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

FM Technology Users Forum

World Workplace 2008

Facilitators: Peter S. Kimmel and Rod Stevens


On October 16, 2008, the FM Technology Users Forum met at IFMA's World Workplace show in Dallas 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 several FM software vendors and consultants. The participants were divided into five 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.
  • Building Information Modeling (BIM), intelligent buildings and building information systems.
  • How corporate intranets and extranets are being used for FM and for sharing FM and corporate information, as well as for project management.
  • How wireless and handheld devices are being integrated into facilities management, including for maintenance monitoring.
  • Considerations when migrating data from legacy systems to new systems; converting from off-the-shelf software systems to Web-based systems.
  • Building automations systems; effective use of the Internet for energy management and controlling energy costs.
  • Compliance with data measuring standards; comparing internal data to public data for benchmarking purposes.
  • Advanced topics such as tips and tricks for making the applications effective, including implementation issues, sharing data and security.

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, including those who did not attend the session—there is no better place than FM Forum to continue the discussions!


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

Stacey L. Chambliss, Manager – Facility Operations, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Roswell, GA,

Jeffrey F. Kunak, CFM, Property and Support Services Manager, Sladden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, New York, NY,

Ed Novak, CFM, MCR, Manager, Nuance Communications, Sunnyvale, CA,

Marty Chobot, Vice President of Marketing, FM:Systems, Raleigh, NC,

Peter Costanzo, Sales Manager, Avatech Solutions, Owings Mills, MD,

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:


The following were the primary topics discussed within each group; the group leader's name is listed in parentheses so you may find the paper below. Additional topics may have been discussed in each group as well.

Topic: Building Automation Systems (BAS)

Notes submitted by Stacey L. Chambliss, Manager – Facility Operations, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Roswell, GA,

The group discussed how best to leverage an automation system and what each was looking for in that system.

Major areas of interest for the system:

  1. Ease of Controls
  2. Cost Savings
  3. Technology Advancements
  4. Lighting/HVAC controls

A point that was thought to be of critical importance was to have a staff person to run and configure the system. It is beneficial to have this in-house individual to focus on the system to better understand how to leverage it to your needs and to make changes as needed.

Only tie in Air Handling Units (AHUs) and Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) to the BAS where they are "smart". Some systems run 24/7. There is no need to have a system that operates 24/7. There is never an opportunity to maximize it, as it is always at 100%.

  • Put points of control in at the front end during initial installation rather than to have to change the system later. This will save you money as well as time and resources.

    Vendor Relationships are very important when deciding who to choose when installing a new system:

  • It is valuable to have a system administrator.
  • Speak openly to the vendor about their system being backward-compatible.
  • It is perfectly fine to change your system over in steps rather than all at the same time. This will break up your costs over several mini-projects rather than having to commit a lump sum of capital all at once.
  • If you choose to provide graphics as part of your system, they need to be maintained throughout the life of your system.
  • It is advisable to choose a vendor that is considered upper-tier. Their sustainability as a company will be of great benefit in the long-term. They may be more expensive, but it is reasonable to pay more for a system rather than invest in a cheaper system whose company dissolves and your system is no longer supported. "You get what you pay for."

Another note worth mentioning is to choose a system that is supported by more than one vendor. It will give you future flexibility should the initial company not work out to your liking or they go out of business.

It was noted that it is generally a good rule of practice to tie your Building Automation system to UPS. One should also look into tying the System into the servers, generators, and HVAC equipment.

Potential Areas to Leverage Cost Savings

  • Setting back temperature controls is an excellent way to realize cost savings. This will allow one to maintain the building at a different temperature for the off-peak hours and will consume less energy—warmer in the summer months and cooler in the winter months.
  • If one has off-peak work being performed, the system must be easy to override, thereby providing adequate building conditions for the employees.
  • Fume Hoods in research and development are a good place to look for energy reduction. It is advisable to evaluate whether a hood needs to be on 100% of the time. Many can be turned off and reduce overall consumption.

Topic: Facilities Management Software Applications

Notes submitted by Jeffrey F. Kunak, CFM, Property and Support Services Manager, Sladden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, New York, NY,

This discussion group comprised of mid- to upper-level FMs and several representing the supply side of FM systems.

The need to have a system

There was great interest among the group as to what types of systems each other organization is using for facilities management.

Most participants were not using a dedicated system but have instead "pieced together" various systems to make them work.

Why No System?

Some of the group did not have any FM systems in place. The main reasons:

  1. Cost – Systems tend to be expensive. Is now the right time to budget or spend on these systems?
  2. Staff – Time resources are needed from management and staff. Some systems require dedicated personnel to format information and operate systems correctly.
  3. Perfect Fit – There seemed to be a consensus that no system was able to be made 100% appropriate for individual organizations. The group was concerned that it would have to purchase parts of systems (bundles) that would not be effective while still adding to the overall costs.

An example was provided from the group of one company that invested in a system suggested by an architecture firm, but, while it worked well for the larger architecture firm, it was too large for the in-house staff and was ultimately abandoned.

The group seemed to be "making do" with what is already available in the respective organizations, piecing together asset programs with drawing or floor plan systems.

Successful Implementation

Two participants had successfully implemented systems. They shared some of their strategies

  • Small Successes–Avoid grand thoughts but have a grand plan. Avoid assuming you or your staff has to take on a full system from "day one."

Examples and discussion were centered on the model that one organization decided to use. In this model the organization chose one building and one floor of a very large portfolio and populated all information, drawings and miscellaneous data for that one floor into the system. This enabled the users to better understand the input side of their system and get a much better understanding of what their system was capable. Once a comfort level was achieved, they considered that a success then they moved on to another floor. Small successes become big ones.

Once fully comfortable with the single floor the organization continued SLOWLY, adding floors and information.

  • Get Help – Include IT personnel on your selection-and-evaluation team right from the start.

Issues Among Systems

Some in the group had expressed concerns about:

  • Data–If considering a new system or changing to a different system, one must be very clear as to what the data sets are and how they will be handled by both the new system and the organization's internal data (e.g., Accounting) into a new system.

Not a Perfect World

The general feeling amongst the group was that there is not a perfect system available. Most systems require some level of adjustment to organizational operations.

If a group is heavily involved in the real estate side of facilities management, the system may be lacking in maintenance management and vice versa.

There is a strong demand and desire for a very flexible system that would cross all levels of an organization and be helpful to all personnel in an organization.

With the systems implemented by the group, they felt forced to pick a specialty in the proposed or purchased system, and then to build around that component.

Topic: Data Standards

Notes submitted by Ed Novak, CFM, MCR, Facility Manager, Nuance Communications, Sunnyvale, CA,

The need for Data Standards

The discussion started with listing the types of data standards that the group thought were needed:

  1. Integrating data from merger and acquisition (M&A) activity.
    1. Craig Steele (CB Richard Ellis at PG&E) and Ed Novak (Nuance Communications) have experience with recent acquisitions at their current companies and the problems with integrating facilities data into existing legacy systems.
  2. Integrating between programs
    1. Accounting systems
    2. HR systems
    3. Real Estate systems
    4. Maintenance systems
    5. Space planning systems
    6. Upgrading legacy FM solutions
    7. In-house and outsourced partners

It was agreed by the group that currently the communication / data transfer between systems is poor. For example, Building Automation Systems (BAS) have a difficult time communicating with other FM systems, such as lighting control systems. Many questions were raised without many answers being surfaced:

  1. How can OCSRE (Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate) help?
  2. How does one ensure that FM needs are addressed when the company is selecting other corporate systems, such as ERP systems?
  3. Should one expect to find one provider for all solutions, from FM to accounting?
  4. What is the current state of ERP systems when it comes to real estate and FM solutions? Some believe that both Oracle and SAP lack robust solutions for the FM industry.
  5. Is there a "Backbone" solution?
  6. How are outsource partners dealing with data standards and systems integration? One experience is that the major outsource partner had its own systems, completely independent of the corporate ERP (SAP) solutions for finance and purchasing.
  7. How does one handle proprietary data between in-house systems and service provider systems?
  8. How does one handle union HR data? One participant noted that it is very difficult to get HR data regarding the status of union employees, which is needed for space planning.

Why are Data Standards Important?

The team next discussed why data standards are important. It came up with the following three top reasons:

  1. Accuracy
  2. Efficiency
  3. Reduction of waste and elimination of duplicate data entry

Anyone who has worked with databases and data entry would come to the same conclusion on why standards are important. The old database adage, "Junk in, junk out," still holds true. If the HR data you are trying to pull into your CAFM system, for example, is inaccurate or out-of-date, your CAFM database will be as well. If the HR system data adheres to the same standard as your CAFM database, then access to that data should be seamless, requiring no more than the click of a button to access. And lastly, if the data between systems follows the same standards, then you should be able to eliminate redundant, costly and timely data entry.

The group then discussed possible solutions for ensuring data standardization.

We concluded that all types of buildings and space types should follow the same space standards and rules, which need to include all types of space, not just commercial office space. The team also believed that all databases need to be "open" to sharing data from all FM systems. One of the goals identified by the team is to determine occupancy costs and allocations by all business units; having standard space types and rules would allow facilities managers to achieve this accurately and fairly.

Next, the group discussed international buildings and data standards. We noted that:

  1. Different countries measure space differently. For example, in Korea, a two-story high lobby will include the space of the second floor air as part of the building common area, while in Japan, the rentable and usable space are usually the same as they don't charge for building common areas. Of course, one's rents in Japan are still quite high!
  2. Some cultures still stick with traditional space units:
    1. U.S and the imperial system.
    2. Tsubo in Japan.
    3. Ping in China and Taiwan.
  3. Electrical use and measurements differ internationally.

Questions raised

  • How does one relate a business's specific standards and metrics with industry standards (OSCRE)?
  • How big a deal is this?
  • What resources are required to successfully make this happen?

Lessons learned

  1. Data standards are needed:
    1. Space standards
    2. Building Automation System (BAS) standards
    3. Standards between different types of systems
  2. The process to get systems to communicate effectively with one other needs to be:
    1. Easy
    2. Accurate (fool-proof)
    3. Efficient and cost-effective

Last, the following question was posed:
How does one force / encourage ALL software vendors to adhere to data standards?

Topic: Advanced Implementation Issues

Notes submitted by Marty Chobot, Vice President of Marketing, FM:Systems, Raleigh, NC,


This group's discussion focused on advanced implementation topics. What does it take to make a technology project successful and keep it running smoothly?

A key theme that came back many times was that the biggest challenges were managing the people—not managing the technology. Whether it's defining requirements, getting and maintaining executive sponsorship, or communicating with and training users, managing the people associated with the project is a key to success.

Another key theme was to make sure one defines requirements first. This proved to be helpful in many ways—helping to get consensus before the project started, helping to select the right software vendor, and reducing the need to customize the products.

Many great ideas were expressed—they have been summarized into key takeaways. Following the key takeaway section are more notes from the discussion. The discussion started with two people telling detailed stories with lots of questions and comments from the group. The group then had a more free-form discussion.

Key Takeaways

The following summarized the highlights of this group's session.

"Take it one step at a time"

Phase out your implementation—don't try to "boil the ocean". Break the project into sub- projects and allow plenty of time to make sure each phase is successful.

"Focus on training"

Make sure there are different training plans for different types of users. For users that interact with the system on a daily basis (e.g., a service desk coordinator) an initial period of intensive training may work. For infrequent users, one may need lighter upfront training, but should plan to have optional support and "refresher" courses.

"Build a project team"

To facilitate decision making and handle competing agendas, one should build a core team that sets strategy, defines goals and resolves any issues.

"Make sure trainers are committed"

If one applies a "train the trainer" approach, one must make sure the people assigned to be trainers are committed to the project—ideally, they would be assigned that responsibility by their manager.

"Map out your business processes first"

That will allow one to set up the system to one's processes. It will also help one in the vendor selection process.

"Software serves the business. Not the other way around, as vendors think"

Make sure to define goals and requirements before engaging the vendor.

"Avoid customizing"

Customization of software is costly and can add complexity and risk to implementation projects.

"Maintain executive sponsorship"

Having an executive sponsor the project will provide a way to help resolve issues and also help provide resources from other groups (e.g., IT, etc.) during the implementation of the system.

Executive visibility should be maintained on an ongoing basis. For example, one person formed a facility council and invited all the corporate VPs to participate. They met quarterly to show the data. This helped the VPs understand the value of the facilities information and helped them make better business decisions.

Another person sends a weekly email to the executive team with high-level data. What's been done, what's in the plan and a "red-yellow- green" list of issues?

Another point of agreement was that executives are very busy people—it's important to roll-up or summarize the information. One should not give executives too many details - they probably won't have time to digest them.

"Communicate to the user base"

Keeping the user base up to date is critical to the ongoing success of the system.

One person created posters for each site that showed the training schedule for the site, who the trainers are, and who the subject matter experts are.

"Expand the system"

Once one has the system up and running with the core users, it is time to look for ways to expand to other types of users. One person has vendors logging into the system to enter work order data. Another idea was to provide tenants access to the system to log issues.

First Story

The notes and discussion below represent one group member's experience with software implementation.

We just finished implementing

Had some challenges

  • Point system for leases
  • Two maintenance systems
  • One in-house
  • One from service provider
  • Lots of spreadsheets

Lesson learned: take it one step at a time

  • Phase out the implementation
  • Focus on training

Question: how long did it take to train?

  • Depends on the role
  • Service desk coordinators
  • One week intensive training
  • Project managers
  • One week formal training
  • Ongoing user groups
  • Take care to understand how frequently users use the system
  • Daily is one thing
  • Infrequent users will need more hand holding

Question: do vendors have access?

  • We allow vendors to log into the system
  • The vendors can log into system and enter data
  • Also, tenants call into help desk and then the help desk operator enters data

Question: was it hard to get vendors to buy in?

  • Some yes, some no
  • In some cases we integrated with existing vendor systems.
  • For some smaller vendors, we replaced their system
  • Overall the vendor feedback has been extremely positive
  • Vendors
  • Outsourced service provider
  • Equipment manufacturers
  • Janitorial
  • Landscaping
  • Furniture vendors

Question: how did you manage competing agendas - decision making?

  • We had a core team that came together
  • Vendor choice and strategy done by that group
  • Core team communicating out to departments

Question: how big was your project team?

  • Core team to define the requirements
  • Worked intensively with each area
  • Small team of 3-4 that carried the group through
  • Half-time for six months
  • Needs analysis was key—we engaged other groups
  • M&A led to different processes

Second Story

Below are the notes and discussion around another group member's experience with software implementation.

Before our current system we had challenges too

  • Five different systems
  • Five different processes
  • 1000 users

Put together a "core team" for the project

  • Executive sponsor
  • Nine full time on implementation team
  • Core team became the testers
  • Testers became the people that wrote the training materials

First step was defining processes

  • Came up with a list of 584 business requirements
  • Requirements definition took a year but well worth it
  • Went from 400 security groups to 129
  • Role based - completely rethought the software
  • Training was role- based
  • Map out business processes before looking to the software
  • That will allow you to configure the software to your processes
  • Not just following the what the software can do

When selecting the vendor, the 80/20 rule worked - had to give us 80% of what we needed out of the box.


  • Don't sign up anyone to be train the trainer that wasn't committed
  • Make sure people are officially assigned
  • Train the trainer worked well for us
  • Training Timeframes
  • Worst case four days
  • Sometimes just a day
  • Did posters to communicate to users
  • For each site
  • Training schedule for the site
  • Who the train the trainers were
  • Subject matter experts

Question: did you work with a system integrator to define requirements?

  • No
  • All done internal
  • Outside technical people, business requirements in house

Question: did you customize?

  • No - we wanted to stay as close to out of the box as possible
  • Software is to serve the business - not the other way around as the vendors think
  • Avoiding customizing - adds cost

Question: how do you maintain executive sponsorship?

Additional comments

Below are several comments from different group members on how they maintain executive sponsorship of their project.

We have a steering committee attended monthly meeting

Large investments will keep their attention

We actively try to keep in their face

  • Formed a facility council, invited corporate VPs
  • Meet quarterly
  • Show off the system, show the data
  • Help relate to them the value of the data - help them make business decisions

We try to relate at their level

  • Roll up the data
  • Keep the jargon out of your language

We send a weekly communication to the executive team

  • What's been done
  • What's going on next week
  • Red - yellow - green issues
  • "Attached excel file has more detail"

Topic: Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Notes submitted by Peter Costanzo, Sales Manager, Avatech Solutions, Owings Mills, MD,

This group was smaller than the other breakout sessions and was comprised of facilities managers, architects and consultants.

So what is BIM anyways?

Despite the buzz, there is a question about what BIM really is, depending on to whom one talks. It was agreed that BIM really provides a database tied to the architectural drawings of a building. Part of this confusion is created by BIM technology's being so rapidly being deployed, thereby impacting the way that architects, engineers and contractors communicate. Standards are still being developed and different groups thus are using BIM in different ways.

There was a bit of discussion about processes and how they are being impacted by the technology changes. Architects and engineers work differently with BIM software packages than with traditional CAD. There is a paradigm shift at not only this level but every level moving forward.

BIM as "Living Model"

In order for BIM to really assist facilities managers, the model will need to be updated over time. This not only requires the architects, engineers and contractors to work together but also requires that the building owner updates the model through reconfigurations if it is to be useful to the facilities manager.

The integration of BIM as part of the lifecycle management of a building was discussed, including topics such as maintenance management and energy management.

A BIM model holds considerable data. The importance of deciding which data should be contained was discussed, as maintaining data takes time and effort. Modeling is an art in and of itself; one needs to select which data to track and how one will track it.

There also was discussion about BIM and existing facilities. It is possible to create BIM models of existing facilities; however this tends to be expensive.

BIM and FM?

In order for BIM to impact FM, the facilities manager really needs a BIM model of the facility in the first place. Since the technology is so new and most facilities are not new, there are not too many areas a facilities manager will have BIM models to consider. The facility management software tools are starting to catch up and either do or will have the ability to work in conjunction with BIM models; however, the market is not yet there.

Where BIM is making an impact now is in the design and construction phase of new facilities where the architects and designers are able to design facilities more rapidly and the contractors are able to reduce change orders and therefore the cost and time in which new facilities are constructed.

  © 1996-2012 FMLink Group, LLC    301.365.1600             Privacy Policy           About FMLink