In keeping with the “FM Essentials” theme of this issue, we offer the following best practices when working on renovation or new construction projects where technology will play a pivotal role.
1. Start planning NOW for the people side of change that might accompany new learning spaces, new workflows, etc.
2. Use the project as a catalyst for improvement, as building projects are often the largest, most impactful chance to strengthen or change the culture.
3. Align all tech decisions to the institutional mission and strategic plans.
4. Do not simply default to “campus standards.” The rigid application of technology standards shuts down discovery, exploration, and scholarship on the topic of how technology can improve teaching, learning, research, workflow, and efficiency.
5. Put as much time and energy into planning the people, policies, and procedures as you put into planning the wires and widgets.
6. Think long term and in the future tense—resist “this is what we do now” thinking. Substitute “this is what we would like to do” or “wish we could do.”
7. Focus on the future student. Picture the middle school student who lives in your neighborhood or perhaps in your home.
8. Use tech to build Collaboration, Communication, and Community.
9. Prototype new concepts prior to widespread deployment. Create a black-box classroom or sandbox to promote exploration. Use a semistructured “lessons-learned” process to inform future projects.
10. Be willing to experiment and accept some failures.
11. Recognize that no institution can afford all technology desired by the users. Control expectations of Day One capabilities.
12. Prioritize getting the building “right”—planning to support the eventual full use of technology, rather than designing the building for Day One of use. Realize that infrastructure is much more than conduit and power and junction boxes. And don’t skimp on the acoustics!
13. Make final decisions about specific technology components at the “last responsible moment.”
14. For learning space projects, think pedagogy first. Let pedagogy drive the bus. Use tech to increase the quality, quantity, and effectiveness of teachable moments.
15. Assume that all processes will become more tech-dependent. There may be some pushback or a pendulum swing, but tech eventually wins if it offers an improvement.
16. Focus on employer skills and desires. Use tech to teach applied skills rather than simply knowing information.
17. Think total cost of ownership.
18. Plan for technology refresh cycles. Work with your development office to create a fund for technology refresh.
19. Attach timelines to terms such as “adaptable” and “flexible” to have more productive conversations. Define nebulous terms such as “state-of-the-art.”
20. Consider technology as an enabler, not simply an expense.
21. Consider the smartphone to be the greatest portable knowledge machine—not the greatest distraction—in the history of the world. It is like having a professor in your pocket.
22. Design with dual focus: the individual user experience and an enterprise-wide perspective. Consider access, usability, supportability, scalability, and enterprise-wide standardization.
23. Plan all devices to be connected to the network. Plan/build the virtual world alongside the physical world.
24. Think platforms, not products. Think of tech ecosystems, not islands of tech. Sharing of data, interoperability, open standards, open APIs (application programming interfaces)—in the long-run, all of these bring more benefits than proprietary anything. Don’t focus on just this building but on how it fits into the enterprise context and how these systems/spaces interrelate.
25. Gather actionable real data about the facility and the tech systems.
26. For learning spaces, don’t think in-person or online. Think “both and.” This was solid advice before the pandemic but is now an imperative.
27. Use high tech to enhance high touch.
28. Prioritize compatibility with long-term strategic tech direction over custom integration for a specific use.
29. Prioritize flexibility over optimization, and evolutionary refinement over pursuit of initial perfection.
30. Don’t fight against progress—embrace the tech and the changes that accompany it.
31. Assume every building will eventually be an intelligent building. And every campus will be an intelligent campus.
32. Establish a technology planning process, communicate the process, and follow the process.
We encourage you to rate your personal practices of the above on a scale of 1–5, with 5 indicating that you and your project teams do an excellent job of following the idea, and 1 meaning that you and your project teams generally do a poor job of heeding the advice.
Then total up your score. With all due respect to the Reader’s Digest “Word Power” column, we offer the following score sheet:
___ 120–160: Master of the FM Universe, and most likely a graduate of APPA’s Institute for Facilities Management! (We suggest you celebrate by taking the rest of the day off!)
___ 100–119: Accomplished. Congratulations! You are following most of the best practices, but have some room for growth.
___ 80–99: Middling. You are not a tech neophyte, but have some work to do.
___ Less than 80: Back to school for you!
How well did you score? Do you agree with best practices and observations? Feel free to share your results and thoughts with us.
Kelly Stumpf is a principal consultant at NV5 in Denver, CO, and can be reached at [email protected]. This is her first article for Facilities Manager. John Cook is vice president/managing principal at NV5 in Pittsburgh, PA, and the editor of this column. He can be reached at [email protected].