How to ensure a CRE asset management system is a success
The key elements that need to be considered when acquiring a corporate real estate asset management system are shared by CHARLES DALRYMPLE-HAY, director of Guardian Global Systems.
The economic challenges of the past few years, the increasing need for compliance management and the need for transparency in managing corporate real estate have highlighted the need among corporate real estate managers to adopt an integrated approach to managing real estate. With fewer resources available, how does senior management provide an accurate view of real estate operations, deliver operational efficiencies, better manage short- and long-term occupancy costs and help achieve a reduction in capital requirements and operating risk?
As a first step, consider whether or not your corporate real estate (CRE) function is underperforming relative to operating efficiency standards. If there is recognition that an appropriate system will enhance workflow processes, then the key to success is to implement a system that can bring about improvements through automated workflows and not just adapt solutions to manage already flawed processes.
With such a wide variety of functional requirements and increasing pressure to transform real estate into a strategic asset, how do you go about determining what is required from a CRE system? Do you pursue a specialist best of breed solution or an integrated workplace management system (IWMS)?
IMPROVING PERFORMANCE USING AN IWMS
To better align CRE function to organisational strategy, a system such as an IWMS enterprise platform is needed to enable organisations to improve the performance of assets and associated business processes. True IWMS solutions typically comprise five components:
- project management
- corporate real estate
- facilities and space management
- maintenance management, and
- environmental sustainability.
IWMS applications are currently characterised by:
- a centralised database
- horizontal functionality consisting of real estate portfolio management, project management, space management and facilities management
- platform verticals, which may include performance management and dashboard reporting, and
- interoperability with other enterprise applications, such as SAP and Oracle systems and PeopleSoft.
ACQUIRING A SYSTEM
Where you start the process of acquiring a system may not be instantly clear; however, there is a basic process to follow and some logic that should be applied to ensure you arrive at the correct recommendations.
1. Perform a comprehensive needs analysis
Evaluate the effectiveness of current workflow practices related to real estate management and determine how those procedures could be improved. This discussion may focus on how you:
- automate and streamline financial business processes to get a single accurate view of all your financial information
- define and manage risks, controls and business processes, and manage audit processes, including findings and issues
- manage and simplify accounting tasks associated with fixed assets, including asset transfers, disposals and reclassifications
- manage all areas of your real estate activities, from site selection, construction projects and remodels to lease and property management, facilities and fixtures maintenance, and asset disposition, and
- formulate growth strategies with operational plans.
2. Prioritise requirements
Identify and prioritise the ‘must have’ requirements against the ‘nice to haves’. By doing this, you can determine whether you need to implement a system in stages or whether a best of breed, rather than all-in-one system, would satisfy your requirements better.
3. Evaluate existing organisational structures
Business needs should drive technology decisions, not the other way around. A platform that allows access to a range of stakeholders to perform tasks from a centralised system can deliver improved business processes and transparency across the organisation.
4. Determine what functionality makes sense and what is really required
An organisation needs to manage an increasing number of processes, so when constructing a ‘needs brief’, stay focused on the core business processes that control and manage risk. Ensure the solution can be configured to meet organisational needs and requirements without the help of IT staff.
IWMS solutions must support multiple database environments, such as SQL, Oracle and DB2. In addition, web-based systems or software as a service (SaaS) with support for local currencies and languages and other global capabilities are a basic requirement of an IWMS solution.
5. Find a solution to help streamline managing government compliance requirements
Compliance acts set forth by relevant government bodies must be adhered to and IWMS solutions must work within this context. The ability to capture and track critical data as needed means that real estate data and financial data must be available together as part of a comprehensive system.
6. Choose a software platform that allows growth
Any implementation should target a set of goals that can be achieved within a relatively short time to solve specific problems within the organisation. Typically, the requirements analysis process will uncover numerous requirements from a variety of stakeholders within the organisation. These should be ranked as either directly supporting the core goals of the system or as being tangential to solving the primary issues to be addressed by the IWMS.
Any system selected must be able to conform to the core requirements derived from the scoping process. In addition to meeting base requirements, the solution must be flexible and able to change to meet the client’s future requirements. Improvement of processes within an organisation is an iterative process and organisations must feel assured that their IWMS system can grow and change with their own needs.
7. Select a vendor with a history of delivering the promised solution
The successful implementation of a solution extends beyond just the price negotiations with the vendor. It’s not always the system that keeps organisations from a successful integrated approach; it’s often the underlying real estate management model. A carefully selected vendor with extensive experience can work in concert with your organisation and help guide the implementation process to a successful conclusion.
8. Ensure configurability to minimises maintenance and management costs
Customisable is one thing; however, configurable is ideal as this typically does not require technical knowledge or IT staff the way customisation does. Turning to the vendor every time you need assistance is going to get expensive, so choose an IWMS solution that is highly configurable.
9. Allocate ownership of the system
Allocating eventual ownership and responsibility of the system is crucial to its operating success. Likewise, a centralised organisation to drive business process and workflows will realise the true benefits of an IWMS or the CRE solution may be harder to manage when in place and harder to justify during the business case and acquisition phase. Assemble an effective project team from within your organisation comprising those that have skill sets relative to the central core of the task to manage the process.