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Agile Methodology in Facility Management

February 19, 2018

A good facility manager is a good project manager. In many ways, workload balancing in facility management is similar to software development. As we build out our AkitaBox software platform, we’ve realized that our engineers and our users (facility managers) approach their day to day lives with very similar strategies. Our product development team shared some insight into the ways facility management processes influence the AkitaBox software development and how our project management style can inform facility management.

Understanding Agile

For the software engineers at AkitaBox, the key to staying productive is a project management philosophy called “Agile Development”. Agile development is team-based and usually works on two week “sprint” schedules, which are blocks of time for teams of engineers to focus on implementing a set group of features or enhancements (or bug fixes).

At the beginning of a sprint, teams prioritize problems, assign tasks to members, and discuss initial strategies for solving issues. At the end of a sprint, teams get back together and review the work they did: which processes worked, which didn’t, and what challenges arose. This information is used to make incremental improvements to their processes after every sprint.

Ultimately, the two major principles of Agile–the ability to adapt and the drive for constant improvement–can be achieved through proper documentation and prioritization. Facility teams can take advantage of and benefit from these same strategies. “Just like a facility team, our engineering team is constantly balancing long-term projects with short term issues that require reactive problem solving”, said Product Manager Mary Jo Anastasi. Where engineers are constantly balancing new feature development versus bug fixes, facility managers must balance preventative maintenance tasks against incoming reactive work orders.

Product-Dev-Workflow-Cycle-Graphic.pngClick the image above to access a downloadable version

For both facility managers and software teams, the first step in implementing this strategy comes down to one key factor: prioritization.

Prioritizing Requires Accurate Data

Prioritization is informed by two types of data: existing data that provides context, and performance data that can be reviewed every time a task is completed.

For developers, existing data comes is a base of code to work off of. For facility managers, existing data can be a library of floor plans, a complete asset portfolio, and work order history. Without this framework, it’s difficult to have an informed perspective on how much effort a job will take and how critical it is to your facility’s overall health and objectives.

Once you have this base of knowledge, you have a clearer picture of what projects your team needs to complete. It allows you to break things down: just like in software development, when you try to implement or fix everything at once, it can feel overwhelming. This is why many facility managers struggle to implement a preventative maintenance plan and end up getting stuck in a reactive cycle.

The best way to break the cycle and make better informed decisions is to start recording information on your team’s activities in an easy-to-use, accessible software platform. “The AkitaBox software has gone through a lot of changes, but ultimately the vision has always stayed the same: to help teams save time by giving them a tool to learn from their data,” said Robbie Steinbock, Chief Technology Officer.

The AkitaBox software compiles this information and helps teams understand each data point. Every time your team completes a task, you have an opportunity to gather valuable information: what worked well? How long did it take? How much did it cost? What roadblocks did you encounter? You can assign high or low priority to these tasks depending on how they affected operations and how much effort they took to fix. Staying focused on a process and reflecting on the results will allow you to make more informed workload balancing decisions the next time something similar comes around.

Implementing an Agile Strategy

To implement a new project management strategy, you need the right tool to manage your information. For our product team (and more recently, our customer success team), it’s JIRA, which began as a software engineering-specific application. For your team, look for a software option that will keep your existing information organized, provide a clean, easy way to record new information, and help you analyze your results. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, see what we have to offer.

No matter what option you choose, remember that data is the foundation for any project management system. If your information isn’t where it needs to be, we’ve got your back. AkitaBox’s Customer Success Team can point you in the right direction. We’ll collect, organize, and help you interpret your data. Check out what AkitaBox has to offer:

Download Now - AkitaBox Key Features Checklist

Eleanor Jacobson

Former Blog Contributor and Marketing Communications Manager for AkitaBox.

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