GIS for Facility Management - Introduction

We have been honored to be asked by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) to write a white paper entitled "GIS for Facility Management". This is the second chapter in the series.   A full copy of the paper can be downloaded from the IFMA web site.   We would like to thank Manhattan Software and ESRI for their support of the white paper.

Chapter 2 - Introduction

Our world is growing smaller by the day and, as a result, business processes that just a few decades ago involved only a relatively small business footprint now span campus, regional and national borders. This phenomenon is increasingly evident in the realm of facility management. Yet the tools and applications that professional facility managers use to manage buildings, capital assets, maintenance, infrastructure – and a dizzying array of business processes – were not designed to be truly scalable. Thus, these tools and applications are not ideally suited to meet the requirements for managing broadly geographically dispersed portfolios of physical assets and business processes.

Out of necessity, the facility management application industry has adopted architectural floor plans as the common denominator for viewing the built environment. This is understandable because architectural floor plans, and by extension, computer aided design (CAD), historically represented the only media available for understanding and interacting with buildings and their contents and associated workflows. The progression from hand-drawn floor plans to CAD drawings, and now building information models (BIM), is essentially a progression from single floor plate views to whole building representations. To be truly effective across geographies the tools used to manage these distributed and disparate assets and workflows need to be able to scale far beyond individual buildings and individual site maps.

CAD was conceived as a set of tools and applications for design and construction. By contrast, geographic information systems (GIS) were conceived of and developed as a technology for managing information related to entities across the landscape. The value proposition for utilizing GIS for facility management business processes is not as a replacement for CAD and other enterprise facility management applications, like integrated workplace management systems (IWMS). The true value of GIS to facility management is as a complementary technology that, when integrated with the myriad facility management technologies and applications already in use, provides much greater benefits than the sum of its parts.

While CAD traditionally was concerned only with buildings and building interiors, GIS focused on what is referred to as the landscape or exterior environment. Neither technology crosses the boundary of the other, yet business processes do not have such artificial boundaries. There are many examples where facility management processes cross these boundaries:
• Utilities – Power and water would not be of much use if they stopped at the outside of the building.
• Maintenance management – Maintenance workflows require work both inside and outside buildings and across the entire supply chain.

Before GIS, there has not been a single technology that provides a holistic view and supports integrated workflows that place the material components of these workflows into their real world, landscape-level context both inside and outside the built environment. Only GIS can do this effectively because it is the only technology that has the ability to scale across any expanse, from the individual asset within a building to a virtually global context. This is not to say that GIS can replace CAD and, more importantly,
BIM. When a workflow calls for interaction with extremely detailed construction and engineering information within a structure, these tools are by far the appropriate choice and can be accessed (integrated) from the GIS, similar to any other application. When the workflow calls for managing assets simultaneously inside and outside of the built structure, GIS is the only option for a
foundation technology platform that seamlessly provides “world-to-the-widget” scalability.