E-Commerce for Facility Managers
To better understand these trends in rethinking facility management, the CRS Center at Texas A&M University has undertaken a survey of facility managers about their attitudes and expectations. This survey is among the first to measure actual industry experience with e-commerce.
Sponsored by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) Foundation, the research will establish the degree of current adoption of e-commerce and project its future acceptance. The survey, prepared by CRS Center's Robert E. Johnson and Mark J. Clayton, was distributed to over 1700 IFMA members at Fortune 500 companies.
Although surveys are still being collected, over 500 respondents have provided data representing all industry groups as classified by IFMA. Most respondents (68%) manage multiple buildings on multiple sites, and nearly half of all respondents manage more than 1,000,000 gross square feet (93,000 square meters) of space.
Preliminary Survey Results
Computing is becoming pervasive among facility managers, 56% of whom report availability of computers to 100% of FM employees in their companies. High-speed Internet access lags slightly behind that figure, but has clearly become the norm in Fortune 500 facility management departments.
At present, e-commerce has not had a big effect in nearly 2/3 of all FM organizations, but it is reported as "helping a great deal" in 6% of such organizations. Over 50% of respondents employ the Web for purchasing supplies and materials and finding maintenance and training manuals. When asked about their expectations for the next two years, that number soars to over 85%.
Within two years, other applications are expected to become widespread, such as taking interactive training courses, publishing static project information on the Internet, and purchasing supplies and materials through a broker. Purchasing energy and leasing commercial floor space will begin to emerge as new e-commerce applications.
E-commerce is already affecting performance, in the opinion of the survey respondents. Over fifty percent agree that e-commerce has reduced the time to complete projects, has decreased the cost of purchasing supplies and materials, and has decreased the cost of facility maintenance and operations.
Respondents agree that, in the next two years, e-commerce will also decrease the total annual cost of facilities, decrease the cost of construction projects, and decrease the cost of space management.
Prospects for Future Implementation
Although the survey data is only beginning to be analyzed, it is providing guidelines regarding implementation strategies. Correlation across questions suggests that firms that have aggressively pursued process re-engineering, as evidenced by ISO 9000 compliance or work process charting, are best positioned to rapidly adopt e-commerce solutions.
Nevertheless, barely a third of respondents report that their companies have implemented formal planning groups to address e-commerce initiatives in facility management. Respondents are aware of significant barriers to the implementation of e-commerce solutions.
Integration with legacy systems has been cited as a problem by over half of respondents. Budget for investment in e-commerce solutions is also cited frequently. However, less than 1/4 of respondents consider e-commerce too complex for their organization.
The preliminary results of the survey suggest that e-commerce in facility management provides significant opportunities that companies will exploit in the next few years. Facility managers expect to lower their costs and improve their services.
There will be substantial opportunities for consultants to guide the adoption of e-commerce. New services are likely to arise. Perhaps we will even see the emergence of a "dot-com" frenzy of start-ups targeting information services for facility managers.
For more information contact the CRS Center at (979) 847-9357.