18 Apr Facilities Planning: A Critical Component of Strategic Operations and Facilities Management

Recently, we met with a client who envisioned integrating her organization’s human resources, information technology, and facilities—the organization’s three largest cost categories. Our takeaway? Facilities management, and specifically facilities planning, are becoming a critical component of strategic operations.

It’s true that facility managers, or FMs, are seeing their responsibilities increase these days. With a growing number of repetitive daily tasks, it’s easy to fall into reactive habits. We all should strive for a proactive style, which, in this case, means mastering the basics of facilities planning. Our client asked, “How can facilities managers take a more strategic approach?”

As we brainstormed, we decided that the planning process was the key to strategy. We came up with three types of facility plans: the master plan, the strategic facilities plan, and tactical plans. Taken together, this planning system has a hierarchy – from the tactical plan’s short-term duration, to the strategic facilities plan’s implementation focus, to the master plan’s long-term view. Markon’s strategic facilities plan practice works with clients on a three- to five-year perspective, which seems to be the horizon of knowing enough about the future to make decisions.

Master Plan

The Master Plan is the most familiar of the three. It’s site-specific and often used to show phased improvements to on-site infrastructure, systems, and buildings. Focusing on the existing land and buildings, it starts from the facility boundaries and moves inwards to the buildings. With this perspective, master plans often include engineering assessments and cost estimates to establish requirements as the timeline progresses.

Strategic Facility Plan

The Strategic Facility Plan takes a long view (looking into the future to evaluate facility requirements) and combines that with mid-term execution planning. The starting point is today’s situation. A gap analysis provides answers to questions such as, “What kinds of space will we need?” or “Will our location and infrastructure needs change?” Life-cycle cost considerations are essential to this plan, which is why sources and uses of funds and metrics (such as return on investment) are included.

Tactical Plans

Finally, there are Tactical Plans, which, by their nature, have a narrow focus and short timeline. These plans are concerned with the here and now, addressing topics such as maintenance schedules, emergency capital projects, and space management.

The emerging importance of facilities management also means that we need to acquire additional planning skills to effectively implement strategies. Feasibility, lease versus own, repair or replace, consolidation, and optimization all come into play. Of course, cost estimating and scheduling remain essential to the facilities planning process.

While taking time to do strategic facilities planning won’t get an FM all the way to the point envisioned by my client – integrated human resources, information technology, and facilities –the process can help ensure the delivery of a quality facilities program by helping avoid day-to-day mistakes and project delays. As FMs, we have an instinct to be good stewards of the built environment and assets we’re assigned. To put it simply, good planning leads to good execution.

Jim Turner

Jim Turner is a Director with Markon Solutions and is responsible for leading the Facilities Solution consulting practice, which supports the real property and facilities life-cycle, including planning, design, construction, and operations and maintenance. Over a span of 18 years, he has managed more than 90 projects, sized from a few thousand to millions of square feet. His unique approach seeks alignment of the real property assets with business strategy to provide optimal support to core business processes. He’s in demand as a speaker and writer on facilities management and real estate trends and process. Mr. Turner earned an MBA from the University of Southern California and a BA in Economics from the University of South Florida.