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25 September 2018
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Develop an IT strategy

Choosing the right technology depends on knowing your business, its processes and its needs, explains Richard Jordan.

19 May
Surprisingly to many, technology is one of the biggest FM challenges because, despite appearances, it is not the magic pill software vendors promote it to be. Understanding the business is critical before developing a technology strategy. In other words, a successful FM organisation’s roots can be traced directly back to a cohesive, focused approach centred on an intelligent business strategy addressing the company’s real business requirements.

Organisations should look at technology, even the newest and glitziest, as strictly a business enabler. Technology is the way to essentially enforce and align a company’s vision and strategy, foster enhanced daily operations and support the lifecycle of physical assets comprising the company’s portfolio. FM organisations will see effective IT strategies come alive in two phases:
- Streamlining business operating
- Focusing on best practices in terms of identifying and deploying solutions.

1⁄ Know your business

What is the motivation behind the organisations philosophy of portfolio management? How do they measure it? What are the key components of services they offer?
Looking at all these holistically, not only for the UK but for a company’s global portfolio as well, will help the management of physical assets in a consistent and measurable way.
Answers to those questions allow decision-makers to effectively align and standardise business processes with an operating vision. Some in the FM field have expressed this as their ‘a-ha’ moment: when people understand the business in depth – what they have to do, as well as understanding why and how – they can take a fresh look at how a technology solution will support or enable, but never the other way around.
Selecting a technology solution without understanding and aligning with business needs is a recipe for disaster.

2⁄ Define the operation
Driven by best practices and supported by an aligned organisation guided by a clear strategic vision, FMs must define an operation. In this way they become best-equipped with focused business and technical requirements to deal with the technology vendor selection process. Decision-makers can view their task as falling into three ‘buckets’:
- Process standardisation: getting best practices in place across the enterprise
- Organisational modelling: organizing the FM group around skillsets geared toward how work is done and supporting them in the best practices
- Operational alignment: when service level agreements are written, policies and procedures are included to support the standardised processes.

3⁄ Select your technology
Companies selecting new technology should address the real differences in vendors but, more importantly, zero-in on a vendor’s ability to meet the company’s specific day-to-day business needs. At this juncture it is helpful to remember that, for practical purposes, there are not really any bad IT systems. Poor choices and failed implementations, on the other hand, are remarkably plentiful.

With skilled internal IT staff and/or external support, the rate of successful implementations should improve over time. Even when they do go right, a major change management initiative is called for that must be both aligned and independent of the technology it will support. Getting the technology ready for the user is only the front-end. The real transformation must occur in getting the organisation and the users ready for the technology.

4⁄ Learn for 
the future
Remember that the key to a solid IT strategy involves understanding the business of corporate FM. Decision-makers can address business expectations for their FM portfolio: how to deliver consistent global best practices within the realities of today’s budget constraints and what kind of information is required. Best practices in FM suggest alignment with Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate International, (OSCRE) which espouses global industry standards for RE information exchange.

When these key questions are answered, decision-makers can make efficient decisions around IT. Having good data for managing FM is a necessity and only comes as a result of a well-defined IT strategy. 

Case study

This is an example of developing best practice in the European data networking and telecommunications equipment arm of an international technology company, with UK operations.

The FM group was rapidly growing with added responsibilities. In turning more control over to them, decision makers were gradually shifting control from the business unit.

At the same time, the IT group was trying to reduce their operating budget. The IT programme management office conducted a detailed assessment of what could be done internally versus what could be outsourced.

They discovered they did not have a consistent way of doing work because they had been absorbing it from different business units.

Ultimately, they did not have good data to make these decisions. Their challenge was to develop standard operating processes and procedures to meet those strategic goals in an organisation that was heavily leveraging outsource partners.

The solution was to:
- put process definitions in place that showed where hand-offs had to happen
- determine what the quality checkpoints were
- decide what kind of data was expected.

Following these detailed analyses, it became possible to craft an IT strategy around how technology could support the requirements with all the metrics and real data necessary.

Richard Jordan is a senior consultant at eBusiness Strategies