Unpacking the “Top 5 Facility Management Challenges”


Last week we identified the Top 5 Facilities Management Challenges.  While it is great to identify these challenges, we have had a number of requests from readers to provide some additional information and context.

You asked…we heard you.

The following are practical thoughts and commentary related to these challenges.  While I have concentrated much of my unpack on the “oh too often” under served church facility world, the “unpacks” have a multiple of application to other vertical markets.

> CHALLENGE #5: Vendor Management: Allocating work to the right vendors


1. Having the right vendors working on our facilities is important. Are they qualified? How do you qualify them? Where did you find them? The phone book? Do we know what their fee structures are? When was the last time you explored other vendors? These questions should be examined on a regular basis to ensure that we have the right people serving our facility’s needs.

2. When was the last time you explored the “real” cost of your vendors? The real costs include not only the invoice from the vendor but also include the cost of locating a vendor, scheduling the work, coordinating the work with your facilities scheduled events, overseeing the work, inspecting the completed work, reviewing the invoice, paying the invoice, addressing “call-back” issues with the work, etc, etc, etc. In addition, do you know what the real costs are when you have on-site staff perform certain tasks? It may appear that it is cost effective to have an on-site staff member address certain repairs or tasks like painting or the like. But is it really, or are you only making that leap based on only part of the information? What is the wage of that person? What is the cost of the labor burden/benefits? Do you also provide items such as a computer, vehicle, uniform, etc? How much does it cost to manage that person? Does the simplest of tasks take longer to get accomplished than if it was performed by a paid professional in that trade? It is critical to understand these real costs to determine if you are actually paying more that you realize.

3. Having insurance on all vendors on your site/in your facilities is critical. Not only is knowing that the vendor has insurance is important, it is even more important to have a copy of the insurance certificate and track the expiration dates of each. It is recommended that you obtain a Certificate of Insurance on each and every vendor including General Liability, Workers Compensation, Vehicle as well as an Umbrella rider. This is for the church’s protection from significant expense in the case of a claim as well as potential legal action. Then, you should keep a record of all vendors along with a log of expiration dates. It is recommended that you require vendors to give you a copy of an updated certificate prior to expiration

> CHALLENGE #4: Making changes without having enough reliable data


1. As a general rule…at least from my experience…most churches do a substandard job of tracking the real costs associated with their facilities. While I know some churches that have retained full time professional Facility Managers that have invested in CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) software for the tracking of maintenance issues, repairs, work order management, preventive maintenance and historical data retrieval, most do not. Most churches use a spreadsheet, Post-it Notes or a legal pad, if anything at all. There is no way for you to stay on top of trends or even plan for the future without a deliberate and proactive process for tracking and projecting facilities issues. (I am sorry if that feels like a hand slapping…)

2. Without this kind of historical data, how can we realistically project future year’s budgets? Do we just guess? Do we put enough money in the budget for Band-Aid issues only and then cross our fingers and hope for the best? We would suggest that a more proactive and forward thinking process be implemented into you budgeting process. However, you cannot implement this kind of thinking without clearly knowing the life expectancy of your systems and components or without knowing the real costs of maintaining your facilities.

3. The data that is needed is far more than just historical…it is also real time. How long does it take your team to respond to a repair issue? Do we wait for the trustees or deacons to have a monthly meeting to address these issues? How long is the downtime caused by repairs and how do these times impact our ministries? Do we have systems and process in place to reduce the downtime? In church “speak” we do not often consider the “costs” associate with downtime. If we were operating a hotel and the air conditioning went out or we own a retail store and the plumbing floods the building, we could determine the exact cost that every minute, hour and day that downtime would have on our financial bottom line. What about the “eternal” bottom line for our ministries. Is that not even more costly than the monetary loss of a retail store?

> CHALLENGE #3: Getting more work done with fewer resources


1. I have seen many churches reduce staffing over the past several years. Most has been in the area of business/financial administration and facilities related staff. This means that the staff left in the wake of these cuts are having to do more…with less. Less budget…less resources…less money. Yet their organizations expect the same level of work to be accomplished or that their facilities remain in the same, if not better condition. This is a juggling act that is becoming very challenging. I have met with several FM’s that are frankly overwhelmed with the level of tactical responsibilities that are now on their plate which robs them (and their organizations) from their ability to think and plan strategically. They have become “firemen” and not managers. If we need firemen…then we can hire them for far less than the cost of a professional FM…so what do we want our administrators and FM staff to really do? Each ministry needs to ask and answer this questions and face the realities and ramifications of their answers.

2.  I am a firm believer of documenting salient discussions and communications. It is far to easy to get busy and not document what was discussed, what was the agreed upon ETA for the work or the anticipated cost, does the vendor have the adequate insurance and so on. Having a system for documenting vendor interaction that interfaces with your historical tracking is critical for the understanding of the issues associated with your vendors; their performance, their costs and their reliability, their insurance.

3. Vendors are going to come and go…particularly in today’s economic environment. What is your plan for interviewing, qualifying and utilizing new vendors? Are you merely going to let your “fingers do the walking?” I like the quote, “Dig your well before you get thirsty.” That applies to this as well. Have a plan as to how you address vendor turn over (or even church members who are doing work that leave the church). Don’t wait until the last minute.

> CHALLENGE #2: Finding ways to extend the life of existing assets


1. For many churches and ministries, this is a tough truth to grasp. When times get tough, we generally will cut or reduce what may be called the “non-ministry essentials.” This may be staff positions, programs, or possibly functions. The grass may not get cut as often. The IT director is laid off. A decision is made to change your HVAC preventive maintenance from quarterly to bi-annual. Regardless of the item, these are the types of items that get cut first. On the other hand, when we are in an upswing and we are ahead of budget, and have excess cash, most churches do not stop and think about setting up a capital reserve account or reviewing their life cycle cost projects (as if they have those anyway) or increasing the maintenance budget. We immediately think that we should add more ministry staff or look at a new building (even if our old buildings are not well maintained). Again – don’t misunderstand – we need to add staff and add facilities and the like. However, we need to balance that with the need to maintain the tools and resources God has entrusted to us.

2. As I indicated earlier, most churches do not have a good system or process for tracking real costs of preventive maintenance. If you do not track and document life cycle costs and the costs of preventive maintenance (PM) vs. repairs, how will you be able to determine if you are spending too much on repairs? How will you be able to determine if $1,000 a year of PM could extend the life of an asset by say 5 years. For example, if you could spend $1,000 a year to extend the life of a 10 ton HVAC unit (that would have a replacement cost of about $20,000), would that be wise stewardship? But if you are not looking at your assets from that perspective, how will you ever know. I am sure you have heard the saying that “Knowledge is Power.” In this case knowledge if is more than “power”, it is wise stewardship.



1. How many times in this past year have you called a vendor to address an issue to later find out it was the wrong vendor, as a result, you had to call someone else? Did you have to pay both companies even though the first vendor was the wrong one?  “We have stained ceiling tiles so it must be a roof leak.” is a claim of church leaders that is repeated far too often. While a leak in the roof is a possibility, it could also be a plumbing leak or a fire sprinkler leak or an HVAC condensation drain/pan leak. In order to know who is the right vendor to call so that you only pay for the RIGHT service, your facilities team must be able to recognize and evaluate these issues and make a determination based on that evaluation. Now, I am not suggesting that you (or anyone for that matter) will get it right every time, but if you can reduce your service calls by even one, that is real dollars saved.

2. Warranty calls can be a real irritant…particularly if you have vendors that do not live up to the warranties they committed to provide. But as above, prudence and diligence to understand what labor and materials are under warranty can save the church real dollars. Warranty items are not just associated with new construction or new equipment, although that is the most common. Most labor performed on repair services should have some level of warranty unless expressly agreed to otherwise in writing. When a vendor gives you a quote and you agree to use their service, ask them to include their warranty provisions on the quote that you both sign. GET IT IN WRITING!!!! While verbal warranties “might” hold up in a legal battle, written is always better and gives you the documentation to enforce the warranty with that vendor or possibly their suppliers/manufacturers. Don’t just give in and pay for warrantied work because it is too much of a hassle. There may be emergency situations where you have to involve another vendor to remedy the situation, but keep records or your attempts to resolve the issue with the warranted vendor as well as your costs from the performing vendor and work to collect these funds after the emergency has passed. Again, these are resources that God has entrusted to us…do not take them lightly.

The above only scratches the surface related to the challenges FM’s face every day. It is a huge responsibility to be entrusted with these resources. Be Intentional!

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Top 5 Facility Management Challenges


In an article published by Corrigo Inc, who specializes in work order and time tracking solutions, they shared the findings of a survey of the Top 5 Facilities Management Challenges based on a survey they conducted of over 1,200 organization. Here is a summary of their report…with a little commentary from me:

  • CHALLENGE #5: Vendor Management: Allocating work to the right vendors

A major trend from previous surveys was the issue of outsourcing. While this topic has not gone away, it is not the driver behind operational change.

Summary From Survey: Improved vendor management increases the control you have over your operations, and by implementing price controls, can reduce your costs.

What Facility Managers are Doing:
• Making vendor decisions based on performance feedback
• Recording and comparing information on vendor pricing
• Maintaining searchable records of vendor certifications

Conclusion for Challenge #5: There are a lot of details to address when considering vendors and the real cost of using outside vendors as well as staff resources…and be vigilant about the insurance.


  • CHALLENGE #4: Making changes without having enough reliable data

Approximately 30% of survey respondents considered the capturing of reliable data as one of the top two pressing needs in their organizations.

Summary From Survey: Capturing and then making use of the information associated with all your service and maintenance work equips you to make informed and effective business decisions.

What Facility Managers are Doing:
• Comparing spending trends across their organization
• Using historical repair data to inform new equipment and warranty purchase decisions
• Monitoring real time progress on important repair work

Conclusion for challenge #4: Historical and real-time data is critical for our ministry facilities. Develop or buy a system that can track this kind of data, or partner with someone that can do this for you. An Excel spreadsheet will most likely not work unless you have a very small facility.


  • CHALLENGE #3: Getting more work done with fewer resources

One factor contributing to the increased burden on facility management teams is the reduction in their company’s field technician staffing. This may seem counter-intuitive, but as budget cuts move more work to vendors, the burden of vendor recruitment, selection and management falls to the facility management organization.

Summary From Survey: Doing more with fewer resources is not a temporary situation. To succeed in this environment, you need tools that extend your reach and productivity.

What Facility Managers are Doing:
• Moving away from ad hoc communications by phone, fax and email
• Sharing a common platform with their staff and vendors to process work requests electronically
• Automating vendor tracking/assignments via intelligent systems

Conclusion for Challenge #3: Develop, buy or subscribe to a system that allows you to communicate with your vendors (not as the only form of communication) and tracks their ETA, pricing, PM work and other work order management.


  • CHALLENGE #2: Finding ways to extend the life of existing assets.

It’s not just operational budgets that are being squeezed – capital expenditures are down substantially, and that translates into keeping existing equipment and assets up and running longer.

Summary From Survey: Spending the right amount on preventative maintenance and being able to back up that decision with accurate data can turn a facility manager into a cost saving hero.

What Facility Managers are Doing:
• Comparing preventative vs. repair costs on all asset types and adjusting PM spending accordingly
• Using accumulated repair data to implement intelligent, PM schedules
• Applying proactive maintenance on mission critical equipment

Conclusion for Challenge #2: Preventive Maintenance, rather than corrective repairs, is a far better approach to caring for the resources God has entrusted to us.



#1 for from this survey was, without a doubt, saving money. When asked how they would like to accomplish this objective, the responses of facility managers tended to be grouped into one of three general categories:

  • Call avoidance
  • Warranty work management
  • Price control

Summary From Survey: Facility Management may be considered a cost center, but it also holds tremendous potential to impact a company’s profitability. A dollar saved by a facility management team goes directly to the bottom line. Which is why cost savings is the bottom line concern for facility management professionals.

What Facility Managers are Doing:
• Avoiding unnecessary repair costs through client self-help systems and knowledge bases
• Flagging all assets and equipment under warranty to prevent unnecessary payment
• Establishing and monitoring not-to-exceed pricing agreements with vendors

Conclusion for Challenge #1: I believe that in today’s economy (frankly it should be in EVERY economy because we are stewards of something that does not belong to us) we are looking for ways to save money. Sometimes we cannot see the obvious items that will allow us to be more efficient and effective. The principles addressed in this article are right in front of us.

These are not rocket science, but you do have to be intentional!
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10 Reasons to Tear-up Your Old Event Scheduler

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Are you still using a paper calendar to schedule events and rooms at your facility?

When we developed eSPACE, our team thought for sure that our biggest competition was going to be the large scheduling systems.  However, over 50% of our net new partnering opportunities are from organizations that still use a paper calendar, wall calendar, or sundial (just kidding about that last one).

Some have graduated to an “electronic” based tool like Excel, Outlook or Google Calendar (quasi schedulers). While that is a step in the right direction, you may still be functioning in the Dark Ages compared to how proactive organizations manage the use of their facilities and what solutions are available to assist you.  Many of our clients and churches and we have learned that that not every facility opens their doors on just Sunday AM, Sunday PM and Wednesday nights and nearly every organization has a slightly different schedule. The more diverse your organization, the more likely the complexity of space utilization is magnified.

In order for you to meet the demands of your organization, you need to re-think how you schedule your facilities/events and what tools must be incorporated into your systems and processes.  Don’t fall slave to the dreaded “7 words of a dying organization”  (you know – We Have Always Done It This Way)…there are better ways to schedule your facility…and it won’t break the bank.

Here are 10 reasons why it may be time for a change:

1.  A cloud-based calendar can be accessed anytime, anywhere. The cloud is here to stay…embrace it.

2.  Identify and manage scheduling conflicts…this is so critical and is a key component that paper schedulers and “quasi” scheduler can not provide.

3.  Team members and stakeholders can view a calendar of activities in the facility in real time.

4.  The organization determines who “controls” and has access to the calendar.

5.  Event requests go through an approval process before being finalized on the calendar.

6.  Avoid two groups needing the same space at the same time. Nothing worse than double booked spaces.

7.  Intentionally plan events to ensure all necessities are available for the event and already placed in the appropriate part of the facility (tables, chairs, sound system, child care, etc).

8.  Push the responsibilities to request events and determine the spaces, resources and services by those who need the space and not just a single contact person. The day of the “gate keeper” is quickly passing us by.

9.  Empower staff, team members and  leaders to resolve their own scheduling conflicts before “the boss” has to get involved.

10.  Reduce the duplication of entry…let your scheduling software also populate your website calendar(s) so you only have to enter data once.

BONUS: The right scheduling solution can also schedule your HVAC systems!!! Wouldn’t that be nice?

Now…those are just the top 10 (and a bonus)…we assure you there are many more.

If you are looking for an easy to use and yet cost effective room/event/resource scheduling tool, consider eSPACE. You can try if for FREE for 30 days…or you can just KICK THE TIRES.

What do you have to lose?????


5 Needs Facility and Event Scheduling Software Can Remedy

Solving a problem highlighted in blue under the heading Solution

With rare exception, church facilities are a tool God has entrusted to us to steward. Part of stewarding is the utilization and use of these facilities.  If your facility is only used on the weekend, I would question the need to have a facility at all. If all you need is a place to meet on Saturday or Sunday, then why invest so many Kingdom Resources to construction and maintenance of a physical structure.

Buildings were meant to be used. And as such, their use must be properly planned and coordinated. Have you ever shown up for a meeting, not just at your church facility, and learned that another group was also planning to meet in the same space? Awkward!

So, why should your church implement the use of facility and event scheduling software? What are the real benefits?  Won’t Google Calendar, Outlook or the endangered paper wall calendar suffice?

Here are 5 needs that facility and event scheduling software just might be able to remedy:
Continue reading “5 Needs Facility and Event Scheduling Software Can Remedy”

Welcome to eSPACE


In 2008, Cool Solutions Group developed its first SaaS software applications.   The first released application was called MINISTReSPACE, which was a room and event scheduling software, and the second entitled FACILITeSPACE  geared toward work order and facility management.

Now…in 2015, we are excited to release a unified application… Continue reading “Welcome to eSPACE”