6 Aspects About IWMS That Everybody Ought to Know

Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) are software solutions designed to optimize facility management and real estate performance of organizations. As even the acronym causes confusion, clarification is required. In this post I will discuss what everybody ought to know about IWMS.

1. Integrated Solution

Although many point solutions optimize facility management and real estate performance, their focus in most cases is to solve a single business problem. IWMS on the contrary, is an integrated solution not aimed at solving one individual business problem, but improving the organization as a whole.  Thinking that your business problem doesn’t have any relation with other business problems to me is just naïve.

2. Process driven

Processes are the foundation of any organization. They can be found everywhere within your organization flowing from department to department, from stakeholder to stakeholder, and governed by organization rules they are daily routine for many employees. Even the slightest improvement in organizational process can have a huge impact on the bottom line of an organization.

Most IWMS’s are process driven. This means that IWMS optimizes processes.  From a trouble ticket to asset disposal, processes can be optimized.

3. Decision support

Optimizing processes can only be successful when you have solid information about those processes. Although you might have a gut feeling about certain process in your organization, you are not able to make informed decisions without reliable information. IWMS can empower you with that information to make those decisions. What’s more, combining information from other parts of the organization can improve the organization as a whole.

4. Five main solution areas

Integrated Workplace Management Systems provide solutions in the following functional domains.

  1. Project Management
  2. Corporate Real Estate
  3. Facilities & Space Management
  4. Maintenance Management
  5. Environmental Sustainability

Each of the above solution areas has specialized characteristics however in order to be classified as an IWMS these functionalities need to be met.

5. Web-based

As the workforce is becoming more and more decentralized, the need for web-based software solutions is only increasing. A dispersed staff challenges facility and real estate professionals to re-evaluate and change the status quo. This change is mostly initiated by the intrusion of web based technology in our lives.  Most IWMS are web-based and are well equipped to be used both domestically and internationally.

6. Standards Compliancy

Over the last couple of years quite a few standards initiatives have gained substantial momentum (OSCRE, LEED, BREEAM, IPD, etc.). Directed by legislation it is expected to be increasingly supported by IWMS vendors. Most IWMS vendors have already incorporated standards in their product portfolio and this will increase dramatically.

14 Responses to “6 Aspects About IWMS That Everybody Ought to Know”

  1. Steven,

    I agree completely with the six points of definition that you have provided for Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS).

    To help readers identify if a particular IWMS vendor meets the criteria, I would like to add the following:

    1. Integrated Solution:
    Integrated provides the most operative word in the definition. For an IWMS solution to deliver an integrated solution, one should evaluate if the vendor provides a single application and technology solution with: a single database repository to store all IWMS data and documents; a single business logic engine to manage the business processes; a single web-based user interface for all users; and a single reporting and analytics technology to improve decision support.

    2. Process driven:
    Since IWMS solutions rely heavily on their ability to support and automate business processes the infrastructure provided to support these processes becomes critical in the evaluation of an IWMS solution.
    One should evaluate the predefined business processes delivered in the “as-shipped” product to ensure alignment with one’s organizational needs.
    Understanding that vendors deliver “generic” and/or “industry-specific” processes in their “as-shipped” IWMS solutions and that customers require organizational-specific processes in many cases, one should also evaluate the business process configuration capabilities offered by the vendor. The customer should be able to configure the processes and data structures required, without changes to source code. The vendor should offer capabilities to migrate these configurations between development, test and production environments. The vendor should provide capabilities to migrate these configurations upon upgrades.

    3. Decision support:
    In many cases, the return on the IWMS investment is sourced from improved decisions. Like the process management capabilities, one should evaluate the predefined reports and performance metrics as well as the configuration capabilites to extend the “as-shipped” decision support capabilities. Also, look for advanced decision support logic such as FAS 13, GHG Protocol and other financial models within the predefined applications to help improve decisions.

    4. Five main solution areas:
    As with point #1, one should evaluate IWMS solutions based on the delivery all five of the functional domains within a single integrated application and technology platform as a minimum standard.

    5. Web-based:
    “Decentralized systems have higher TCO [Total Cost of Ownership]” – Gartner Inc. One should evaluate the technical architecture of the IWMS solution to ensure that all layers are built on a web-based application and technology stack.

    6. Standards Compliancy:
    Standards compliancy simplifies and streamlines data exhange between service providers and third-party systems. One should evaluate IWMS vendors based on their predefined integration with standards such as OSCRE and whether integration of the standard has been certified by the standards body as a qualification of adoption and compliance.

    I hope this helps.

    John Clark
    TRIRIGA Inc.
    http://www.tririga.com

  2. Rob Whalley says:

    Excellent article!

    Whilst in recent years web-based platforms have certainly been the way to go, today’s technology enables applications to be developed as either web or pc based application. Offering both sides of the coin! Obviously, it is important to consider the serious system/data security issues that need addressing when deploying a purely web-based application.

    One point I would like to note is the increased use of Pocket PC mobile solutions. As an IWMS provider, we are noticing that more and more clients are exploring our Pocket PC solution to support process and improve overall performance. Utilising mobile devices helps to increase response times in accordance with SLA and KPI performance and provide better customer service levels.

    Kind Regards

    Rob Whalley
    Tabs FM
    http://www.tabsfm.com

  3. Martin Green says:

    What I did not realise until reading this article is I must have developed an early IWMS system.

    This was constructed in the late 1990’s early 2000 as a global system for HSBC Property.

    This system linked M&E and Fabric condition surveys together with all the real estate data to assist in the HSBC property strategy. At the core of this was budgets, expenditure and occupancy management.

    The key to the success of the project was a user interface that gave a full picture of what was happening on each property covering occupancy, real estates (lease, rents and service charges), budgets, expenditure, rates (property tax), capital projects, revenue spend, disposals and acquisitions.

    The users also had a selection structure based on difference drill down trees, so you could evaluate the largest cost per area, highest energy cost, lowest occupancy (filtering out warehouses etc).

    Always difficult to quantify is the easy of use and functionality, so when evaluating IWMS system ensure that key representatives of the team evaluate the application to confirm it meet the needs. Please do not just leave this to a request to tender or formal processed response.

    An RFP (request for proposal) that states it is required to manage Rents Reviews has many different meanings to an Estates Survey and an Accounts Payable administrator.

    Happy hunting and great article.

    • Steven Hanks says:

      Hi Martin,

      great to hear that before the acronym being coined professionals such as yourself have developed Integrated Workplace Management Systems. Can you share additional information about that project?

      Yours sincerely,

      Steven

  4. MAH says:

    My personal affiliation and experience in Facility derangement leads me to this idea that over last decades FM service delivery models has been radically changed. Once maintenance manger who was suppose to keep boiler running has now compelled to play active role across all phases facility life cycle which embracing all five strategic areas, mentioned above. Without having solid information base it is not possible to deliver quality facility services at competitive cost, which is, in today’s world, a major theme in every organization. Effective deployment IWMS can help facility mangers to demonstrate, real value to for money to core business they serve.

  5. Steven Hanks says:

    MAH,

    thank you very much for your comment. Facilities and Real Estate have gained momentum as a strategic management tool over the last decade or so. This also demands for Service Providers (both internal and external to the organization) to cope with these changes accordingly. IWMS can play a vital role in the increased professionalism of Facility and Real Estate Service Providers.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Steven

  6. Genuinely intriguing. Continue to keep those topic coming.

    • Tony Stack says:

      A 7th, and often understated aspect of IWMS systems – that offer distinct advantages over multiple point solutions is that the customer now has a “single throat to choke”. In other words there is a single point of accountability which is part of the premise that drives the perceived “higher value” that IWMS offers the market.

  7. IWMS is the facility sector version of ERP. The track record of ERP systems is abysmal. Their is not a single IWMS system that handles all knowledge domains effectively, or even well for that matter. Why? No IWMS vendor has true expertise in each area.
    Thus the question remains, do one wish to manage their build environment market at a mediocre level, or engage in best practices.
    Your choice.

    • Steven Hanks says:

      Dear Peter,

      Thank you very much for your comment.

      Although I agree with your view that point-solutions on average leverage more true expertise, the question remains whether all that true expertise is actually needed by customers / end-users.

      On average I have experienced that even in Integrated Workplace Management Systems customers are not fully using the in-depth possibilities of the IWMS, let alone a point solution.

      By the way I personally think that saying that IWMS’s manage the building environment market at a mediocre level is a statement that I absolutely don’t agree with. Many IWMS vendors bring a lot of expertise to the table and have incorporated that expertise into their solutions.

      Yours sincerely,

      Steven

      • So, in effect, you are saying you would have your General Practitioner perform heart surgery on you?

        I stand by my comment that IMWS systems deployed “as is” without refinement in core, if not critical areas, provide a mediocre solution.

        Sure, IWMS vendors bring expertise to the table. The point however is that the don’t bring requisite expertise in each knowledge domain.

        Then again, as I don’t market IWMS solutions, or their vendors, I have a different perspective. I could give you very specific examples…. but the savvy are well aware of them.

        • Steven Hanks says:

          Peter,

          Thank you very much for your comment.

          No absolutely not, however fortunately heart surgery is only required in a very very small percentage of all cases. It is more likely to be the flu or simple headache for which General Practitioners can be of great help.

          Sure I could give you at least the same amount of specific samples where customers are extremely happy with their IWMS, but that is not the point here.

          The point is that this article is on aspects that everybody ought to know on IWMS. Not to state IWMS is the one and only solution available out there.

          We greatly value other opinions so again, thank you very much for your comment.

          Yours Sincerely,

          Steven

  8. Tim Marshall says:

    I’m only just finding the acronym IWMS and find it a fascinating subject. Like Martin’s comments from 3 years ago, I too have been involved with what I think might be classified as IWMS from the early 1990s, though my term for it was “Integrated Facilities Management Information Systems” or IFMIS. However, as my acronym implies, my focus was on maintenance and operations systems being integrated with the enterprise financial systems and other FM systems including CAFM, versus an overall enterprise solution.

    In the case of CMMS, I don’t think I’d be generalizing too much if I put forward my opinion that one of the first things that drives a move towards some form of systems integration is between CMMS work order transactions and a financial system. Am I that far off in thinking such a move is a small step towards the *concept*, if not actual software, of IWMS, Steven?

  9. Tim Marshall says:

    I have some of the same reservations of Peter Cholakis.

    At the university where I work, we use Banner (formerly SCT, now Sungard, I believe) as an enterprise level financial system and also use modules for student marking and other things, I believe. Personally, and this is just my own opinion, I find the Banner financial user interface/exerience to be hideous, something a kid with a Tandy might have been proud of in the 1980s. Banner has a CMMS module.

    I inquired about it on a professional email list and it received a major thumbs-down. A number of educational facilities’ maintenance and operations organizations had looked at it or tried it and backed away in a hurry. This was at least 7 or more years ago and things may well have changed since then.

    Further in support of Peter’s comments on mediocre versus best practices, I see the very same sort of concern at a lower levels when it becomes important to bring stand alone applications developed by managers or supervisors into the CMMS. There is usually hesitation and concern on the part of the owner and users, if any, of it. Some examples I have encountered include: vehicle insurance lists of boats trailers being tracked on some spreadsheet (very loud sigh here) while vehicles were being tracked on the CMMS; refrigerant quantities and inspections being tracked separately on an MS Access database (and not badly developed either; and pressure vessel registration and inspections tracked on yet another spreadsheet (another loud sigh – as you can tell I don’t like spreadsheets misused – in my opinion – as tools for asset tracking). The managers and supervisors who had set these individual systems up, especially the MS Access application for refrigerants, were worried that the CMMS might not have the same functionality they had developed in their own stand-alone systems.

    Getting back to a commercial IWMS, I think the issue of mediocrity can be addressed if vendor can demonstrate that individual modules are written and developed in a manner that actually addresses specific requirements for a CMMS, CAFM, etc. They CANNOT have the feel of something just tacked on that follows only the guiding principles of one type of module. In the case of the Banner CMMS I mention above this appeared to be the case based on the comments I received. The modules for CMMS, CAFM, deferred maintenance (if it is separate from CMMS), health & safety, capital project planning & management, and any others MUST ALL BE WRITTEN AS IF THEY ARE COMPETING WITH OTHER INDIVIDUAL PRODUCTS.

    Of course, as i would expect with the little I am just learning about IWMS, the modules must all share a common database. They MUST follow common relational database design principles, especially the fundamental of normalization so that they can work seamlessly together or as separate modules. People familiar with database structure are sometimes stunned to see a vendor’s entity relationship diagram and/or coding methodologies that would have the vendor’s programmers ejected from an introductory database design course on day one.

    There’s a lot more involved, but I’d end up writing a book.

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