“The trick is this: keep your eye on the ball” says the American writer Tom Robbins, “even when you can’t see the ball’. How can Facilities Managers master that particular skill?

How can FM keep control?

You're jumping in and out of spreadsheets logging issues. You're fielding phone calls from internal customers chasing up jobs. You're manually checking invoices against emailed timesheets. Sometimes it feels like the only way to keep control of your team and your costs is to never go home

Micromanaging every part of the work order process might seem like the only way to keep tabs on your contractors and your spending. But it’s not a long term and sustainable strategy.

Without the right digital tools to centralise, streamline and automate your processes, tasks will just keep falling through the gaps, visibility will be restricted and money will end up being wasted.

Teams who haven’t got a grip on the digital management of their basic FM functions often see mistakes and inefficiencies mounting up, while costs escalate as a result. This may include:

  • Missed work requests
  • Multiple, duplicate call outs
  • Missed preventative maintenance
  • Ineffective asset planning 
  • Contractor inefficiency

So, what are the most important steps you can take to prioritise FM cost control? How can you bring the chaos to heel and begin to optimise your resources to get better results?

1. Sort out your help desk process 

Centralised communications are the key to keeping call centres, FM, engineers and customers connected as work orders are raised, processed and completed. It’s the key to preventing misunderstandings, mistakes and wasted money. Meanwhile, automation is essential to keep jobs moving efficiently through the pipeline to resolution. 

A top priority for FMs should be choosing and implementing a platform through which work requests can be:

  • Logged
  • Analysed
  • Filtered
  • Triaged

Where FMs can:

  • Request quotes from contractors
  • Triage work to specific engineers/contractors

And where contractors can:

  • Respond with quotes
  • Respond to service requests
  • See full details of jobs (including images/videos of the problem)
  • Communicate with the call centre as required
  • Log time
  • Add costs and invoice

Automating workflows and auto-populating property information based on structured request data ensures speed and consistency in the processing of work orders. It avoids mistakes and key details slipping through the cracks such as spotting when equipment is under warranty, duplicate requests are made or flags when budgets are exceeded. Meanwhile, a mobile activity stream that shows all the messages that have passed between the helpdesk, contractor and requester will ensure there’s never confusion about what needs to be done - and what’s been done already.

2. Concentrate on your engineer/contractor KPIs 

You’re busy. You’ve got hundreds of things to think about. And you can’t keep track of every work request and the way they’ve been handled on a case by case basis. But the trouble is too many FM teams can’t look at their results ‘as a whole’, either.

Effectively defining and tracking your specific engineer and contractor KPIs is one of the major ways to prevent costs from running out of control - and if you can’t easily see them and compare them it’s going to be hard to start optimising performance. These KPIs should include: 

First-time Fix Rate: This is the big one. How many jobs are resolved in the first visit? Where is time and money being wasted with return trips and poor-quality fixes?

Time to respond: How long does it take for an engineer to respond to a call-out request?

Time to fix: How long does it take an engineer to fix an issue once they are on site?

Time to attend: How long does it take for an engineer to get on site once the call out has been accepted?

Callout to quote ratio: As a percentage, how many of your callouts turn into quoted works? If you understand this, it will help you see how effective your contractors are in not only finding a first-time fix, but also helping you keep your costs under control.

Being able to see these figures broken down by engineers and contractors will help you get clear snapshots of what’s happening on the ground without getting involved in every single case. 

They can show you which contractors:

  • Are delivering the best and most consistent service
  • Are offering the best value for money
  • Are the most responsive, timely and efficient

With this data, you can see where money and time are being wasted in slow responses, ineffective and expensive fixes. You can understand where you need to have the conversations that will improve performance. You can decide where to channel more work in future. 

With enough detail in your reporting, you can also see if multiple work requests and stubborn problems are isolated to particular sites. If so, you can concentrate on equipment overhauls rather than reactive maintenance.

3. Control the number of contractors you’re dealing with

This is a big issue for many FMs. Maintaining a large supply chain can be expensive and time-consuming:

  • Keeping them engaged on your platform
  • Keeping contact and payment details up to date
  • Managing update meetings
  • Managing manual review and selection processes for each new piece of work 

If you’ve got a big roster of suppliers and no data available to rate them or rationalise the list, you’ll struggle to make the right decisions about who to keep on, and who to remove. 

Uploading contractor details into a dedicated platform and starting to formally track KPIs will give you the data you need to whittle down an unwieldy list. Over time, it’ll help you create a well-balanced and competitive roster of high-performing suppliers.

4. Use cost control features

It’s the little things that can make a big difference. When you’re choosing digital contractor management software - make sure you can set up alerts for potential overspend and billing discrepancies:

  • Set a spend limit per work order to encourage the contractor to keep you informed over spiralling costs
  • Force the contractor to request an uplift where required so you can achieve a first-time fix and manage your accruals
  • Set your agreed rate cards within the system and auto-bill for callouts and labour in order to give confidence that the billing is accurate
  • Automatically trigger cost audits when the data doesn’t add up e.g. duplicate callout fees, manual rate overrides or when invoiced labour is higher than quoted

These kinds of tools will help you keep spending on track against budgets and alert you as soon as there are potential problems.

5. Get a grip on your assets

Lack of visibility of your assets and where they are in their life-cycle is a major reason for escalating costs. 

If you’re constantly in reactive maintenance mode without any oversight about the amount you’re spending on each piece of equipment on each site - you could be throwing good money after bad.

Building a digital asset register will help you;

  • Identify and differentiate those assets which require replacement vs repair
  • Report by ‘useful life remaining’ e.g. Which assets are fully depreciated?
  • Report by status e.g. Which assets are in status "poor"?

Proper asset management takes the guesswork out of budgeting and capex requirements. It prevents those nasty surprises that can send costs spinning out of control and derail your finances.

6. Do it all from one place

Using a centralised tool like a CAFM for work order requests, contractor management, asset management and budget control will help you join up your reporting and keep tabs on your spending in real-time. 

It can help you prevent overspend and handle questions about performance and billing more effectively. Integrated with your finance software, it’ll help keep your records in sync and ensure the whole business is on the same page about how much you are spending and why. 

It’s impossible for FMs to be everywhere at once. It’s impossible for you to scrutinise every single work order or invoice as they drop into your inbox. And, anyway, that urge to micromanage will just take you away from the big picture, strategic work you need to focus on. 

So, use a CAFM to centralise, automate and optimise your processes. Use a CAFM to get your whole team controlling costs and working to deliver against your KPIs. It’ll help you keep operations running smoothly and efficiently. It’ll help you generate the performance data that you can use to save more money and continually improve. 

It’ll help you keep your eye on the ball, even when you’re not looking.

How to choose a CAFM system

Josh Greibach

Written by Josh Greibach

Josh Greibach is the CEO & Co-Founder of Expansive Solutions. His passion is delivering value through data-driven strategies. With a proven track record in leading successful teams for both B2C and B2B, Josh now focuses on rocking the world of facilities management with his FM software. He's here to revolutionise the industry and help businesses thrive in our digital-driven world.

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