IT and Facilities Management : Rivals or Partners?

Having split my career between facilities management and IT management,  I gained an appreciation of how these two professional disciplines have many similarities, but distinct differences which createpolitical difficulties in many organizations. Both facilities management and IT management have large portfolios of assets, manage significant capital budgets, and complete projects with large financial commitments. Both functions have mission critical responsibilities; and require professional knowledge and expertise, that depends on both experience, management skill, and unique technical knowledge and skill.

IT and Facilities management have traditionally operated in separate worlds with distinct business cultures, differing professional orientations, different vocabularies, and conflicting operating objectives. The CIO lives or dies on the issue of reliability and uptime and business functionality. The facilities manager focuses on cost reduction, stable and predictable capacities and tolerances, and maintainability. The IT organization uses acronyms and other technical terms like MIPs, bandwidth, uptime, and throughput that seem like Greek to the facilities team. Conversely, the facilities staff talks in terms of square feet and cost per square foot. With the advent of technology convergence, virtualization, cloud computing, and high density processing these two worlds now collide, particularly in the context of data center planning and design, and new office projects. With the advent of mobile technology and cloud based applications, information technology has transformed the nature of work and the workplace. Thus, it’s critical that the CIO and facilities and real estate executive work closely in both the planning and implementation of modern office facilities. In fact, many organizations have created cross functional teams to encourage collaboration between the IT and facilities organization. Once scorned as inefficient and politically conflicted, the matrix organizational structure, has grown in popularity as a way to bridge the gap between IT and facilities. Another organizational technique to bridge the gap is to use virtual teams composed of IT, facilities, project engineers, and other disciplines needed for a major office project. The virtual teams work primarily through web based applications that coordinate work flow and control project accountability.

In addition some organizations actually have both facilities, real estate, and IT report to a single executive, to insure close coordination. By cross fertilizing the various functions, team members gain appreciation for the other’s priorities and challenges. When we worked on the “Agile Workplace” project, we discovered several major companies who experimented with various organizational models with some degree of success. The key to success with any model was a focus on leadership,  communication and creating joint accountabilities for project success.

IT and facilities managementoversee large operating and capital budgets. By working together, they have a much greater chance for success than working in isolation.  Now that the data center is the critical entity for cloud computing, it is becoming urgent that facilities and IT workmore closely together, or risk dysfunctional projects with budget overruns, and broken schedules.