This is the first in a series of blog posts examining ways that facilities managers can take forward-thinking measures in how they perform their jobs, especially in terms of how they collaborate with internal peers and external partners.
This post is based on our ebook Extending the Value of Service Automation Across the Enterprise, which examines how facilities managers can use service automation technology to demonstrate strategic value to their businesses by tying their operations into overall company processes.
The IT, or information technology, department is obviously an important stakeholder for FMs to extend the value of service automation. For one, as service automation is a technology solution, deploying it should involve IT by default. More importantly, however, there is a real opportunity for the FM and IT departments to collaborate in mining, analyzing and reporting on FM data that can be applied across the company to many other departments.
How IT and FM Departments Collaborate
This collaboration can take several forms in terms of the level of involvement required, specifically:
- Accessibility: IT and FMs can work together to ensure that FM data and analytics are accessible to other departments so that anyone can understand the facilities operation’s impact on the rest of the business and vice versa.
- Integration: IT can play a critical role in helping FMs integrate their service automation systems with other corporate systems such as accounting, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management software. This will enhance collaboration, communications and data sharing among the different departments while streamlining operations.
- Unification: The most advanced use case of extending service automation is for the FMs and other departments to unify their operations on a common platform. IT can play a focal role in this process by ensuring seamless deployment and effective governance as service automation rolls out across the enterprise and supports a wide array of service requests from facilities and workplace requests to IT help desk and corporate service needs.
IT and FM Collaboration Best Practice: Avoiding ‘Shadow IT’
One important benefit of the FM and IT departments working closely together is in avoiding an unwanted phenomenon known as “Shadow IT.” This phenomenon occurs when non-IT departments procure and deploy software (or hardware) that is neither sanctioned nor supported by the IT organization.
Shadow IT is especially prevalent in cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technologies, on which many service automation platforms, including ServiceChannel’s, are built. The problem is severe enough already; according to industry research, the level of Shadow IT currently is 15 to 20 times worse than CIOs had predicted.
Not keeping IT in the loop can have detrimental effects such as increasing security risks, as well as operational complexity while not adhering to corporate IT best practices. Examples of this include system reliability, information security and proper data archiving. Keeping IT colleagues part of the rollout process ensures that corporate standards and compliance requirements are met and ensures that FM technology deployments are positioned to add value for all departments across an organization.
Particularly as it comes to SaaS platforms, IT is typically in favor of such systems as they provide 24x7 reliability and seamless scalability via cloud technologies like Amazon Web Services, and take virtually all the maintenance and upkeep off of IT’s plate as there’s no system complexity or infrastructure investment required to support any department’s users.
The IT Checklist for a Service Automation Platform
In order for FMs to bust through these organizational and operational siloes, it’s crucial that they select a service automation platform that also meet IT’s requirements. The criteria can include choosing a platform that offers:
- System reliability through built-in high availability and security
- Automated scalability as system demand increases
- Open application platform interfaces, or APIs, to enable simple integration between the service automation platform and other corporate systems such as enterprise resource planning, payment/accounting software, and other workflow management and FM ecosystem-related applications
- Low to no-touch operations such as automated and secure platform upgrades
A good use case of FM - IT collaboration is in integrating facilities work order management with the vendor invoice and payment process. A ServiceChannel customer in retail financial services enjoyed far more streamlined invoicing and payment process post-integration, which resulted in more satisfied and more productive vendors. Not surprisingly, the company reported that key contractor performance indicators such as “vendor check in” and “first-time completion” rates shot up as well.
The bottom line is that FM and IT departments must recognize the common destinies for success they share, which necessitates the need to work together better. Collaboration through platforms such as service automation gives both departments first-hand looks at ways this technology can dramatically and positively impact their respective operations, as well as other corporate functions. This will undoubtedly lead to a greater appreciation and higher levels of respect for each other, which will deliver lasting benefits.
For a better understanding of the value proposition that a service automation platform can have for non-FM departments across the enterprise, download the Extending the Value of Service Automation across the Enterprise eBook.