Benchmarking: More than just numbers

Benchmarking is the catch-all phrase that encompasses the measurement of the performance of a facilities management executive and their crew. The goal is to measure your performance against competitors and industry standards.

Different lenses mean different priorities

When the CFO looks at a benchmarking report, they might see only the costs. This can be misleading if it’s not explained well, or cause is given. For example, if you’re maintaining buildings that are 400 years old and the benchmark that’s used is for a standard office building, you will always be fighting an uphill battle. Similarly, if the ‘cost per square foot’ is your benchmark, but you’re maintaining 700 acres of land, again those numbers won’t look right.

On the operations side, a COO might look at the report and see time lost/downtime when digging into the report. To them, a faulty service elevator leading to a vital area of the building can be the biggest concern. If it affects operations, they are going to be concerned with it.

Best practices versus best numbers

As much as facilities managers strive to boil their operation down to pure numbers and costs, the concept of best practices should also be considered.

  • Are all of your contractors SIA approved?
  • How well are BICS cleaning standards met by the cleaning team?
  • Do your practices reach for the highest standards of environmental stewardship?

In many ways, these benchmarks will not easily translate on to a report, but they are just as important as the statistical data. While finance and productivity figures are great to know, best practice benchmarking often speaks to the ‘quality of life’ within the buildings. Often, it’s these less tangible concepts that are related to employee retention and happiness. Clean offices and toilets are directly related to employee morale and productivity.

 

Internal versus external

Internal benchmarking numbers are often created using a longitudinal pattern. Tracking changes over time and looking at the costs and practices from various buildings within an organisation. This is an excellent way to benchmark when you are in a relatively unique situation, such as a campus of very old buildings. There might not be many external sources to compare it to.

Using external sources of information can be fine as a starting point, but as with any unique system, some adjustment should be made to the unique needs and configurations of each individual building and situation.

Benchmarking as a learning tool

One of the most beneficial applications of benchmarking is to provide a teaching tool for the facilities management team. As you put together a report of the practices and expenditures at other similar facilities, you will discover new ways of doing things. This kind of group learning can help all of the facilities in the area to become more efficient.

During the process of gathering information and creating a benchmarking report, it’s important to notice different methods used at different facilities, not simply recording expenditures. Even the smallest change in methodology can lead to savings later.

 

Not getting caught up in being ‘different’

“Well, we’re different,” can sometimes be a great excuse for not meeting standards. Every building, every team, and every company are different, but there are enough similarities that a benchmarking report can, and should, be productive. There are some things that will likely be very similar. For examples, waste removal from an office building will be the same, unless it’s you’re disposing of nuclear waste or highly classified data.

It’s important for facilities managers not to get too caught up in being ‘different’. In reality, as with almost everything in the world, the similarities will far outweigh the differences. Differences are important to note, but they should not provide a shelter for poor management or practices to hide behind.

 

Understanding differences

The other side of the same coin is that when reading a facilities benchmarking report, it’s important to note that there will be differences. Examples given above for facilities with massive land holdings or a significant percentage of classified documents that require special handling will make a difference in a benchmarking report. These differences need to be given consideration and respect as they can often significantly change the methodology and expenditures of a facilities management team.

 

The third-party advantage

Many facilities managers prepare their own benchmarking reports. This is fine as a starting point, but to truly dig down into a report, a third-party should be involved. Not only does this give more objectivity to the report, but a third-party is likely to have a wider base of data to draw from.

For example, at MAR Services, reports generated don’t only account for industry available data, but also from data obtained from MAR clients and their facilities. In our role as a maintenance and cleaning business a company like MAR Services succeeds on their efficiency and cost-

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