The Workplace Is Not Dead

Here is a nice article from Forbes that describes the positive changes that are going on in the workplace. Finally, work places are being designed for people, not machines. While technology organizations (think data centers and R&D labs) will always be designed with equipment in mind first, at least companies and other leading organizations now understand that you need to design space for people to attract and retain talent, improve collaboration and productivity.

Click on link below for full article:

Forbes Article



Top IWMS Benefits

There are many benefits to Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS). Here are my top picks:


  1. Streamline Processes and Optimize Resources

In every organization there are a lot of processes that help individuals to optimize their contribution to the primary process of the organizations, usually to make sales profitability. While Real Estate & Facilities Management (REFM) professionals rarely are tasked with sales primary processes, their processes can have a large impact on profitability, usually by controlling costs.  Integrated Workplace Management Systems can easily help you to streamline those processes to save time, reduce cycle times for work requests and eliminate waste, thereby lowering operating expenses.


  1. Optimize Space Utilization & Occupancy

Real Estate costs account for 10%-25% of an organization’s cost base. As cost reduction programs have made it to C-level, organizations need to have an accurate and timely view of their real estate portfolio to ensure that both current and future  organizational space demands are aligned with their supply. Facility maintenance and operations costs are largely derived from the amount and type of space in its portfolio. Therefore organizations need to optimize space utilization and not serve extra space or under-used spaces. IWMS helps you to quickly identify space vacancies or under-utilized areas of your portfolio, which can be used to improve your REFM metrics and the organization’s bottom line.


  1. Monitor Performance to Optimize Resources and Organizational Flexibility

Matching service demand and delivery is extremely important for every organization. You need to be able to monitor both in-house and service provider performance to ensure that you have appropriate resources to support the organization’s goals. In addition, you need accurate, timely data to ensure that the Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) negotiated with your outsourced partners are aligned with performance. Through  custom, easy to generate Dashboards and advanced reporting functionality, today’s IWMS empowers your organization to effectively manage service delivery quickly and accurately.


Organizations that haven’t outsourced their service delivery will benefit from the resource planning and allocation functionality that most IWMS systems provide. Team leaders can easily schedule tasks to available resources and effectively plan their workload.  What’s more, resource allocation in IWMS can enable allocating tasks only to appropriate resources and help identify gaps to justify additional resources and training development plans for staff.


Lastly, some REFM tasks can be automated by an IWMS. The system reduces the required human interaction and thus, reduces the staffing requirements. REFM organizations can do more with less. This is especially helpful during ramp-up and expansion where a 25% increase in productivity could be achieved via IWMN instead of hiring another staff member. Indeed, expected productivity gains should be a key part of any justification or ROI analysis for IWMS implementation.


  1. Minimize Human Errors

Humans make a lot of mistakes. About 80% of all Facility Management and Real Estate processes can be standardized and automated. Standardization and automation of processes in an IWMS ensures a reduction in human errors. Fewer errors also mean faster cycle times, higher customer satisfaction, reduction of redundant work and fewer costs involved with error recovery which has a direct impact on the bottom line.


  1. Enforce Organizational Policy

Every IWMS can enforce organizational policies. By enforcing policy adherence,  you ensure that people actually comply with your business goals and regulations instead of only considering them as guidelines.


  1. Never Lose Your Data or Waste Time Finding It

IWMS is a central location for all you REFM data. Better yet, the best IWMS systems are SaaS, Software as a Service, meaning that it’s in The Cloud, available whenever and wherever you have internet access. It gets better: because the software and data reside off-site at professional Cloud Providers, you never need to get I.T. approval for hardware, software, updates or changes. You control your destiny, not I.T.


With IWMS costs and implementation timelines at a fraction of where they were just a few years ago, there is no reason why any REFM organization is not using a SaaS based system today.IMG_20151111_152326

Top 5 Reasons Why FM’s Need Space Management

This White Paper comes from James McDonald at iOffice. Follow the link, sign up and check it out.

10 Criteria for Successful Project Management Services

Earlier this year, I successfully completed a project where I managed the design and construction for a start-up’s new headquarters in Silicon Valley. Here are ten lessons learned from that project that apply to most facility projects.

1. Manage both design and construction, never construction without design
This is such an important part of every project, that to be responsible for only design or only construction means that you cannot be responsible for the project. If you don’t have the ability to lead not just the design and construction by how the project team will decide on the design and construction resources than you essentially become an order taker, not a project leader.

For this project, the brokers and landlord were telling the client (and initially me too) to hire an architect and complete the design, then obtain bids from general contractors. Instead, I developed and RFP for design-build services, which saved time and money. I could do this because I utilized my design skills to develop good conceptual preliminary designs (I did this for years when I worked directly for technology companies) that I could use in the RFP.



2. Don’t waste time and money on extra tenant improvements – spend the money for the employees and workers
If you need a clean room or extra power for your R&D or manufacturing operation, then by all means spend the money to either lease or build spaces that have the extra infrastructure that you need. For office space, don’t waste your time or money on fancy soffits, hard-ceilings, imported lighting fixtures or anything else that your employees cannot directly use, like furniture and equipment. The money that you save (and it could be 10 to 50%) you can spend on things that your employees can actually use relocate if they need to move prior to a lease expiration.

In this project, it made a lot more sense going the design-build route where the money saved in architectural design could be (and was) spent on furniture and equipment for employees.

3. Understand your client’s project team’s strengths and weaknesses early in the project
In order to effectively manage your project and your client’s expectations, you need to understand your client, including their priorities, strengths and weaknesses. For example, what is more important to your client: time (getting into the new space or minimizing costs? Do they have realistic expectations about the schedule and budget?

When I was first brought into this project, I was told that meeting and aggressive move in date was critical, yet I was hired only to manage the design and construction, which I went about expediting via an RFP for Design-Build. Turns out, the client’s project team had never been through a project like this and both the furniture selection and fiber installation (managed by the client) took longer than they expected (even though I kept communicating that both were critical path items) and caused the move to happen several weeks later than my initial target date. In this case, the client seemed happy with the delayed move date, but I found it challenging dealing with mixed direction and only being able to control a portion of the project. I should have questioned the client’s I.T. staff that was placed in charge of the fiber installation and pushed for a more experienced I.T. project manager.

4. Establish a Preliminary Budget early
A successful project manager sets expectations with his client early in the project. Of course, only an experience project manager will have sufficient knowledge through experience to understand and confidently communicate preliminary and realistic budgets and schedules. Once you have put together your preliminary budget, share it decision makers (the ones who control the project money) and obtain approval before commencing with hiring design or other contractors.

When I was brought into this project, the lease had not been signed, but the client was anxious to commence. When I asked about the budget, the CFO told me that he had none, but wanted to keep his costs around his tenant improvement allowance. After a couple of weeks of gathering project information I was able to prepare and present a project budget that was accepted by the client. Needless to say, I was able to keep the design and construction costs well below the budget while the costs of other parts of the budget that I did not manage, such as furniture and audio-visual exceeded the preliminary budget. In part, because I was able to spend less for design and construction and the tenant was able to use their tenant improvement allowance for other items, they essentially spent their savings on FFE that would benefit their employees.

5. Fire Alarm systems and fiber connectivity – two items that frequently lead to schedule delays
Usually if any part of a project is going to cause schedule delays it will be Fire Alarm system changes and fiber connectivity to the space and both happened on this project.

The problem with the fire alarm occurred when the General Contractor finally got a quote from the landlord recommended alarm company – it was four times higher than expected. To keep the project on-budget, the landlord supplied another qualified contractor whose cost, while much lower than the first contractor was still about twice what we budgeted. To avoid delaying the project, the GC hired the second company only to have the company go silent and not get the work completed until the GC’s principal got involved and paying several thousands of dollars for special inspections during the weekend prior to move-in.

Like fire alarm companies who act like they are sole-source providers, most fiber communication companies are indeed single source providers. When I started the project, the I.T. did not seem concerned about fiber network connectivity even though all their servers are in the Cloud. With a targeted move-in date of less than 90 days when I was brought on-board, I knew this long-lead item could cause schedule problems. Sure enough, the client was late ordering the lines (despite my repeated reminders to get this completed) and AT&T slipped on their completion date, requiring the client to move in a day after all other construction and installation were complete. They had moved their contents the prior Friday, but their fiber connection was not complete until the following Tuesday.

6. Meet your Plan Checkers and fire department inspectors early
Having an established relationship with you city’s plan checker and fire inspectors can prevent misunderstandings during the project that could cause delays.

For this project, we were able to obtain most of the permits over the counter and faced no issues until the aforementioned fire alarm inspection required that the GC pay several thousand dollars extra for final system inspections on a weekend.

On more complicated projects where you are dealing with hazardous materials or exterior changes that require planning approval, meeting with your inspectors early and understanding both the process and requirements can save you a lot of time and money down the road.

7. Regular communication with client, brokers, landlord and project team
Weekly project meetings, including generating and distributing meeting minutes with Actions Required is an important way of keeping stakeholders informed of status, risks / issues and what to expect (by whom).

From the first project team meeting until move-in, I led the weekly project meetings, including covering items that were beyond my role and responsibility. I also updated and distributed the project meeting minutes prior to each meeting to allow each person to have updates for the next meeting. This is also a useful means to record and escalate when team members are not meeting commitments.

project schedule

8. Generate, update and distribute project schedules regularly
Regular weekly schedule updates that include items that you don’t directly manage but are important to the project’s success should be distributed to all stakeholders. Many stakeholders are not able to attend every weekly project review meeting, so a current schedule keeps all stakeholders informed of the project’s progress, challenges and expectations.

I created my own simple schedule from the beginning of the project, using colors to differentiate that different phases of the projects as well as aspects of the project that were outside of my scope of responsibility. This simple graph could be quickly scanned by stakeholders who could easily see past accomplishments, future milestone dates and potential risk activities. Even after the GC was hired by the client and they produced their own schedule for activities that they were directly responsible for, I continued to update and distribute my schedule because it showed a comprehensive view of the project.

By maintaining and distributing my own overall project schedule I was able to minimize confusion of project dates and most importantly, keep the project team focused on meeting the accelerated project dates. In the end, the client move-in date did slip a few weeks from the initial projected date, but this was due to the client’s delayed decisions on furniture and fiber connectivity, which were both beyond the scope of my direct management and by client choice.

9. Be flexible
While directed from the beginning to deliver the space to the client at a very aggressive date, about two months after lease execution, I strived to complete the project as quickly as possible, greatly streamlining the construction via Design-Build. However, during the project, I quickly noticed that the client really wasn’t motivated to meet the aggressive deadline and delayed important decisions that resulted in the project completion about a month after the initial desired deadline was given.

I found it somewhat frustrating that the client was asking for one thing while their actions indicated the opposite. I regularly communicated my concern to my client representatives and other project stakeholders during the project. The client’s brokers were very helpful as they had direct access to the client leadership team and were able to assure me that my efforts were greatly appreciated and to continue to manage the project to completion as quickly as possible despite my client’s delays. In the end, my client was very happy with their space and my service and by being flexible, giving the client the time that they needed to take to make decisions resulted in a very success project.

10. Change Orders happen – but only if you want them to
Change Orders are a sore spot for every project manager. There are two types of change orders: client requests that are beyond the agreed upon scope and unforeseen items that appear, usually during construction, permitting or inspection. The client driven requests are usually unavoidable as often times that client just hasn’t spent the time to think through how they will use the space or changes in their business require that changes be made. The other change orders can and should be minimized by hiring a good design and construction team that is current on codes, understands how the local planning and inspectors work and think, has a good understanding of the facility and fully understands the client scope, usually by working with a good project manager.

For the project, the client did make a few changes, mostly adding electrical drops that resulted in cost increase that was less than 10% of the approved design and construction budget. The real success of the project occurred when both the fire alarm and electrical costs came in higher than what the GC had committed to when we established a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) budget for the project, thus avoiding change orders that would have cost the client several more thousands of dollars.


Office of the Future – It’s Here Today!


A video I made of a project that I just completed (design and construction management services) for a start-up headquarters in Silicon Valley


office of the future

A Short Video by Ed Novak, CFM SFP

The “Workplace” – Who Needs It?

Musings from a Facility Rambler

Ed Novak, CFM SFP

April 2013

Problem Statement

Recently, there has been a lot of buzz about the workplace in the FM world. From Marissa Mayer’s memo forbidding tele-working from home to Silicon Valley giants such as Apple, Google and Nvidia, proclaiming that their new mega-campus designs will be built for collaboration, it seems that everyone is talking about how important “Workplace” is. I capitalize and quote around “Workplace” to differentiate the term from all other workplaces. The “Workplace” as I hear it being discussed, is this magical place where employees go to work to be more productive than anywhere else in the world. Wow, that’s ambitious! It’s also unrealistic and taking the human race down the wrong path. Here’s why…

My Experience

Over the past 4 years, I have worked more often than not outside of my company’s office workplace. Have I changed jobs since then? Yes. Are my jobs different? Yes and No. Over the past 20 years I have been providing real estate and facilities management services. During most of that time I worked directly for the company that I support, but not in the past four years. Instead, I, like most of the professionals in my industry, have been working for out-sourced providers. This is not an aberration nor is this unique to my industry, but has become the reality for more workers as their companies outsource “non-core” functions and refuse to hire employees direct as quickly as they did prior to the 2008 financial meltdown. Okay, you say, but someone is hiring and these employees need to work somewhere, right?

Types of Workplaces

Yes, we still need to work somewhere; it’s just not likely to be at the traditional office locations of the company that we work for. Today, we have many other work location options available to us. Despite the Yahoo! situation, the vast majority of companies are allowing more employees to work more hours from home. In addition, when a function is outsourced, the jobs are rarely located at the company office. I worked for over a year for Johnson Controls (JCI), a real estate and facilities management outsourcing company and did not once work at a JCI site. I either worked from home, at a customer site or at a fourth location type that I call “Transit”. I define Transit work locations as: in a plane, bus or train (hopefully not an auto; at a café or other retail establishment, in a hotel and even at the beach. Yes, I sometimes work at the beach. The point of Transit work locations is that you only work at these locations for a temporary period of time, sometimes only once, never to return.

Convergence – Technology, Globalization & Outsourcing

Work isn’t what it used to be and the workplace needs to reflect this change. One of the reasons that more of us are working at Transit or other locations besides our employer’s office is due to the rapid improvement of technology for work. When you compound technological changes with the decades old trends in Globalization and Outsourcing, we have enabled teams of workers that work across continents, time zones and companies. For example, recently I led a team of facility managers that were located around the globe from Singapore to Scotland. None of us worked from our company’s offices as we all worked at our customer sites. For over a year I led this team of professionals from start-up through the commissioning of both the facilities and the operations. During that I time, I only met one of my direct reports and none ever met each other, yet we all understood and executed to the same goals, achieved similar objectives and had to manage and report in a consistent fashion so that the customer could see that we were one team. How did we do this? First, technology tools enabled us to collaborate regularly and share information rapidly. Second, implementing a strong and consistent management approach along with earning trust and respect via good leadership skills became even more important than working with your team right next to you. If I can do it with a team thousands of miles away, there is no reason why any manager who practices good management skills and core values can’t do it with a team that usually chooses to work somewhere besides the office space that has been assigned to them.

Workplace Productivity – can it really be measured?

The “holy grail” of workplace design has been chased by facility planners and designers for decades. Aside from routine or production type jobs where repetitive tasks can be measured fairly easily, productivity of team tasks are notoriously difficult to measure. Job satisfaction surveys, which is related to productivity but not quite the same , have been used quite often but there are difficulties in relating these to the workplace environment. Past surveys showed that job satisfaction depended upon many factors which assumed greater impact than workplace environment. Job interest has been consistently rated a much higher factor in productivity or performance than the workplace. This is not to say that workplace doesn’t have an impact because the same surveys showed that people thought the workplace was very important. Two indicators that can help determine how a workplace change affected productivity would be to measure the absentee/sickness record and unplanned staff turnover before and after. The reduction in churn should not only provide cost savings but also reduce disruption.

Collaboration – Fact or Myth?

Vertical Spaces vs. Horizontal Spaces or To Bump or To Avoid

There has been a lot of noise lately about how much better a horizontal workspace is vs. a vertical one. Facebook, for example is planning to build what I have called, “The Barn On The Bay”, a 400K SF room, all on one level. Recently I attended presentations from CRE executives from Google and Nvidia talk about the new campus expansions that they are planning. The BayView campus from Google will be limited to 3 floors across multiple buildings with no floor more than one level away from a horizontal pathway to another part of the campus. The triangle inspired Nvidia planned buildings will only have two levels for people (and two for car parking – go figure) with the idea that everyone will drive to work and enter the arena-like facility via a sole, central portal. Why do they want to do this? Because, the VP of REFM claims it will encourage employees to bump into each other which will cause a collaboration event to occur that supposedly wouldn’t happen if people took public transit, entered the building from a perimeter door and took an elevator to the work area. Really, is there research to support this hypothesis? If I really need to collaborate with someone, I can find them pretty easily (can you say Smart-Phone?) without hoping that some magical, spontaneous bump will occur through a weird facility design. Now if I wanted to avoid someone and not chance a random bump, I’m pretty sure that I could find ways to do that too.

Worker Types

Not all workers are the same, so why does the workplace look the same? An architect friend of mine several years ago identified only four types of workers. He termed them: Monks, Shopkeepers, Road Warriors, & Circuit Riders. They either need to generally work in one location or multiple ones and either in a closed (heads down) environment or in an open one. You should be able to figure out the nature of each type by choosing one characteristic from each choice in the previous sentence. Go ahead, I can wait. Okay, ready? It’s an interesting idea to categorize workers and I suppose that some come close to fitting one of these types nearly 100% of the time, but you couldn’t place me in one of those boxes. That’s because I’m all four, just not all four at once. I suspect that you and the vast majority of workers are two or more types during a typical day. Do you ever have days without meetings? Can you only do you work at your assigned desk? No and fewer and fewer workers will in the future. Not only do most of us perform a lot of different types of work, I believe most of us actually like the variety of doing different things. Plus, it’s not healthy for anyone to perform the same task everyday in the same location – we need the diversity.  Which brings me to my next point: age diversity


Gen-X, Baby Boomer, etc.: we’ve all heard the labels placed on the multiple generation of workers that now work around us. The generalization goes like this. Older workers like their privacy and hierarchal assigned work spaces while younger one don’t care. While I believe that this generalization is somewhat true, it’s always dangerous to label people. Let’s face it, we’re all slightly different and like to work differently and different times. So, do you design a workplace to mold your employees to work a certain way – let’s open the space so we can all now collaborate! Or do you let the organization, team leaders and their trusted staff determine the best way to work? I say, give them the tools, set the expectations and let organizations decide what works best for them. I really like the new digs at the SAP campus in Palo Alto, CA. They created a series of zones where a team is assigned, gave them the tools to be mobile and flexible and let them figure out where and how they get their work done. One size does not fit all or even one person all the time.

Sustainability is the Key

All this talk about worker productivity and collaboration is fine – for the CEO, CFO and shareholders, but in the overall scheme of things it’s not that important. Doing our part to preserve our planet by living and working in more sustainable ways is way more important, almost as important as you personal life. Which means that if you are forcing employees to show up at the “Workplace” for most of their work activities, then how are the employees getting to and from work? What type of housing is near their “Workplace” that minimizes their commute time? What other amenities are found nearby (within a ¼ mile walk, thereby avoiding getting in a car)? As a certified Sustainable Facility Professional, I know that there are opportunities that should be pursued at every workplace to make it a more sustainable place to work. But, we need to tackle the big, external sustainable issues, not just the low-hanging fruit within a facility. For more on this, you can purchase or borrow my Kindle Direct Publishing eBook, titled “SMART Cluster Development for Silicon Valley”. Click on my Publications page. And it’s not just for Silicon Valley.

Mega-Campus vs. Work Anywhere

I’ve commented on this issue at several LinkedIn groups, but I believe that the Mega-Campus concept will be as dead as a dinosaur in the not too distant future. If the Apple Spaceship Ring Memorial campus to Steve Jobs ever gets built (I heard today that it is a mere $2 Billion over budget), years from now tourists will visit it as they do the Great Pyramid or the Taj Mahal – a great monument to a deceased leader. There is a battle going on here between control by the corporate executives that are controlling a lot of money and power (bad economic times) and the free market where technology gives workers the freedom to work when and where to work. I believe in and am rooting for the people.

Free Agent Nation

Finally, it does come down to the individual. We have the power to make choices: where to live, who to work for, what to buy, how to get to work and on and on. Not only do we have the freedom to choose, but companies have pushed us in this direction, almost against our will. We all know that the days of the “Company Man” where men (usually) rarely worked for more than one or two companies in their career. I get it: I lost track of how many times my employer dumped when after my services were no longer needed and I’ve seen it at every place that I ever worked at for the past 32 years. We are a nation of Free Agents. When I read Daniel Pink’s “Free Agent Nation” back in 2002, I could see it happening, but it hadn’t happened to me yet. Even though I had worked for the same company for 8 years at the time, I saw how employers treated employees (you’re fired) at the first sign of a business down-turn. Eleven years later, it’s pretty much all around us: temporary workers who only need a workspace part of the time. So, who needs the “Workplace”? Turns out that we all do, at least some of the time. So, let’s give workers the freedom, tools and leadership direction to choose when