The FM Professional

How facility managers can leverage big data

David Spence
December 13th, 2016
data storage hardware

Big data involves massive data sets that are constantly growing in volume, complexity, and variety. Facility managers can capitalize on big data to improve the operations and efficiency of their organizations. While gathering, storing, and interpreting large amounts of data comes with challenges, you can help your company gain a competitive advantage in a variety of ways.


Workplace management systems help coordinate several operations like facilities management, finance, resource planning, and project management. There are many different systems with various offerings, but they all provide valuable data that can be used to optimize your company. Tracking the right metrics can help you make clear business decisions and manage stakeholders accordingly.

More efficient energy use

Tracking energy consumption is a major factor in determining your company’s sustainability and carbon footprint. By performing an energy audit, you can help your company maintain sustainability initiatives, stay compliant with local laws and even attain B Corp certification. This is also helpful in understanding the costs associated with usage and diagnosing potential issues with infrastructure like lighting or HVAC systems.

solar panels

FMs can use building energy data to create effective sustainable processes or make necessary infrastructure changes. For example, by combining this data with established benchmarks, you can determine if your building is using too much energy. Then you can address the problem by installing occupancy sensors and automatic shutoff points in your building automation system.

Sensor data can also inform which parts of the facility require the most heating and cooling, allowing you to adjust energy usage in your HVAC system.

Gaining a comprehensive view of your building’s energy consumption requires a well-integrated building automation system that can provide context-based insights. Maintaining a system of this scale is a challenge in itself—good facility managers know to regularly check and test their automation systems to prevent any serious disruptions.

Smarter resource management

cables connected to office equipment

Monitoring rooms and equipment helps managers see if certain workplace resources are being overused or underused. This data can inform decisions around ordering/repairing equipment, changing the roles of spaces, or even moving to a new office.

Using predictive analytics is an effective measure in identifying when assets like computers and rooms are most in demand or when key equipment is about to break down.

What is predictive analytics? Predictive analytics uses data to provide insights in order to make predictions about future events; i.e.: a facilities manager could use predictive analytics to make changes to a system before a breakage or issue occurs.

With this information, facility managers can create adaptive work processes and response policies for critical issues. Setting up real-time alerts will help you take immediate action when an emergency occurs.

FMs should work closely with their IT department to build a system that is both manageable and accurate.

The predictive ability of big data depends on having ample amounts of historical information. While it may take some time before you can fully benefit from this process, having an overarching perspective of your facility’s resource use will help save time and reduce costs in the long run.

Maintenance frequency

Maintenance is a staple of facilities management—understanding the data behind it can be key to saving time and money while keeping a facility running smoothly. Managers can track how frequently their resources need to be maintained, how long that takes, as well as the associated costs.

With this information, you can set clearer agreements for maintenance contractors and determine when equipment needs to be fixed or replaced.

You can also track whether you’re performing preventive, corrective, or breakdown maintenance, which will allow you to better understand the effectiveness of your maintenance strategy and performance.


“Churn” typically refers to the rate of personnel or customer turnover in a company, but the term also applies to the number of office changes like renovations, desk moves, or employee onboardings. Knowing these details can help facility managers identify inefficiencies in the workplace.

Patterns in company performance, downsizing, and expansion might arise—making it easier to anticipate and address issues as they come up.

Facility changes can cost time, money, and team productivity, so understanding where they’re necessary and where they’re not can help managers make optimal adjustments. For instance, furniture moves involve complex reconfigurations; if you find that your office is often moving furniture around, consider using flexible items that can be adapted for multiple purposes instead.

Operating costs

Gathering data on how much is being spent on resources, real estate, or IT infrastructure can have a major impact on the bottom line when you’re determining your company’s financial direction. You’ll also gain clearer insight into how your operations are running in general—this is especially critical if you’re dealing with a complex facility or large teams. Knowing the costs attached to specific operations helps managers assess what areas expend the most money and whether or not they’ll need to make budget changes in order to ensure the company remains viable.

Data from your workplace management systems can help you identify financial drains and inefficiencies throughout your company. By focusing on key metrics, facility managers can make well-informed decisions that help streamline their workplace operations.

Major financial decisions

facility manager using a calculator and laptop

FMs can apply big data analysis to help reduce operational costs and identify new risks. They can also use this knowledge to make well-informed investment decisions in large equipment or new technology. For instance, you can assess asset lifespan and depreciation when deciding whether to buy a new piece of equipment or continue maintaining an existing resource.

When considering big data, you’ll need to set up clear communication and collaboration policies. IT and financial managers should be involved in the decision-making process in order to make optimal choices and ensure that the information is treated in a secure and responsible manner. As Tim Oldman, Founder and CEO of Leesman Index, says, “the data sets you are collecting have a deeper story behind them… and one-dimensional analysis of data is hugely risky.” Input from other stakeholders will help create a clearer interpretation of big data.

Current data systems can be combined with complementary technologies like cloud computing, IoT, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to provide powerful insights. Facility managers will need to incorporate their organization’s strategic goals in order to maximize the benefits of big data.

Photos: Chaiyagorn Phermphoon, atimedia, Martinelle, Breather LDprod