Building Construction: Navigating the IT World

 By Funke Ogunleye
As CAFM Engineers, (Computer Assets Facility Management) we initially come up against a lot of Information Technology (IT) professionals, who give resistance to our encroachment. We are seen as Pseudo IT, fortunately we’re proud of it. I had a senior colleague who would quip that “I’m not an IT professional, but I’m dangerous enough to cause damage.”
Because we deal with a lot of human resource (HR) and spatial information that is categorised as high security information, IT professionals become possessive and understandably protective about their territory. Unfortunately for them, they lack the architectural/design skills required to successfully implement CAFM programmes. I have come across quite a few implementations done solely by IT, which has left the client in a non-starting state of confusion.
The big culprits who give such resistance are the Enterprise System Managers, so you really have to play nice with them, until they realise you’re not going anywhere. The second business encounter with them is usually a showdown of professional lingo. They will begin to throw in technical IT terms and processes to make you cower, but they are dealing with the wrong professional here. We are equally egomaniacal from birth and have our own lingo which we can throw back at them. There is a popular swear word for this contest, but I would rather not say it here.
As the construction professional, be ready to explain the rudiments of space management and how it can be translated into data for use in planning and effective cost management. You need to be aware of the correct terms to use when dealing with the client’s IT team, and not be fluxed when the throw an unknown term at you. If you do not know the meaning of the IT term, immediately ask for the definition, and come back with a response on whether it is relevant or not.
It is important that you state that the CAFM project is an implementation and not just an installation. It lets them know that this is a full scale project with multiple processes that will require more attention, cooperation and effort from all stakeholders involved.
Armed with results from Needs Analysis of the client, the process of migration from the old existing or non-existent systems begins. Many clients have hardcopy blueprints which need to be converted to CAD. If you are lucky enough to have existing CAD files of the floor plans, you will most likely have to wring it off from a pouty architect. To be fair to my fellow architects, if you seek permission to use their CAD files of the floor plans with an explanation of what it is for, they will release it without a fee. Most are happy to hear that their design are undergoing proper maintenance procedures, and like to boast of being the initiators of the building efficiency dream.
The conversion process can be started off in parallel with the collation of HR data, and floor surveys to ensure that all information is correct and up to date. You need a lot of muscle for this process, as the beginning always looks daunting when clients have incomplete information, but that is what you are here for. As the CAD team deals with hardcopy conversions, your “pesudo”
IT team needs to gather the correct data available and arrange them into the required data tables. The arrangements need to be done in accordance with Facilities Management requirements that would later lead to accurate calculations of areas such as Usable Area, Net Assignable Area, Gross Area, Circulation Area etc.
This section of data collection is the actual part that makes your client happy. As Financial and Real Estate professionals, they begin to see the importance of having the ability to translate all the Areas seen on blueprints into spreadsheet formats, through which they can derive the amount of Net Assignable Areas available for office allocation and HR occupancies, the amount of wasted spaces in Circulation Area, or Common Areas which may be the responsibility of the Landlord. Some CAFM systems are also able to include Asset Management and Work order systems in Operation and Maintenance departments of organizations.
The IT team continues to provide HR data feeds to the CAFM systems throughout its life. These feeds may be uploaded in daily or weekly cycles of the client’s choice and regularity of HR churn.
The data feed is usually from the Enterprise System which manages your HR records, through an Application Program Interface that would be linked to the CAFM systems. This is the point at which you are at the IT team’s mercy, and you have to keep watch that all information required is accurate and complete before the first data feed takes place. Once this stage is done, it is smooth sailing from there on, with a distant and guarded alliance with the IT team and your CAFM team.
Minor tweaks and iterations the data feed process may occur as the organisation begins to make proper and full use of the CAFM system
Ogunleye is a Member, Nigerian Institute of Architects, FMP, LEED Green Assoc.