It and Facilities Management. There are no departments more critical to ensuring businesses stay humming every day. And perhaps, they’re the two most overlooked and underappreciated. We all know the stereotypes. IT stays locked in their dark server rooms until called out to help fix someone’s (probably stupid) technical problem. And facilities management might not even be considered until new hardware or services need to be installed or repaired.
The reality is, these two departments work to ensure every other department in the company has the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. Both departments have evolved to meet the needs of an increasingly complicated office ecosystem. To understand how both departments must work together to ensure overall operational success, let’s start with understanding what each department actually does.
What does FM actually do?
FM is a sophisticated department that tackles a wide array of preventative and corrective maintenance actions every day. This business unit can mean many different things for different organizations, but serves as an interdisciplinary function for almost all. The broad scope of Facilities Management typically covers everything from infrastructure (workplace, maintenance, cleaning, safety, and design) to people (hospitality, HR, and accounting).
Is your office’s server room buzzing healthily at the right temperature? Thank your FM. Do you know where to go to quickly exit the building in case of a fire? That’s your FM too. Lighting, signage, and temperature running efficiently? Yup, FM. Need a new VOIP system installed in your office? Call your FM.
What does IT actually do?
Like FM, the IT department often has a broad array of responsibilities within an organization, all centered around systems, network, and other technological responsibilities. Their reach extends far beyond the most obvious job of technical support. IT oversees everything from system, data, and network governance to infrastructure and functionality.
The IT role or department handles network responsibilities, overseeing all necessary hardware and software needed to keep the network functioning properly. Any and all operational applications fall under the umbrella of IT. And yeah, they’re all going to roll their eyes when you forget your password. Again.
IT + FM = <3
These two departments may seem like different worlds within your organization, but the truth is they are critically linked. Like any relationship, communication is key. Without proper communication and understanding between the two, inefficiencies, un-reliability, and low performance would reign supreme.
When something goes wrong, the source can most often be traced back to a breakdown of communication between IT and FM, as opposed to a lack of skills or technical ability. Failure to work together on the part of IT and FM could mean failures of equipment, platforms, and networks.
Working together, on the other hand, ensures the most efficient use of resources and infrastructure. Yes, there’s always the force majeure that can cripple a company’s network or system, but steady and reliable communication between IT and FM best sets up the entire company for success.
A thorough communication plan ensures both departments have a comprehensive understanding of the other’s needs. It helps them work together to ensure all hardware and equipment is regularly maintained, any physical maintenance is as non-invasive as possible, and resources are best allocated.
How can IT and FM improve communication?
Here are the four easy steps every IT and FM department must take in order to improve communication between departments. Hint: it’s kind of like dating.
1. Get to know each other.
Develop a mutual understanding of the other’s roles, responsibilities, and challenges. This will help both departments develop an appreciation of the jobs performed by the other. Not to mention, developing and understanding of the interdisciplinaries between IT and FM will help decision-makers come up with a strategy that streamlines and economizes general maintenance, new software or hardware implementations, and contingency plans.
2. Don’t play games.
Like many departments, IT and FM communicate internally with jargon that’s almost akin to their own language. That’s fine when you’re discussing a plan with someone in your own department, but leave the lingo at the door when working on an inter-department communications plan. Consistently alienating the other party won’t help develop the relationships you need to foster a cohesive team. Don’t make the other department guess at meaning. Learn to speak openly and thoroughly without insider’s vernacular.
3. Think about the future
Like every great relationship, it’s important for IT and FM to always be looking towards the future. Set goals and address risks. Manage expectations for responsibilities when something does go wrong. What happens when, say, the company is moving offices and FM will be temporarily shutting down the data center for transport? But IT manages critical applications, such as the website back-end or e-commerce site, that must be running 24/7?
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Both departments have a hand in ensuring that systems and technologies are running smoothly. It would behoove both IT and FM, then, to be able to rely on a software solution that automatically manages some of their own more tedious tasks. A meeting management suite, for example, can take over the rolls of catering and hospitality. It can also take analytics out of the hands of IT and put it directly in the hands of end-users who need insight into their office usage with user-friendly reports and dashboards. Companies can eliminate inefficiencies such as paper trails and email lists to both departments for employee’s meeting equipment and set-up needs. This opens up time for both FM and IT to focus on more strategic tasks.
Working together, IT and FM can foster a new level of communication with effects that ripple throughout the entire organization. A strong relationship between departments will result in a better allocation of resources, more reliable infrastructure, and happier workforce all around.