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September 11th : How The Dow Jones & Co. Survived PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 31 January 2008 22:51

World Trade Center Being HitJuly 31, 2006  The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks forced 800 workers at Dow Jones & Co. out of their offices adjacent to the World Trade Center. But the company needed those employees to continue working. "We still had a job to do, and we had to find space," says Jennifer W. Keller, manager of facility planning at the company's South Brunswick, N.J., office.

Keller located new work spaces for all displaced employees within a week, helping the company to continue publishing the The Wall Street Journal, Barron's and its online content uninterrupted.
Keller credits her integrated workplace management system from Archibus Inc. in Boston. "We've become the librarians of lots of information about what the company has, where people are working, what physical assets they're working with and what it will take to move them," she says.

Although extreme, Keller's experience illustrates the benefits these applications can produce. Users say they help them more quickly respond to changes, more accurately compile information needed for real estate decisions and better forecast space requirements -- all of which can save companies millions of dollars through increased productivity and reduced real estate costs.

Even so, CIOs have not been clamoring for these applications. In fact, facilities managers, vendor executives and market analysts all say that IT has overlooked this area and only recently started to champion technology improvements for managing corporate real estate. "It's been somewhat of an orphaned function," says Michael Bell, an analyst at Gartner Inc.

Bell says that facilities management systems used to be fragmented and departmental, so many IT shops took a hands-off approach. IT allowed facilities staffers to choose their own software and, in some cases, their own outside vendors to support it.

People like Chris Kniola are trying to change that. "We're trying to help [IT] understand, but it's taking some time," says Kniola, project manager of facility technology at a large financial services company near Chicago.

Kniola, who just earned his master's degree in IT, works in design construction but took on the role of IT project planner for the facilities group. Now he's trying to cultivate a relationship with IT, although much of the IT work still falls to his group.

Small Change No More

But the days when IT could afford a laissez-faire attitude toward facilities applications are gone. The market for integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) has evolved over the past few years, Bell says. Such systems are now characterized by enterprise-level software that integrates project management, real estate portfolio and lease management, space management and maintenance management.

The systems have become linked with ERP and human resources systems such as PeopleSoft, and the investment for big companies can exceed $1 million. "It's certainly getting the attention of the CIOs and IT people because of the size, magnitude and complexity," he says.

Facilities management is really about cost cutting. "Real estate historically was looked at by management as a fixed cost. You touched it every three or four years maybe," Bell says. "Now the workplace is much more dynamic. It's beginning to turn real estate into a variable cost."

John Kuxhausen, the computer-aided facility management administrator at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., sees the benefits of IWMSs firsthand. As the company's 3,000 workers move through the development of a product or roll from one project to another, they're physically moved to different work spaces. The result: a churn rate of 120% to 130% annually.

Prior to implementing an IWMS, Kuxhausen kept track of workers manually, using Excel spreadsheets and computer-aided design drawings. The process was so time-consuming and inexact, he says, "on any day, you didn't know if it was up to date."

"Now we have a real-time database that shows where people are sitting, where people are going, what [space] is open," Kuxhausen says. "We can show that to department heads at a moment's notice, and they know it's accurate."
That's no small feat for a facilities department that oversees space configurations in 38 buildings spread among three campuses.

Deborah Lott, associate director of space management for the City University of New York (CUNY), is seeing similar benefits from her IWMS, Archibus/FM. Lott uses the application to track how CUNY is using its 26.2 million square feet of space across 20 campuses in New York's five boroughs. This information is crucial for scheduling classes -- her application interfaces with CUNY's scheduling system -- and for developing a master facilities plan.

Lott can use the system to calculate very specific details on use, such as how much space the biology department occupies and how much of that is for adjunct professors, faculty, administration, lab space and instruction.

Lott says CUNY also puts on-demand work requests into the system, which now tracks maintenance work, such as light bulb replacements and leaky faucet repairs, electronically instead of on paper or in spreadsheets.

"It's more efficient, because once you understand the work requests you get on a consistent basis, you can do your preventative maintenance and reduce your on-demand work requests -- and the costs of running your buildings," she says.

What those savings actually are, Lott can't say yet. But she expects that as CUNY continues to expand its use of the application, it will add up to big bucks.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 November 2010 01:07