Your Facilities Management Resource on the Internet
Entire Site
FMLink: Your Facilities Management Resource on the Internet

FM Technology Users Forum
World Workplace '04
Facilitators: Peter S. Kimmel and Rod Stevens


On October 18, 2004, the FM Technology Users Forum met at IFMA's World Workplace show in Salt Lake City to discuss recent developments in using automated systems for facilities management. The session was moderated by Peter Kimmel, IFMA Fellow (FMLink, Bethesda, MD) and Rod Stevens, CFM, IFMA Fellow (Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Des Moines, IA). The participants were comprised mostly of facilities managers; there also were designers and architects, and CAFM vendors and consultants. The participants were divided into four groups, and covered a variety of technology issues:
  • How off-the-shelf FM software (including ASP) is being applied successfully, including realized cost-related benefits;
  • How Web-based FM is changing the traditional way that automation is used for FM;
  • How corporate intranets and extranets are being used for FM and for sharing FM and corporate information, as well as for project management;
  • Effective use of the Internet for energy management and controlling energy costs;
  • How wireless and handheld devices are being integrated into facilities management; and
  • Tips and tricks for making the above applications effective.

At the end of the session, a member of each group presented the group's findings to the other groups. This Web page is a summary of what each group reported. The comments are intended primarily to give people an idea of the variety of ways systems are being used; of course, each situation is different, and what works well for some may not necessarily work well for others.

Ability to Continue the Discussions

The participants were informed that the FM Forum discussion group on the Net, at, would be an ideal place to continue their discussions about any of these topics. Anyone interested in this should go to the FM Forum Web site and either start a new posting or respond to an existing one. These discussions are open to everyone—there is no better place than FM Forum to continue them!


Special appreciation is offered to the group leaders and others who took the time to compile each group's findings:

Robert Fahlin, Applied Spatial Technologies, Londonderry, New Hampshire

Chris Keller, Integrated Data Solutions, Inc., Langhorne, Pennsylvania

Annette Krantz & Christian Wiener, Weyerhaeuser, Federal Way, Washington

Tim Krawczyk, CFM, Facilities Coordinator, Harley-Davidson Motor Company

This Web page was compiled by FMLink, based on the notes submitted by the group leaders. Should there be any questions about the specific content from any one group, please contact the appropriate group leader above. Should there be any changes required, based on what transpired at the FM Technology Users Forum, please e-mail them to, and they will be made. To see more about FMLink, the largest information resource on the Net for FMs, just go to the FMLink Home Page at Free registration may be required to see some of the pages.

Sessions from Previous World Workplace Conferences

The following are links to pages with write-up from this session at previous World Workplace Conferences:

Topics: Off-The-Shelf Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) Solutions

Notes submitted by Robert Fahlin, Applied Spatial Technologies, Londonderry, New Hampshire

In a round-table discussion group focused on off-the-shelf CAFM solutions, a group of facilities managers and CAFM system experts gathered to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of currently available CAFM solutions. The group was nearly equally comprised of facility managers, facility management consultants and CAFM vendors all blending to provide a well rounded discussion of the issues. While topics ran the gambit of associated issues, the group began its exploration into the realm of CAFM technologies with a discussion of the basics.

What is CAFM?

In the course of our entire discussion no single question received more unique responses than the first; "What is CAFM?" One of the participants began our discussion by describing how she was responsible for gathering and analyzing the costs associated with moves within her organization. Another participant was responsible for actually implementing moves and needed to manage and track the physical movement of people and their assets from one location to another. A third respondent raised the issue of space assignments on a departmental basis and the ability to manage "charge backs" to accurately report the fiscal obligations of each department within the organization. Additionally, the issues of maintenance management, asset tracking, and depreciation and accounting entered the discussion.

The discussion surrounding this question began to focus more on the functional requirements of CAFM, i.e., what were the major operational issues that a CAFM system could support. The ability to identify occupancies such as space assigned to departments and the location of individuals was one major issue. Taking this requirement one step further is the ability to distinguish between employees and vendors, providing a basis for recapturing precious space as an organization either grows or shrinks. For graphical based CAFM systems several participants expressed the need to visually map an organization's IT and Utility infrastructure providing the foundation for responding to system failures or internal and external disasters.

The group concluded that the definition of CAFM varied widely from one organization to another and that the scope of what CAFM entailed was solely dependant upon the specific needs of an organization. Despite the varied needs of individual organizations the group agreed that in short CAFM is the automation of managing the People, Places and Things that together makeup our facilities. Additionally, at the core CAFM addresses the four major functions of today's facilities: Space & Asset Management, Move & Project Management, Maintenance Management and Disaster Planning & Recovery.

Ideology vs. Reality

With the first major topic under our belt the group pondered the differences between the "Perfect Solution" and reality. One member of our group began to discuss the different "Silos" of information contained within today's typical organizations. "The IT department is increasing being asked to track assets and maintain an electronic inventory", he noted. "HR hoards our employee and occupant information", injected another participant. As the discussion progressed the group identified the typical sources of facility related information and their gatekeepers:

Human Resources - Employee Information
Information Technology - Employee Locations and Asset Inventories
Accounting - Department Listings and Budget Information
Planning - Occupancy, Chargeback, Move and Project Management Information
Engineering - Utility Infrastructure & Maintenance Information

Several members of the group asked the same general question; "Isn't there one solution that could manage all of this information?" The specific answers to this question varied but the general concept was the same. It seemed to be a resounding "Yes…and No". With unlimited funding and the patience of a Saint, there are several enterprise solutions that have the potential to managing all of this information across and organization. The problems arise when trying to fund and maintain these systems on a go-forward basis. Additionally, as one participant put it "Being pigeonholed to single solution that manages a little bit of everything often seems to mean that such a solution manages nothing well." The group agreed that the needs of one department, and more importantly the requirements placed upon one department, are often very different for another. An accounting solution alone will never be an effective chargeback and space planning tool, while the reverse is also true; a space planning tools will never fully meet the needs of an accountant.

To summarize this topic, the group agreed that there is no "One Size Fits All" solution for most organizations. Each silo of information needs to be managed separately in order to meet a specific department's needs using the tools and methods that are either chosen or mandated within their respective spheres of responsibility. The group concluded that a CAFM solution must meet the specific needs of those it serves, and must be capable of "consuming" and "delivering" data to and from the different silos of information contained within an organization.

Complexity and Scalability

The third topic that arose among the group, hot on the heels of the "Enterprise Solution" discussion was that of complexity and scalability. There was a lot of talk among our group concerning the complexity of many of the solutions on the market today. Several participants noted that they were either currently using, or recently had been using, one of the "Big Three" CAFM solutions (as one of our participant phrased it). One woman explained; "Our system is capable of doing all the work we want it to do, but so few of us are capable of working with the system." She continued to elaborate; "There are just too many hoops to jump through, too many buttons to push. We spent so much money to install this system, but with nobody able to use it the system is virtually worthless".

There were one or two members of the group that noted they had successfully implemented some of these systems, but admitted there was a lot of customization involved and a lot of retraining. Most of the group agreed that with the advancements in technology today there was no reason for CAFM systems to be so difficult to use. One participant remarked: "If I can buy a town on Ebay with two clicks of a mouse, why does it take an act of Congress to get a simple occupancy plan from my CAFM system?" At least two members of the group explained that they had recently discarded their heavy "Old School" CAFM systems and opted for a low cost modern alternative. "We know the new system won't do everything the old system did, but what it does, it does very well and everyone in the organization can use this one."

With all the talk focused on "Enterprise Solutions" I noticed a few folks squirming around in their seats and becoming disinterested in the conversation. Pointing to one of the more disinterested parties, "what is your take on all this?" I asked. "Me" he said. "I'm not even in the same league with these folks." Pointing to one of our more vocal participants, "This gentleman is talking about properties in five countries." Adjusting his aim, "and this woman wants to push out her CAFM information to a hundred twenty-five thousand employees. In my company there is me and one other guy managing our space. We have three hundred employees and about 150,000 square feet of office and conference space to manage. All I need to do is assign employees to offices and report on which departments own which spaces. I can't come up with the money for one of these enterprise systems you're all talking about."

His comments sparked a debate on the cost of CAFM systems and their ability to scale down to a small operation. The woman that began our entire discussion chimed in noting that she could see the need within her organization for a full blown CAFM system, but for now she just wanted to start with managing moves. "You can't buy just one piece." she noted. "Even if you can, the cost seems excessive." Our group theorized that if a low cost, feature specific solution could scale up to the enterprise level it would be the best of both worlds. The grouped bantered around this topic for a while longer before moving on.

Delivering CAFM Tools & Data

Our final topic of discussion was brief but fruitful. Our group began to segregate the types of users involved in the facility management process and discuss the tools that might be important to each. I briefly framed the topic and tossed it out to the group for discussion. "So would we agree that generally speaking, there are three groups of people involved in the facility management process? The first group is what we might call the "Data Creators". These are the folks that create our facility drawings and link them to the data. The second group is our "Facility Managers". These are the folks responsible for maintaining our facility information. They may or may not be CAD savvy, but certainly need the ability manage occupancies and moves and report this information. The last group is "Everybody Else." From the maintenance workers to the CEO these are the folks that need access to the information we manage, but are barred from making any changes on their own."

With the topic framed I began the discussion. "So what types of CAD systems are you folks using?" Virtually everybody responded with AutoCAD. Two members of the group explained that while they were using AutoCAD drawings for their facilities, the CAFM systems they used required that the drawings be converted to another file format. One participant explained "We can import the CAD drawings into our CAFM system, and even make changes to them. The problem is now I need to know two CAD systems. This is a pain." Several in the group explained that they use tools added to AutoCAD to manage their drawings eliminating the need for two drawing environments.

"What about your facility managers who are using CAD to manage the information?" A few in the group noted that their managers were using CAD to manage their facility information. Most, however, indicated that CAD itself was too complicated and costly for their managers to use. Many were using or interested in using simple drawing display and markup tools that allowed their manager to focus on their real tasks of managing the facilities and maintaining the data. "There is no reason for our manager to know AutoCAD." remarked one of group. "They are simply moving people from one place to another and changing cost center assignments." "We shouldn't need to use CAD for that." The group agreed.

As our session drew to a close we quickly addressed that last remaining group of folks in the CAFM food chain. "What about the "Everyone Else" group?" I asked. "What is the best method of bringing them into the fold?" Most in the group agreed that periodic reporting and access to documents was sufficient for many of the CEOs. Some noted that the "bean counters" would want more frequent access to reports and most likely would want some data delivered in a spreadsheet format. A lot of discussion swirled around the question of how to deliver information to the IT and Engineering departments. "These guys need more than simple reports." Someone remarked. "Our Engineering guys want access to infrastructure mapping and documents related to shutdowns." The group concluded that making reports and drawings available on the web would likely be the best delivery method for getting information to these folks.


I truly hated to see our discussion come to an end. I'm not sure if it was that fact that it would be another full year before I would have the privilege of sitting with such a diverse group of facility managers and talking shop at IFMA; or, if it was the fact that, as moderator of our group, Peter Kimmel would be hounding me day and night until I delivered these notes. In any event it seemed our time passed too quickly. While our group didn't find the magic bullet that would cure all the ills that plague the world of CAFM today, we were able to frame a pretty good requirement for a CAFM solution the address the real-world issues facing today's facility managers.

Here is the thumbnail version of our findings:

  1. While the acronym CAFM is easy to define (Computer Aided Facilities Management), the concept of what this encompasses is as diverse as each unique corporate culture. Regardless of how far the concept of CAFM may reach within a given organization the core functions common to most facilities include; Space & Asset Management, Move & Project Management, Maintenance Management and Disaster Planning & Recovery.
  2. Even as other file formats may find their way into the main stream as of today the vast majority of facility drawings remain in dwg format. Any CAFM solution designed to meet the needs of today's facility managers must be able to consume and manipulate a dwg drawing file. Working in the native AutoCAD drawing environment is preferred, but solutions that are substantially similar in functionality and lower in cost than AutoCAD would be acceptable.
  3. No More "Bloatware"!!! Organizations are finding it increasingly more difficult to fund and maintain CAFM systems that are designed for the privileged few. As the facility management culture expands to include more and more the people in the process, easy access to facility information and easy-to-use tools for managing that information are no longer a luxury. The facility managers in our group were adamant that an effective solution should provide an affordable entry point and seamless scalability as their needs grow.
  4. Given that easy data integration is a very desirable feature, as we found in our discussions, there is no single solution that meets the needs of every organization. A CAFM system that is capable of integration with existing data sources using industry standard database formats should be the norm, not the exception. Open source data formats provide organizations more opportunity to utilize their existing data and in-house talent.
  5. Our group concluded that the most efficient method of delivering CAFM data, reports and drawings is through a web browser. While in most organizations only a few people are responsible for the day-to-day management of their facility data and drawings, there is a whole slew of folks that can benefit from easy access to this information.

Are you listening, CAFM vendors?

Topics: Wireless & PDA

Notes submitted by Chris Keller, Integrated Data Solutions, Inc., Langhorne, Pennsylvania


What are people looking for?
  • Looking for a wireless PDA solution—want to get rid of paper
  • Work orders—wireless
  • Field use—construction
  • Dorms/housing
  • Work Orders/PM
  • Move management
  • Project management
  • File integration: CAD—CCR, Regulations, GPS
  • Help with device selection
  • GIS/Mapping
  • Track time
  • Work requests—distributing them real time.
  • Security was an issue—one participant's attempt failed
  • Signal drop off forces the user to re-log in—There is no such thing as ubiquitous coverage
  • Using for work order, PMs—hard to get technicians to use them; individual's age and technical sophistication are key factors
  • Sometimes use emulator on pc to transcribe paper notes, rather than use in the field
  • Mobile solutions—work off or on line
  • Options—set up own network (nodes—or use service provider—telephone
  • Citrix is a possibility if you need to run large apps or data sets
  • Wireless boosters for contiguous coverage.
Key Factors for Success:
  • Ease of use and tailoring to user's needs
  • Software out of the box is not specific enough to everyone's needs. It must be flexible and expandable and have the ability to be easily customized to individual requirements.
  • Understand the true need: Is there a need for real time connectivity or is periodic synchronization (much simpler) adequate?
  • Balance process, technology and users.

Notes to Supplement What the Other Three Group Leaders Presented

These may be used to amplify what the other group leaders have written.

Topic: Implementation and migration

Key Issues:
  • Chargeback process automation
  • Access to data creates increased accountability
  • Procedures must be developed to control collecting the data
  • Implementation—what do you have?
  • CAD, equipment, people
  • Single source or multiple sources of data (HR, Telecommunications, security)
  • How are other systems integrated?
  • Implementation—set realistic goals
  • Vendor's demo looks good, but how do you get your job done?
  • Important to clean up the data (no quality control over other sources)
  • Determine who is accountable for the data that is being collected—work with the data owners
  • Non employees, outsiders, contractors, resident vs non-resident
  • Setting standards very important
  • Identify stakeholders

Topic: Web based FM

Key discussion topics:
  • How to get the data in and out of the systems
  • Reporting procedures—especially to executives
  • How flexible is the software—no single system that does it all
  • Must be realistic about level of effort required to maintain the data
  • Implementation is not painless nor inexpensive
  • Some that have done it have found value.
  • Don't believe the vendors—do your own research
What is CAFM?

Many definitions were proposed:

  • Simple space and asset management
  • Financial systems
  • Lease management
  • Infrastructure management
Key Issues:
  • Scalability requirements—most systems are not scalable
  • Data ownership is critical—ideology and reality of data sources
  • Reality of delivering CAFM—solutions delivered through browser
  • Hosted vs in house—difficult if not impossible to use hosted solution

Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM)

Notes submitted by Annette Krantz & Christian Wiener, Weyerhaeuser, Federal Way, Washington

One attendee shared information about the challenges of globally integrating facilities technology. He shared that China will graduate 500,000 engineers compared to 50,000 in the United States. Therefore the United States has approximately 5 years to get our act together technologically to compete globally.

In 7 years, 75% of the entire workforce is going to retire. We need to be more efficient in operations due to the fact that a great deal of knowledge will retire along with those individuals.

The group proceeded with a general discussion sharing lessons learned. There were many questions asked around how to obtain technology and where to find it - as well as how to integrate the technology we currently utilize. It was agreed upon that you need to know what you want before your search process begins. You must distinguish between what you want and what you actually need before buying your software. The group shared many helpful hints.

It was determined that a system out of the box would most likely not provide you with everything you need or want. Many systems need to be customized. Be careful of what is and is not included in the "off the shelf" systems.

There were many questions and ideas shared during the brainstorming session. Time did not allow for answering all the questions. The questions and ideas provide a good basis to get you thinking about what you should include in your preplanning and software choice.

Brainstorming Session

Is anyone using a system they like?
Facilities IQ—a utilities software system is one being used.

Where can you get knowledge on what system to buy and what to shop for?
Don't buy more than you need.

What are you trying to accomplish? What is your budget? What can you spend?
Ask your vendors what they have.

What kind of support will the system vendor provide? Will it be a 100% web based solution? What will be the cost of the software be? What will it cost to implement?
Be careful of what is and is not included. How about training and travel?
You should know up front what you want.

Distinguish between your needs and wants. Don't loose sight of what you want.
How can you make it cheaper, faster, better? You need to be able to market the value. Can the vendor help you do that? Integrating CAD with software is important.
What format is your information in—what database? Make sure you can input data from your source.

Is there an integration process of other data available? Application integration? How do you make it smooth? Scrubbing data before automating it is important. There can be hidden costs. There are tools that will do this automatically.

Many systems need customization. Straight out of the box does not always give you the information needed. You need systems that connect. IT security can get in the way if you don't involve them in the planning. Updating and keeping your system current can be costly. Consider how many people it takes to run your system.

Web interfaces and software: Are they really customizable? Modular ones may be customizable. It should be unique—relative to what you are doing in business—a business indicator. Deployment can have all levels of security for users. Look at the user's role. Set up integration so they see only what they need.

Topic: CAFM Implementation and Migration

Notes submitted by Tim Krawczyk, CFM, Facilities Coordinator, Harley-Davidson Motor Company

Chargeback process automation
  • Allows real-time attention to cost generation
  • Can create issues with organizational budgeting process
  • Easy access to data can force decisions
  • Common data / connections to other data
  • Procedure control
Order of Implementation
  • Know what assets you have:
    • Drawings
    • Equipment
    • Organization / people
  • Select single source of data (i.e. H.R. / I.S. / Security / Facilities), if that's possible in your organization
  • Project schedule / Project Goal / Process Workflow
  • Clean up data; "dirty" data is worse than no data at all because you can't trust it
  • Vacancy issues
  • Headcount issues
    • Non-employees biggest issue
How do you track?

Are they receiving "Facilities" resources?
Resident vs. non-resident
How do you define "headcount"?

  • "Partners" to support processes
    • Internal (I.S. / Security / H.R. / Purchasing)
    • External (contracted resources)
  • Need accountability of data / process; identify process and data owners who have a vested interest in accurate data and efficient processes
  • Setting standards
    • Define
    • Consensus
    • Communicate
    • Follow
  © 1996-2012 FMLink Group, LLC    301.365.1600             Privacy Policy           About FMLink