”

“What strategies are out there for communicating our findings to leadership?”

“What do I do with all of my data?”

Session after session was focused on these key questions and most presenters offered support in some way, but few gave a holistic solution that answered these questions without an enormous internal effort.

Using Facilities Data to Reduce Risk and Impact Campus Change

One session specifically focused on “What to do after you’ve done a Facilities Condition Assessment (FCA)” and relayed a number of important details about how to turn a data list into an actionable plan. The speaker, from Northeastern University, recommended facilities managers take ownership of the list and make it their own. This process entails taking the information in front of trades workers and supervisors to ensure its accuracy, creating an objective prioritization method and finding ways to group issues together to “make the problem smaller.” By analyzing and creating strategy around the FCA data, Northeastern was able to turn their FCA list into a facilities action plan.

Another session focused on communicating and marketing data. “Building Renewal: A Case Study” discussed how leaders at the University of Arizona pulled their facilities data together to create a cohesive, marketable story showing the similarities between a campus and the human body. This unique and engaging approach to sharing facilities data allowed them to more effectively manage change — a relevant challenge for a group that has five different CFOs in the last five years. By formatting the information in a marketable way, Arizona was able to bring each successive CFO on board without delaying addressing key issues on campus.

In a third session, driven by the University of Chicago, the focus was on using data to drive change. The speakers recommended that facilities managers “be willing to overlay seemingly unrelated information to look for hidden connections.” Comparing space management, capital projects, facilities operations and the university at large allowed them to create data-driven metrics which addressed a key institutional concern: risk.  By focusing its data on how to reduce risk, the university helps its leadership understand what will happen if they do or don’t act. In taking this approach, facilities leaders can show, using validated data, that they are multiplying the value of the resources they are given and that they are effective stewards of the university.

Gordian at APPA 2019

Sightlines Turns Data Into Action

On the final day, Colorado State delivered a session titled “Using Data to Assess Need and Impact Change on Campus,” about how they used data to increase their organizational agility and respond to shifting priorities. Using comprehensive facilities data provided by Sightlines, CSU pivoted their 10-year project plan to accommodate for a $220 million football stadium project that shot to the top of the priority list in 2015. With trusted data at their fingertips, CSU updated their project plan and delivered a new plan to leadership which accounted for the change. The CSU team outlined in detail what the impact of the new project would be and how their plan would shift as a result. This nimble reaction was made possible by having the right data and a comprehensive framework with which to interpret results and build various scenarios to discuss with leadership.

All of these sessions pointed to the need and desire for facilities leaders to better understand the data they already collect and turn it into a coherent story that can lead to action on campus. The increasing complexity and volume of the information coming in makes this an imposing challenge for institutions that feel they’re searching for a needle in a haystack.

Colleges and universities need someone to help separate the needle from the hay, a trusted partner who has experience sifting through data streams and knows the higher ed landscape. Sightlines has been an industry-proven partner in helping facilities managers turn data into action. We are experts in turning siloed data into information, analyzing the information and telling the facilities story to create knowledge across departments, and bridging the gap between facilities and institutional leadership to turn that knowledge into action.

Learn more about Sightlines facilities intelligence solutions and services.