Vetasi Blog Posts

Raising the bar on facilities management

A guide to an effective IWMS implementation

As an engineering graduate, the concept of people, processes and technology has been engrained in my mindset from the very beginning albeit on a theoretical scale. The implementation of Planon’s Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) by Vetasi at the North-West University (NWU) allowed me the opportunity to witness this concept in practice, first hand. An award-winning implementation!

More holistically, during my tenure in university – not once did it cross my mind as to the level of effort required to ensure lecture venues were always clean, lights were always operational nor how timetables were managed (let alone replicating these responsibilities across a portfolio of more than 1300 buildings). The brilliance of this IWMS implementation lies not in the intricacies but in its scale.

A large-scale Facilities Management implementation which presented numerous obstacles and tough decisions was made to look a lot simpler because of the following key drivers:

The drivers above served as the difference between success and failure and the content hereon serves to satisfy the how and the why.

Take time for meticulous planning

Although implementation occurred recently, the planning began years ago when Vetasi conducted a comprehensive Gap Analysis which incorporated an initial 2-week workshop evaluating the existing technological maturity at the NWU. This exercise offered the university a neutral, expert opinion on their current gaps with the sole focus on identifying their current challenges from a Facilities Management perspective.

The findings of this exercise allowed Vetasi to have clear visibility on where value-adding opportunities were present which led to the creation of the initial scope. Using Pareto’s Rule (80-20) – this approach ensured maximum value could be achieved by the implementation of the Integration Workspace Management (IWMS) tool within a reduced timescale.

Thereafter, workshops were held to showcase dedicated functionality from the IWMS platform to the NWU allowing for crucial insight the tool which would be assisting them in closing the gaps. Another area to which the Gap Analysis yielded positive insight was the awareness created on which resources within the NWU were required. This ensured an effective project team was defined with stakeholders spanning various departments – each of which knew their roles and efforts required ensuring minimal time and effort was wasted.

Key takeaways from the planning stage for implementing an IWMS solution:

  • Prioritise the definition of a scope based on clear insight provided by various investigative methodologies such as a comprehensive Gap Analysis
  • Ensure areas of focus are prioritised, a system such as Planon ensure that functionality can be scaled – use this to your benefit
  • Identify your current technological maturity– you cannot measure success without a point of reference
  • Define stakeholders as early as possible to ensure transparency and business continuity throughout the implementation
  • Create opportunities for knowledge gain as early as possible – understanding the system ahead of implementation allows stakeholders to contribute more value eventually

Effective communication throughout the project

The most important relationship for a large-scale IWMS i between the Finance, Facilities, and IT. A common mistake made is the exclusion of one or the other under the assumption of “it is a Facilities Management implementation.” At the NWU, all three departments were well represented, tough decisions were discussed and communicated with the interest of the organisation as a whole conquering the needs of each facet.

This approach ensured governance and regulations from Finance were incorporated along with the IT infrastructure and development efforts. The greatest example of effective communication during the implementation belongs to the creation of more than 20 integration web services across 8 different tools in less than half a year. This momentous achievement involved representatives from Finance (specifying the data exchanged), IT (developing incoming/outgoing web services to facilitate the exchange of information) and Facilities Management (defining the process involved in ensuring information was present when needed).

The involvement of a Change Management specialist was an eye-opening experience. Not enough emphasis is placed on this topic tin general. Early in the implementation phase, the NWU had initiated a Change Management exercise in parallel to tackle the following:

  • How will stakeholders manage their involvement in the implementation whilst not neglecting their daily obligations?
  • How can we ensure users adopt the IWMS successfully?

The outcome of this exercise yielded efficient involvement by implementation stakeholders and ensured the IWMS system was adopted seamlessly by end user upon going live given that they were effectively informed and had sufficient time to question and adapt to the associated changes.

Key takeaways through effective communication:

  • The synergetic relationship between Facilities Management, Finance and IT is pivotal – the interest of each facet is intertwined and significant for an IWMS
  • Effective communication yields to team chemistry which contributes towards implementation efficiency and project momentum
  • Incorporate change management as a part of the project – early involvement provides stakeholders with clear solutions and contributes towards the longevity of the effort they provide. Do not underestimate the challenge of change – the most impressive tool will yield no value if it is not being accepted nor utilised by end users

System adoption

System administrators were highly involved from the outset to ensure complete information exchange throughout the deployment lifecycle. Vetasi advises customers to take ownership of the system by upskilling internal workers to manage it both functionally and technically, lowering future maintenance and support costs.

The NWU was able to improve the tool, adjust, and assist end users because the NWU invested in upskilling these resources. Recent enhancements of all three settings by experienced internal technical personnel demonstrate the institutions’ capacity to own their IWMS.

The training strategy also proved effective as it ensured a structured support line was in place for end users (upstream) but also a knowledge sharing insight (downstream). This strategy paired with the range of task-specific training videos ensure users were provided sufficient knowledge of the system and eliminated the overwhelming sense which usually plagues various implementations.

All factors above along with the change management efforts contributed towards impressive system adoption once it went live. Users felt comfortable with the interface and – they believed the IWMS was there to make their lives easier.

Key takeaways from system adoption:

  • Involve dedicated system administrators early on and invest in upskilling them – the long-term reduction in support costs out ways the initial effort and ensure business continuity.
  • Super Users do not need to be linear, vertical levels can be defined with varying responsibilities ensuring support is load-balanced, efficiently.
  • Involve end user in the UAT process to ensure practical, operational challenges are stress tested ahead of going live
  • Define KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to monitor user adoption once the system is live, react swiftly and communicate improvements

The Verdict

Efforts of over 100 engaged players from diverse departments, campuses, and organizations culminated in a successful deployment.
Receiving the South African Facilities Management Association’s (SAFMA) award for Technology Implementation of the Year (2022) is a testament to the unlimited possibilities that may be realized when meticulous planning, effective communication, and system adoption are achieved.

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