Transparent Data Strategy

by Katie Lee

Using FM data and transparency to become a strategic business partner: how better data leads to better results.

By Sean Hartnett

When the C-suite asks a facility management team for data, they’re not just digging for trivia or trying to make life difficult. They’re seeking objective information that will significantly affect the day-to-day operations and goal-setting for the business. Limited data provides limited insights, which can undermine your value as a strategic business partner and ultimately cause your business to lose customers and millions in unnecessary costs.

So how can the facility management team provide C-suite executives the data they need and use that information to become a more valued business partner?

It all comes back to transparency — data mining that allows all key stakeholders to see why your department makes certain decisions. This includes information on the costs, labor hours and the impact on the customer experience.

Transparent facility management departments have specific, real-time insights into their own operations. These can be shared across all departments to support better overall business decisions. Because FM departments are responsible for a customer’s first impression of a store, this transparency is vital to the top and bottom lines.

Despite this, many facility managers have limited operational data, which can make it difficult to answer questions from the C-suite such as:

• Do we have an effective FM program?

• How do we measure the appearance and the maintenance strategy for our stores?

• What are the atmospheric conditions that are most vital to an excellent customer experience?

• What is the liability risk exposure with our current subcontractors?

• How do we predict future maintenance costs and demand? What business measures can you exercise to mitigate and control these expenses?

Big box retailers may spend up to $500,000 on maintenance per location. For a retailer that has more than 2,000 locations worldwide, that can add to around $1 billion in total annual maintenance spending. Without visibility into how and why those dollars are being spent, critical analysis and improvement cannot be achieved. As a result, retailers are wasting countless dollars.

To get insights into your facility maintenance program, you can collect your existing data to get partial answers. However, you need a complete picture of your performance to understand how you can enhance your entire operations. Many facility management departments work with incompatible systems, tools or insights that can be difficult to scale business-wide.

For example, a small box automotive retailer with a few dozen locations may be spending an average of $16,500 on maintenance per location. This retailer wants to analyze its HVAC systems to reduce routine maintenance costs and the number of reactive services. However, the retailer may simply not have enough information to understand all the nuanced factors that affect their systems. So many other variables, such as weather and preventative maintenance programs, can also impact the system performance and overall life cycle management.

Transparency demands a thorough, data-driven approach. There are several FM technology solutions on the market, including software as a service (SaaS) and computer-aided facility management (CAFM). Because these tools often build on existing systems, they are still working with limited business data.

To truly build value as strategic business partners, facility management departments need “integrative” maintenance technology, which creates a centralized management platform. This platform provides the tools and support necessary for gathering and sharing real-time data across hundreds or thousands of locations to generate meaningful, transparent insights for smarter decisions.

For example, using an integrative FM platform, one small-box retailer with 8,300 U.S. locations wanted to reduce service calls and improve their HVAC services. By implementing a preventative maintenance program and using the platform’s smart technology to capture information across their locations in real-time, they reduced their annual HVAC maintenance spending by 41%.

Within any given business, every department has the same goal of creating the best possible customer experience. However, each department has its own way of achieving this goal, which can lead to miscommunication and disagreement between departments and creates more confusion. Without doing our own part to be transparent, facility management departments remain an afterthought for the C-suite, which can be costly, especially because customers decide to shop at a store based on several factors, each affected by several departments — especially FM.

More than two-thirds of consumers will avoid a business because of how it looks, according to a recent study on customer behaviors from The other third will avoid a business because it doesn’t “look like a place I would normally shop,” though around 80% of consumers are nonetheless open to shopping at new places, further reinforcing the importance of maintenance and appearance — especially because approximately 95% of shoppers see exterior appearance as integral to their in-store experience.

Regardless of how fantastic a display looks, or how quick your service is, no customer can ignore a broken air conditioner, poor lighting or unplowed lots. When these maintenance issues exist across a business, but relevant data is not accurately and transparently captured — the entire organization suffers. By empowering your C-suite and departmental leaders with a clear and objective picture of operations, efficiency and spending, they are better able to improve the customer experience and the bottom line.


— Sean Hartnett is vice president of business development and sales engagement for SMS Assist, a cloud-based multi-site property management company. Learn more at

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