Facility planning or strategic facility planning recognizes that every decision made in business planning has a direct impact on an organization’s real estate assets and needs.
In the real world of facility management, a plethora of activities falls under the facility manager’s responsibility, causing frequent lapses into a reactive mode to respond to all the requests, orders, regulations, deadlines and demands of the organization.
Facilities are the critical components of an organization’s strategic facility planning since they are the outcome of business decision-making processes and have a long-term impact on the support for the achievement of the organization’s mission and vision.
Strategic facility planning facilitates the organization’s strategy by optimizing facilities to satisfy the strategic relationships between the organization, products/services, and facilities.
The strategic facility planning is a two-to-five year plan encompassing the entire portfolio of owned and/or leased space that sets strategic facility goals based on the organization’s strategic objectives.
4 Steps of Facility Planning
A flexible and implementable strategic facility planning based on the specific and unique considerations of your organization needs to be developed through a 4 step process.
4 step process of understanding the situation, facilities, conditions, and expectations, analyzing the needs and changes required, planning, and then executing an approved plan will be explained.
4 step process of facility planning:
The first step, understanding, requires a thorough knowledge of your organization’s mission, vision, values, and goals.
Thoroughly understand the organization’s mission, vision, values, and goals.
Many organizations follow a balanced scorecard of 4 key measurements: financial performance; customer knowledge; internal business processes; and learning and growth.
The strategic plan focuses on the longer-term, big-picture needs and vision of the organization. Because the SFP meshes with the strategic business plan of each unique organization, alignment is critical for success.
Facility managers must begin the development of the SFP by thoroughly understanding the needs of the organization.
Through existing internal analysis and business imperatives, the work that an SFP team completes is entirely dependent upon the organization’s specific needs and should address both strategic and long-range planning.
Conversely, it should also address the evaluation of current facilities and the conceptualization, planning, and implementation of new facilities.
A thorough understanding of the current situation is necessary to properly analyze the needs
and compare existing conditions to those needs.
Commonly, strategic plans provide a combination and range of recommendations to maximize the value of a corporation’s assets.
The facility manager considers factors such as: the organization’s mission, vision, culture and core values; the current position of the business and its current real estate asset base; its overall direction and the projects currently underway within the corporation; how the business may change; and how those changes may affect the real estate needs of the corporation.
Once these considerations are well understood, a business-driven approach is taken to analyze the organization’s facilities and to set tangible goals and plan targets.
Often, organizations take a strictly cost-driven approach to their facilities.
Although they are quick to implement and are often cost-effective, this approach is nevertheless lacking in vision, fails to adequately address the actual delivery of the business goods and/or services, and has only a moderate long-term impact on improving the overall performance of the business as a whole.
In contrast, a business-driven approach despite necessitating a longer timeframe delivers a clear vision for the future, earns employee support and enhances performance, which strengthens the business competitively.
Using this business-driven approach, the team studies the real estate assets that the corporation currently holds using gathered data, modeling tools, and scenario alternatives.
This data often includes lease and ownership data, building assessments, square footages, space utilization standards, and location characteristics.
To provide a comprehensive plan, the facility manager and SFP team explore the various business goals of each unit in the business and integrate these goals into the facility plan analyses.
This input defines future space and real estate needs based on overall corporate goals starting with anticipated services, expected staffing changes and potential new technologies.
The team uses these needs to predict future headcounts, demographics, space utilization, maintenance requirements, capital investment and operating costs.
At this stage, a clear understanding of the goals of the SFP, as well as the approval process and measures for success, will be complete and have the second stage follow.
Second, exploration of the range of possible futures and triggers is needed to analyze your organization’s facility needs using analytical techniques — such as systematic layout planning (SLP), strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis (SWOT), strategic creative analysis (SCAN), or scenario planning.
Use analytical techniques, such as SWOT analysis, SCAN, SLP or scenario planning, to explore the range of possible futures and the triggers used to analyze an organization’s facility needs.
Once a clear definition of the business’ situation has been established, the facility manager, planners, and designers begin to consider how to balance current facility needs with long-term needs and issues.
These needs and issues may include workforce demographics, manufacturing processes, organizational structure and culture, community and government regulatory requirements, market position, and capacity rates and volumes. All of these combine to define the individual elements of the SFP.
The comparison of the current inventory and conditions with the future needs provides the gap that the SP will address.
Several tools (see Analysis Tools section) may be used to compare, analyze, coordinate and clarify this gap and the alternatives, scenarios, and recommendations that are made.
Scenarios are tools for thinking ahead to anticipate the changes that will impact your organization.
Scenarios can be considered instructive simulations of possible operating conditions.
This approach might be used in conjunction with other models to ensure planners truly undertake strategic thinking.
Scenario planning may be particularly useful in identifying strategic issues and goals.
- Select several external forces and imagine related changes that might influence the organization, such as the global marketplace, technology, change in regulations, demographic changes, etc. Scan newspapers and Internet sources for key headlines to suggest potential changes that may affect the organization. Utilize IFMA’s and other association’s trend reports.
- For each potential change, discuss three different future organizational scenarios (including the best case, worst case, and all right/reasonable case), which may arise within the organization as a result of each change. Reviewing the worst-case scenario often provokes strong motivation for needed changes.
- Suggest what the organization might do, or potential strategies, in each of the three scenarios to respond to each change.
- Planners soon detect common considerations or strategies that must be addressed to respond to possible external changes.
- Select the most likely external changes to affect the organization, over the next three to five years, for example, and identify the most reasonable strategies the organization can undertake to respond to these changes.
The product of this process is not a final, cut-in-stone document, but provides insight into how different decisions will affect the organization’s return on investment, cash flow, debt load, work processes and productivity of its employees.
Scenarios will guide decision-makers and provide advance consideration of the potential impacts of different facility decisions.
Systematic Layout Planning (SLP)
The SLP method was developed by Muther (1973) to create conceptual block layouts.
The method successively adds complex data categories until a block layout has been generated, making it a strategy to the tactical tool.
- Document the present operation (Deliverable: flowcharts).
- Define the activities and planning horizon (Deliverable: table).
- Develop activity relationships (Deliverable: relationship diagram).
- Develop a square footage requirements spreadsheet (Deliverable: spreadsheet).
- Develop block plan layouts (Deliverable: block plan layout).
- Development of an equipment layout (Deliverable: equipment layout).
SWOT Analysis is another planning tool used to strategically evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in a project or a business venture.
SWOT uses business objectives and identifies both internal and external factors that are either favorable or unfavorable to achieving that objective.
The four areas considered are;
- Strengths: attributes of the organization helpful to achieving the objective and describing how they can be leveraged.
- Weaknesses: attributes of the organization harmful to achieving the objective and how they can be minimized or neutralized.
- Opportunities: external conditions helpful to achieving the objective.
- Threats: external conditions harmful to achieving the objective.
Brainstorming (AGIR-a gang in a room)
This technique better ensures that various views and aspects are represented, particularly if the individuals are chosen well. The downside may be too much input, which may yield inconsistencies.
However, done properly, brainstorming provides an opportunity for creative, innovative concepts that might otherwise be overlooked.
As such, it is suggested that a professional facilitator should conduct these types of sessions.
Strategic Creative Analysis (SCAN)
Strategic Creative Analysis is a process for strategic planning, decision making and analyzing case studies. An example of a strategic planning technique that incorporates a SWOT analysis is SCAN analysis.
Benchmarking is a very useful SFP tool for comparing and measuring your organization against others, anywhere in the world, to gain information on philosophies, practices, and measures that will help your organization take action to improve its performance.
In summary, benchmarking is the practice of being humble enough to admit that others are better at something and being wise enough to learn how to match, and even surpass, them at it.
Benchmarking utilizes much of the organizational understanding gained in the first step of SFP to compare practices and metrics to recognized leaders.
Networking with peer organizations, competitors, and especially for facility organizations, visiting award-winning service organizations provides insight to bring back and adapt to your operations.
Adaptation is the key—recognizing a good process or practice and use it in your specific way within your organization is the essence of successful benchmarking.
For SFP to serve as the right mechanism to analyze and improve current facility operations, a proactive approach to benchmarking practices and services of those organizations recognized as industry leaders is needed.
Benchmarking may be undertaken as part of a broader process reengineering initiative, or it might be conducted as a freestanding exercise.
Organizational simulation is a prominent method in organizational studies and strategic management. This tool aims to understand how organizations operate.
The organizational simulation can describe the coordination of facility operations based on understanding and analyzing the impact of interrelated facility alternatives and activities.
This method can measure organizational performance and support strategic thinking.
Third, once the analysis is completed, plans for potential responses and periodic updates to existing plans in response to changes in the market need to be developed to meet the long-range needs of your specific organization.
Develop plans that meet the long-range needs of the organization.
At a minimum, the SFP should be reviewed annually and further updated periodically as conditions require.
As a result of the analyses performed, decisions will become apparent or recommended courses of action can be supported by the completed analysis.
These recommendations will become the essence of the SFP.
To be organizationally mandated, most facility managers will need to present the recommendations to senior management, obtain buy-in (often involving some negotiation and adjustment to the plan), and get final approval and funding for the proposed plan.
IFMA uses and recommends the balanced scorecard methodology for integrating planning into the organization’s objectives, but recognizes that every organization has selected methods for business processes and facility management conforms to align with the organization’s methodologies.
The following are major steps in setting up the plan:
- Document the primary objectives to be addressed (the gap) in the SFP.
- Evaluate sites, zoning, costs, labor, competition and all factors critical for success.
- Conduct financial and risk analysis to focus on finding the maximum value.
- Develop alternatives with recommendations and priorities.
- Develop a process for marketing the recommended SFP to gain management approval.
- Obtain financial and other approvals needed to launch the action phase.
It is important to note that once approved, the SFP may continue to evolve and adapt to changing conditions within and outside the organization. The flexibility of a good SFP will accommodate the most minor adjustments.
4. Acting / Action
Fourth, take action as planned to successfully implement the strategic facility planning.
Take actions as planned and implement the SFP. Feedback from actions taken can be incorporated into the next plan and/or project to provide continuous improvement to future SFPs.
After approval, the SFP is then ready for implementation.
Implementation of an SFP typically requires the development of a specific project or project to deliver new, altered or reconfigured space to meet the organizational need. This specific project is a unique process that is supplemental to the SFP.
Specific project planning with take place outside the SFP to fulfill the detailed implementation phase. Some projects, especially large new space projects, may be managed by specialty or contract groups.
It is critical in these cases that facilities stay involved as a core team member, to ensure integration of the planning and operational phases of the specific project.
Regardless of the tools used in the development of an SFP, the SFP should be viewed as a living document that reports findings and makes considered recommendations for implementing the plan within a realistic time frame, yet maintains flexibility to adapt as business requires.
While implementation is in progress, flexibility to adapt to changed conditions may be required.
It is prudent to view an SFP as the “current SFP” since any major change in market conditions, economic outlook or other forces could require varying degrees of change to the original document.
This is another reason that scenarios are very helpful—since they anticipate some of these potential changes. The SFP is a major facility management tool used to support the organization—alignment with the organizational vision, mission, goals, and objectives are always critical for the success of the SFP.
Documentation of especially successful or problematic portions of the SFP, if noted, can provide valuable feedback for the next iteration of planning.
The cyclical nature of planning and continuous improvement provides opportunities to learn from each process. The following diagram is a process model developed for SFP accomplishment.
This process model integrates the sequential activities, participants, deliverables and inter-relationships for an individual organization to be successful when implementing the 4-step SFP process.
The process model includes three layers of participants (executive management, facility manager and staff) and roles illustrating who implements each of the tasks in the SFP development process.
The SFP team needs to be closely connected to implement activities from the project launch through to the final implementation phase and hand-off for the development of the tactical facility plans to support the organization’s business planning.
Major activities are aligned with the four-step process and include tasks such as data gathering/benchmarking, analysis/synthesis, scenario development/forecasting, and SFP implementation.
The process model ends with the hand-off to a tactical facility plan, which often is the facility management annual plan or budget.
Feedback through all phases for continuous improvement is shown with arrows in reverse. It should also be noted that there are no hard and fast lines indicating when one phase ends and the next starts.
Plans flow at different rates, due to different organizational requirements and managerial direction. The precise transitions are unimportant but need to follow your own organization’s requirements.
Facility Planning and Facility Managers
Facility managers know that they need to become more proactive and strategic is important, but finding the time to devote to strategic planning is often a struggle.
As Stephen Covey teaches, we need to prioritize what is important rather than simply urgent to gain maximum effectiveness.
Strategic facility planning is a process that can lead to better, more proactive delivery of services from a facility management organization to its stakeholders.
The time taken to carry out strategic facility planning is well spent in that it helps to avoid mistakes, delays, disappointments and customer dissatisfaction.
It can allow facility plan implementations to run more quickly and smoothly.
Since strategic facility planning is not a daily task, many facility managers are unfamiliar with the best way to accomplish this type of planning, or perhaps have been asked by senior management to quickly provide a strategic facility plan and are not sure where to start.
Facility managers may still be unsure how to initiate the strategic facility planning process and need to obtain information on methods and techniques useful for successfully implementing a strategic facility planning to correspond with their organization’s needs.
While every organization is different, all organizations strive to become more competitive, effective and provide the best workplace possible for its employees. This is the role facility managers fulfill and strategic facility planning is an exercise that is considered another tool to add to the “FM tool belt” needed for success.