Friday, September 2, 2016


The question of whether or not to outsource Facilities Management at institutions of Higher Education has long been a hot-button topic of debate. Traditionally, colleges and universities have kept all of their FM in-house, hiring full-time employees to manage on-campus operations like food services, groundskeeping, janitorial services and security. Today, though, it seems that this tide is changing. An increasing number of educational institutions are now choosing to bring in contracted professionals who specialize in a given field to handle specific functions, instead of delegating a battery of varied responsibilities to one group of full-time university employees.

On its face, there are a number of reasons why outsourcing operations on college and university campuses makes both financial and practical sense. As Michael Christensen, assistant vice president of Risk Management Services at California State University, Sacramento, said in a 2006 interview with Julie Sturgeon for, “As a risk manager, if it reduces your possible liabilities, it’s a good strategy.” Hiring specialized contractors who have industry-specific knowledge and skills creates an academic environment in which every employee on campus – professor or otherwise – is an expert in her field. This significantly decreases the institution’s potential for risk, which is undeniably preferable in a world where one lawsuit can destroy a school’s reputation, and often, its financial health, too.

Furthermore, at a time when sophisticated analytics systems can be used to collect and analyze real-time data about an institution’s operations, it’s become much easier for FM administrators to identify gaps in service that have never been readily apparent before. For the first time in history, it is now possible for administrators to use real, timely data about the efficiency, cost and productivity of their institution’s operations to make informed decisions about how to improve them. More often than not, data analysis of this kind tends to reveal valuable information about where an institution is wasting time and money, which then makes it much easier for administrators to appropriately redirect their institution’s cash flow as necessary. Interestingly, an increasing number of schools are reporting that using their freed up finances to contract outside vendors for operational functions has actually resulted in the improvement of their bottom lines. This can likely be attributed to the fact that specialized organizations whose employees only perform one function have much more extensive knowledge about the best way to execute that function. An example: if a school were to outsource the management of their on-campus bookstore to a company that deals solely with the operations of campus bookstores, they would be gaining access to industry-specific knowledge about how to maximize their bookstore’s revenue (how to price textbooks competitively, what branded paraphernalia should be displayed in the front window, etc.) that the school would otherwise never have had access to.

Ultimately, this last point gets to the heart of the issue of whether or not to outsource facilities management. As Sturgeon said in her aforementioned article for University Business, “facilities management simply isn’t a college’s core business – or the task [at hand] is complicated, changing often – and officials can’t leverage their internal economies of scale to keep up.” By outsourcing an institution’s FM functions to vendors with expertise in each field, Facilities Managers can not only save their institution money, but also focus their efforts on big-picture managerial projects, instead of having to worry about putting out small fires that should never have been set in the first place.


Technology has changed the world we live in. Now, with the click of a button, you can order dinner, a car or a movie right to your house. Your cell phone allows you to take high-quality photographs, surf the internet and call someone on the opposite side of the globe, all with the same device, and you can keep track of how healthy you are just by wearing a bracelet that sends data about your vitals to your computer.

These new advances have changed how many businesses are run, including Facilities Management. So, without further ado, here are 3 ways in which technology is drastically changing the landscape of Facilities Management in 2016.

Technology is Allowing Us to Collect Real-Time Data: In the past, it’s been difficult, if not virtually impossible, to collect and record real-time data about an organization’s long and short-term operations. Today, with the use of intelligent analytics tools, it’s possible to closely monitor many different aspects of an institute of higher learning’s operations, and this allows Facilities Managers access to real-time, specific information that can be used to make informed decisions about policy and procedure.

Automation Means Machines Can Self-Regulate:
Most of the day-to-day operations of a university or college revolve around taking stock of what items in the facility need to be fixed, re-stocked, or purchased. With self-automating machines, though, gone are the days of the morning walk-through. New devices that connect to the internet are programmed to replenish their auxiliary products as necessary, essentially creating their own maintenance tickets and closing them without the help of humans.

Electronic Payments De-Stress Billing:
Keeping track of all of the regular and contracted expenses of an university is extremely difficult. Luckily, electronic payment vehicles like PayPal and ApplePay make it easy to schedule and send payments to all of the people who handle the nitty gritty of the school’s operations, thereby rendering the paper check a thing of the past.

Exciting new technology is being developed and released every day, and I’m interested to see how new innovations in tech influence and change the practice of Facilities Management in Higher Education in the future. Please check back in the future for more information about the intersection of technology and Facilities Management, and thanks for stopping by.


The topic of space management in higher education has long been a pain point in the world of academia. While it’s a commonly accepted belief that a school’s facilities contribute greatly to the institution’s value, rising building, operating and maintenance costs have left educational leaders divided about how much of an institution’s budget should be spent on managing its facilities.
I recently re-discovered a wonderful APAA article from a few years ago about this very topic. The piece was published in 2012 as part of the organization’s Thought Leaders series, and it offers valuable insight into the ways in which campus space is both “an asset and a burden.” Despite the fact that this article is already four years old, I was struck by how relevant it still is for those of us in the field of Facilities Management, so I thought I’d write a post here detailing my 3 favorite APAA Best Practices for Effective Space Management.

1. “Establish Metrics to Better Measure How Space is Being Used.” According to APAA thought leaders, it is crucially important that educational institutions gather as much data as possible about the quality and usage of the spaces on their campuses. This way, a large sample of data can be taken into consideration when managing current operations and planning for any future changes. To accomplish this goal, APAA advocates investing in a comprehensive, sophisticated inventory system that can be customized to suit the needs of your specific institution, as they believe that the standard NCES codes are too simplistic and too based in the past. APAA also strongly suggests tracking spaces in as many different ways as possible, explaining that “research space can be tracked by square foot, by student, by faculty member, by productivity (e.g., number of research papers produced per square foot of lab space), and by revenue (e.g., grant dollars received per square foot),” and that you won’t know which data proves most useful until you’ve collected all of it.

2. “Create Effective Organizational Structures.” APAA’s thought leaders point to a lack of standardized organizational structures regarding space usage as a large problem that can be solved with relative ease. Whereas most campuses use ad-hoc or department-specific methods to assign and manage space, the better alternative is to take stock of the holistic needs of the institution and then create organizational structures to implement across the board. If everyone is on the same page regarding policies, then small details and gaps in systems can be addressed immediately, instead of being allowed to fall through the cracks.

3. “Design Spaces That Are Easy to Manage.”
When building a new structure or renovating a pre-existing one, consider the ways in which you can design one space that can be adapted to function in a number of different capacities. For example, APAA suggests installing flexible space dividers and wall partitions that can be moved and altered on a temporary basis to suit the current need for that space. They also advocate purchasing furniture that can be easily moved for the same reason. Taking into account the different ways you may need to use a new space in the future will help you design one space that serves the purpose of numerous spaces for a mere fraction of the cost.

These three pieces of advice only represent the tip of the space-management iceberg, but they offer a solid foundation on which you can build. It is my belief that heeding APAA’s advice will undoubtedly lead to a reduction in your institution’s long-term costs and an increase in the productivity and efficiency of every member of your school’s community. As always, please feel free to reach out to me via the contact tab on this blog if you have more insight into this topic or any questions you’d like me to answer – and good luck!

For more information on facilities management, please visit my blog here