Beating the Breach

hands holding a phone showing a security validation process with a coffee in the background

Data governance in facilities management

Facilities management has the capacity to transform businesses. From supporting employee happiness, to asset lifecycle management, FM is critical in ensuring business continuity and success.

While the data side of facilities management is rarely anyone’s favourite part of the job, it is what enables true transformation. In years gone by, this all-important data has been written on paper and stored awayin filing cabinets, or various excel spreadsheets.

While both the filing cabinet and excel might feel like an impenetrable fortress, this approach exposes you to huge data governance risks.

Data what? 

Data governance is the policies, processes and organisational structure that supports data management. In an era where we accrue information faster than ever before, data governance is crucial.

Data governance is a framework to ensure information is accurate, secure, and available to those who need it, when they need it.

Data governance for facilities managers

You’d be forgiven for thinking at this point that data governance is entirely an IT problem, rather than a facilities management one.

However, facilities management is a data rich environment. Adhering to strict compliance requirements, meeting stakeholder requirements, budget planning, informed decision making, and asset management all require a huge amount of data.

Better data leads to optimised decisions, and when the success of the organisation hinges on those decisions, you’ll want to be sure it is both accurate and available.

The current framework

For as long as facilities have existed, there’s been a need to manage them. And while the formal requirements for data have evolved over time, the use of data is ingrained in facilities management.

The past two decades have seen rapid technology advancements that have transformed the world of facilities managers. There’s never a dull moment in the role, though for many the thrill is quickly worn away by the reporting that any action necessitates.

Typically, this reporting has been done via paper-based processes or disparate spreadsheets, neither of which fit into a modern data governance framework.

Challenge #1: data accuracy

Even before the age of digital transformation, decisions were made on data every day, so what has really changed?

Having huge amounts of data available is one thing, but confidence in that data is another story. The struggle for many organisations, is trust in the data.

With more traditional data solutions, the more data there was, the bigger the margin for error.

For example, say you’re using a paper-based system for work orders. As jobs come in, they’re written up, and filed away in a filing cabinet in your office. Now imagine your team member is logging those work orders in a spreadsheet, saved to their desktop.

If a decision-maker was to ask about a particular asset, and work done on it, the response they would get would be completely different depending on who they asked.

Data accuracy is a key concept in governance, with frameworks aiming to ensure decisions are always based on the most accurate information.

Challenge #2: data timeliness

If the past 18 months have taught us nothing else, it’s that agility is key. Every day, we must make decisions quickly, and with confidence that they’re made on accurate information.

As we just discussed, ensuring data is accurate is a big part of that equation. Accurate data however, is only useful if it is accessible.

Say you and your colleague understand that all information must be stored in a central repository. Now you’ve both moved onto spreadsheets, your whole team can be confident the information they’re accessing is the most correct and up-to-date version.

As we know, facilities management often presents situations in which a decision must be made quickly. As a situation is unfolding, you go to the spreadsheet to reference it, and make your decision based on that information.

This information may have been correct at the time it was uploaded. However, this morning a team member did more work on the asset in question, and hasn’t gotten around to updating the information in the spreadsheet.

Not only have you lost precious minutes fetching the information, but it’s out of date thanks to a manual process.

Data governance aims to ensure the right information is available to the right people, at the right time. This availability of data should be a key consideration in designing your data governance strategy for facilities management.

Challenge #3: data security

When someone mentions data security, the first image that comes to mind is the Hollywood-fuelled image of someone who takes the “punk” in "cyberpunk” very seriously.

However, data security has less to do with hoodie-wearing hackers than you might think.

Data security is about putting in place policies, processes and software to product your organisation’s digital assets, from theft, destruction or loss.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner defines a data breach as being “when personal information accessed, disclosed without authorisation or is lost”. What may surprise you, is that the same authority reported that in 2021, 30% of data breaches were caused by human error.

While ensuring devices are equipped with appropriate anti-virus software might be the remit of IT, facilities managers have to take reasonable action to protect their data.

Of the breaches caused by malicious activity, 12% were the result of paperwork or data storage devices being stolen. Both the paper-based and spreadsheet-based examples we discussed above expose your data to risk of theft.

Even without the risk of theft however, proper data governance also requires concessions to be made to reduce the risk of data loss or destruction. This can be purposeful, or accidental. For example, if anybody can update information, they can easily do so accidentally. Filling in the wrong form, writing something where it should be, or filing something incorrectly can all result in data loss.

There’s a huge risk of loss and destruction with paper-based processes. Paper is a physical, fragile product easily misplaced, or destroyed with something as simple as a coffee spill.

With our spreadsheet example, where data is saved to desktop, the data is at the mercy of the device. If that device is one that’s taken out into the field, the possibility of destruction drastically increases. Even if it isn’t, user error could very easily result in deletion or corruption of the file, and without an appropriate backup, that data is gone forever.

Robust data governance, when considering thesecurity of your data, should account for both malicious and implicit risks tothat dataIdeally, ensuring the right information, is available to only the right people,at the right time

Framework of the future

The data governance of your organisation doesn’t rest entirely on your shoulders. However, implementing a data governance framework within your team will go a long way to supporting the organisation.

Solution #1: data accuracy

The first challengeof ensuring data accuracy can be resolved with a centralised information repository. All team members, recording information into the same platform, means that no matter who you ask in the team, you’ll get the same answer.

Additionally, with software solutions such as FMI Works, you can template the type of information that is recorded in that system. This allows you to ensure that anyone putting information into the system knows what is required.

Solution #2: data timeliness

When it comes to ensuring data is up-to-date, the solution lies in ensuring mobility of your central information repository. If team members can input information while they’re in the field, then when you retrieve that information, you can be confident it's current. The minute you print something in a dynamic environment such as facilities management, it’s out of date.

Solution #3: data security

While data security can get very complicated, there are some steps you can take to improve your governance in this area. Beyond ensuring that credentials are kept confidential, the next step towards data security is to look at migrating your data to the cloud.

Cloud-native software often offers frequent, automated backups of your data, so it can never be completely lost. Additionally, in most cases, cloud infrastructure offers some of the most advanced security in the world, and its agile nature ensures you are protected from emerging threats.