When an informational professional works in facilities…
My first job out of library school was working in the facilities and real estate division of a well funded Ivy League university situated on a large urban campus. I was hired as a digital archivist and data manager in the Office of the University Architect, and my job was to assist in overseeing the division’s facilities resource center and lead digitization efforts. For me, it was an excellent opportunity to apply my interests in archives, digital asset management, and public service toward my background in the built environment.
To expand upon my job responsibilities, the first half of my role concerned the records management of all the documentation required for maintaining buildings, systems, components and infrastructure maintained by the university facilities and real estate division. This was commonly blueprints, drawing sets, specifications, studies, project manuals, cad files, GIS, as well as 3d and physical models. It was my job to ensure that this type of information was kept findable, accessible, and readily retrievable. We also worked with the university archive and records center to evaluate materials and adhere to official standards such as retention rates and legal requirements.
The second part of role was the “digital” side, where i was charged with leading digitization initiatives of various hardcopy and paper-based collections. Our primary focus was creating electronic access to all of our drawings and blueprints. Instead of heading back into the archives to locate a sprinkler plan in a drawing set for a plumber, we could instead pull up a scanned copy on a computer. I was a systems administrator for our electronic database of digitized collections, and controlled and curated all records in the system along with permissions management. Scanning and imaging best practices were also a large component.
A particularly fulfilling aspect was the service component of the job, which is where i gained a lot of knowledge and experience about facilities management and operations. As the primary access point for all information concerning building, grounds, and systems, all user queries went through the facilities resources center team. Staff had access to both our electronic database as well as the archive room shelves, but as the resident informational professional, people came to me knowing they could get the right information at the right place, and at the right time. My user base was incredibly diverse and included architects, engineers, area managers, project managers, consultants, lawyers, students, and tradesmen such as plumbers, electricians and HVAC technicians. With the university being the owner-operator, i worked with a lot of our consultants doing renovations to locate specific building information. Our most common walk-ins were the tradesmen who just came back from a job and needed further information from a plan for product specification to finish their job. I worked with the real estate division to help locate and analyze surveys, and i even worked with our general counsel to map out permits. In my capacity, i gained a incredible sense of how facilities records power operations.
To say the least, my work experience was an excellent example of demonstrating how formal information management principles such as database management, records management, and metadata schemas are critical to the operations of large university.
And when an information professional doesn’t work in facilities…
However logical and natural it may seem to envision the usefulness of a position like mine, they are quite rare in the facilities management field. Many larger higher ed institutions and organizations have a paraprofessional position dedicated to maintaining and retrieving facilities records. Additionally, many larger facilities units have staff dedicated to maintaining various facilities management systems that automate the entire work lifecycle process and better manage building, utilities and assets. Popular software include FAMIS, TRIRIGA, and there are countless other tools for space management, tracking maintenance requests, building information solutions, as well as helping users visualize their information in the field.
So even when an information professional is not included in the staffing plan of a facilities unit, its very easy to see that the proper management of information and records is a substantial component of the unit’s mission.
Common facilities management components associated with information management concepts
- Records management for legal retention requirements of building information
- Building information modeling (BIM)
- Asset tracking and management
- Inventory managment
- Move management
- Capital projects planning
- Organization and storage of paper documentation [warranties, specs, studies, project manuals, blueprints, drawing sets]
- Energy tracking, analysis, and management
- Lease administration and real estate
- GIS and CAD libraries management
- Disaster / emergency planning and management
The reality is that literally all core duties for facilities managers are predicated on the sheer availability and readiness of information, records, or knowledge about campus components in the natural and built environment. In more ways than not, the facilities manager’s success depends on properly maintaining this collective data in various capacities, through various excel sheets, databases, software systems, file structures, and other organizational methods. This reasoning supports the title of this post, which is Why all facilities managers need to be information stewards.
The facilities manager of the future
An easy way to determine if a facilities manager might not be so successful at his/her job is by witnessing an emergency or disaster scenario on the property. These are time sensitive situations that truly test a unit’s ability to identify, assess, take action, and monitor. It’s in these moments where locating that sprinkler plan, gas line, warranty information, sequence of operation plan, or fire protection system details are very timely. The image in this post is from a flood event in the facilities archives that completely waterlogged about 30% of the hardcopy collection. Luckily we were able to act quickly to save the vital information before it was permanently damaged.
The truth is that all successful facilities professionals are excellent record keepers and are very efficient at organizing and controlling the flow of information coming their way. They require clarity in this process in order to properly plan for future activities through a maintenance, finance, and staffing lens. They can effectively answer most questions presented to them by having a logical and findable inventory of building information. An interesting trend we’re seeing is that all machines, trades, and workflows in building systems are being automated. Once things become computerized, they are eventually tied to data-driven results and outcomes. Performance needs to be measured, and computers can quantify processes to give us measurable analytics. Those who know how to leverage data to solve problems and intelligently forecast are best poised to be a facilities manager of the future. They will champion the creation and curation of data, information, and knowledge.