What is facility asset management software in 2021 and beyond?

Greg Jarboe

Greg Jarboe

I’ll bet that you’re looking for more than a definition of facility asset management. You are probably in the early stages of a complex and difficult process that Gartner says will involve six steps: 

  • Problem identification. “We need to do something.” 
  • Solution exploration. “What’s out there to solve our problem?” 
  • Requirements building. “What exactly do we need the purchase to do?” 
  • Supplier selection. “Does this do what we want it to do?” 
  • Validation. “We think we know the right answer, but we need to be sure.” 
  • Consensus creation. “We need to get everyone on board.”  

As a Director of Facilities at your college or university, you are probably part of a group of six to 10 decision makers‚ who have independently gathered four or five pieces of information and must reconcile any conflicting “facts” before making a decision that will have a major impact on your campus. 

At the same time, the set of options and solutions that your decision-making group could consider is expanding as new technologies, products, suppliers and services emerge. 

According to Gartner, “These dynamics make it increasingly difficult for customers to make purchases. In fact, more than three-quarters of the customers Gartner surveyed described their purchase as very complex or difficult.” 

So, to make sure that everyone is on the same page, you are probably searching for a facility asset management definition from a credible source. 

Facility asset management definition 

Well, Jack Dempsey, executive officer for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Civil Engineering Unit, Oakland, CA, provided a good definition in a feature article entitled, “Facility Asset Management Doctrine,” which was published in the March/April 2007 issue of Facilities Manager Magazine. He said, “Facility asset management (FAM) is a field of management that umbrellas all decisions related to facility investments to include acquisition, construction, operations, maintenance, renewal, and disposal. Where traditional facilities management seeks to ensure the proper working order of a facility portfolio, FAM further incorporates economics; financial, capital, and resource management; and the direct application of many decision and information management practices.” 

 In other words, FAM includes facility and asset management. 

FAM includes facility and asset management 

According to Dempsey, “There are three important perspectives to FAM decision-making: facility-mission alignment, facility performance, and financial performance. The first two articulate the organization’s mission and facility needs respectively. The third, financial performance, provides a well-established structure to evaluate competing priorities in a resource-constrained environment. In coordination, these perspectives focus decision-making and methodically evaluate all risks in order to maximize facility performance and achieve desired organizational mission outcomes.” 

In other words, if one of the legs of this three-legged stool is missing, then your facility asset management strategy falls over. For example, if your traditional facility management metrics are missing asset management metrics, then your higher education institution won’t reach the objective of having a facility asset management plan, which is: “to better achieve the organization’s desired mission outcomes by lowering risks and costs associated with facility ownership.” 

One proposed facility asset management plan 

Now, this definition of FAM was written well before the COVID-19 pandemic redefined what a software solution needs to do for colleges and universities with complex infrastructures and changing needs. So, what is facility asset management software in 2021 and beyond? 

Well, Ted Weidner, an associate professor at Purdue University, wrote an article entitled, “Campus Sustainability After the Pandemic,” which was published in the May/June 2021 issue of Facilities Manager Magazine. He said, “We have yet to see what will really happen to our campuses after the pandemic. It may not be over in the upcoming academic year, although some universities are planning ‘normal’ operations. Measuring campus sustainability after the pandemic will be better understood in a few years via the APPA Facilities Performance Indicators (FPI) report or the APPA Key Facilities Metrics (KFM) survey.” 

Great. So, what should you do in the meantime? 

Focus on facility management vs asset management 

According to Weidner, you should focus on the following for the foreseeable future: 

  • Sanitization procedures: Bumping up the cleaning of restrooms as well as cleaning of classrooms and corridors, including daily sanitization of light switches and door hardware. 
  • Food Services: Replacing the scatter-and-graze model where students serve themselves at dining facilities with a new model where servers dish out portions onto single use take-out dining ware that’s thrown away.
  • Ventilation: Increasing ventilation in buildings to add fresh air and reduce recycled air, including adding UVC sterilization in ductwork, even if we don’t know if this will increase utility costs. 
  • Space: Realizing that the increase in virtual or hybrid courses significantly reduces demand for instructional spaces (classrooms and instructional labs). 
  • Staffing: Realizing that reduction in the number of employees who must be on campus to provide meaningful service including administrators, support personnel, and faculty,  

But, if we compare these suggestions with the definition of facility asset management above, then it appears that Weidner is suggesting that you focus on traditional facilities management until a few years from now when data from the FPI report or KFM survey is available. 

In other words, Weidner is recommending that we focus on facility management vs asset management for the foreseeable future. And he may be right. 

An alternative facility asset management strategy 

But, there is an alternative facility asset management strategy.  

Since the COVID-19 pandemic redefined what a software solution needs to do for colleges and universities with complex infrastructures and changing needs, this is probably the right time to double-check to see if your facility-mission alignment focuses on the relationship facilities have to achieving the organization’s desired mission outcomes in the “new” normal.  

As Dempsey pointed out in 2007, “These outcomes can be defined in many different ways (e.g., profit making, capital accumulation, providing products or services to include education and learning and even the Coast Guard’s life-saving and national security missions).” 

Or, as Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.” 

The best facility asset management software may be an IWMS 

As you double-check to see if your facility-mission alignment focuses on the relationship facilities have to achieving the organization’s desired mission outcomes, you may discover that traditional facility management without asset management doesn’t get you where you need to go. 

Why? Because “facilities asset management is a daunting task. But, it’s an undertaking that’s absolutely critical to your organization,” writes Glenn Adams, Vice President of Product Management at AssetWorks, in a post entitled, “Your Guide to Facilities Asset Management,”  

But, for larger organizations with a lot of assets to manage, the best facility asset management software in 2021 and beyond may be an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS). 

Why? Well, Adams has written another post entitled, “Is an IWMS Right for Your Organization?” In it, he writes, “Admittedly, an IWMS is not the right facilities software solution for everyone. Smaller organizations often find the sophisticated functionality of a robust system to be cumbersome and overwhelming.”  

He adds, “Purchasing an IWMS when you have lighter facilities management software needs is akin to buying a minivan when you only need a bicycle. Sure, there are some excellent features (have you seen those sliding doors and cup holders?) but, the cost of ownership and complexities of upkeep don’t make sense if you only want to ride around the block every few days.” 

Adams concludes, “However, if you need to transport your family of 5 on a daily basis, the investment in a minivan is well worthwhile. The same is true of IMWS: If your facilities management needs are small, a lite system will work for you. However, if you’re managing multiple buildings and complex needs, a heavy-duty software like an IWMS will prove well worth the investment.” 

Who can provide more info about the best facility asset management software? 

As the comments above indicate, Adams is what Google would describe as a “credible source.” What makes a source credible? According to Google, there are several factors, but they include: authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage. Adams checks all of those boxes. 

Where can you find other credible sources who can provide you with more information about the best facility asset management software or the best IWMS software for higher education? Well, I recommend that you contact one of the higher education experts at AssetWorks 

To date, I’ve interviewed five of them for this blog: Marshall McSpaddenPaul SharpKen JordanTony Stack, and Brian Carlson. And next week, I’ll share with you five reasons why you should contact them sooner rather than later. 


About Greg Jarboe 

Greg Jarboe is the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, which has provided services to the University of the Pacific, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, and Dickinson College. Greg has been an instructor in several Rutgers Business School Mini-MBA programs. 

In addition, Greg is the author of YouTube and Video Marketing and the co-author with Katie Paine of the Communications Measurement eBook for Higher Education. Before co-founding SEO-PR in 2003, Greg was VP of Marketing for WebCT, where he helped to triple the company’s installed base from 700 institutions in 36 countries to 2,172 institutions in 75 countries. 

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