This post is the third in a 5-part series that addresses deferred maintenance on higher education campuses and the evolving role facilities management plays in the future of colleges and universities in North America.
Higher education facilities managers face a real challenge when articulating the issue of deferred maintenance. In a growing effort to make their campuses stand out, many colleges and universities focus on new construction, adding state-of-the-art housing and classroom facilities in the hope of attracting the best applicants. While new construction may make for good public and alumni relations, it overshadows the growing backlog of maintenance that plagues these institutions.
Students don’t choose a college because the plumbing works — they expect that wherever they go. When facilities managers can’t get funding for regular maintenance, they often wind up spending more to repair infrastructure failures than they would have to maintain the equipment properly. Students who were attracted by 21st Century architecture suddenly find themselves making do with 19th Century utilities. And in today’s connected society, it doesn’t take long for next year’s candidates to find out about buildings that look great on the outside but are uncomfortable, possibly even miserable, places to work, live and learn.
Increasingly, it falls to the facilities manager to help the institution strike a proper balance between the desire for new space and the need to invest in older spaces and infrastructure.
The 3 “C’s” of Data in Facilities Management
Ironically, the success of a facilities manager may make it harder to fund deferred maintenance. When things appear to be running smoothly, it’s much more difficult to convey the immediacy and impact of an underlying problem. This is where reliable benchmarks and data can help. The best data covers three “C’s”:
- Complete Picture. Comprehensive facilities data can help facilities managers and campus executives identify areas in need of immediate, those that can be deferred a bit longer, and those that can go several years with just regular operational maintenance.
- Competitor Benchmarking. In addition to studying the state of the institution’s facilities management, this data can also measure the relative effectiveness of one institution’s facilities management against competing institutions.
- Communication. Too often it seems like facilities managers and institutional decision makers speak a different language. Qualified comprehensive facilities data can present clear and concise metrics that make sense to everyone.
Why Third Party Analysis?
Most facilities managers have access to the basic data needed to paint a realistic picture of the maintenance backlog. Third party data collection and analysis provides an advantage in facilities management through increased validation and benchmarking against peer institutions. With this information in hand — along with a common vocabulary that resonates with financial decision makers — facilities managers can address each of the three C’s and get approval for much-needed funding sooner.
Outside analysis of facilities data also allows for easier comparison to other institutions year over year, where internal data collection will be limited to one institution for a narrower period of time. In addition, third parties focus on presenting information in a way that bridges the gap between facilities managers and those who make the budgets. Instead of one facilities manager who goes through the budget process once a year, a third party helps dozens of colleges in a year and can rely on that broad experience to target communications about maintenance backlog more effectively.
Facilities managers have enough issues to worry about every day; critical facilities data shouldn’t be one of them. Explore your options and see how a third party can help you maximize your impact in funding discussions.
How Sightlines Can Help:
Sightlines leverages independent analysis and rigorous benchmarking to bridge the gap between physical and financial asset strategy for educational institutions throughout North America.