Benchmarking – How to get started

October 2017 – We have attended several conferences over the past couple of months and were repeatedly asked the question, “What is the best way to get started with benchmarking? ” It seems that many of the conference attendees and probably many other FMs have difficulty finding time to getting started in the benchmarking process.

It is clear from the question that part of the problem stems from the forms and the amount of data needed to fill them. Any benchmarking exercise can look formidable until you realize that just a few metrics are all you need to measure the key results—you do not need to input all the data on the forms! Think about your building drawings—how many FMs have comprehensive as-builts showing precise locations of every electrical outlet, light and HVAC register?

Regardless of which benchmarking program or tool you use, the task often looks challenging. Here is what you need to know, using examples from FM BENCHMARKING; this approach should work with almost any benchmarking program you employ, allowing you to obtain the key output reports in a minimum amount of time.

With just a little data, you can see where you stand on about 95% of the operating costs. If you are not currently benchmarking, getting 95% of the portfolio costs in a benchmarking program is a significant achievement. Figure 1 shows the results from about 800 benchmarking participants. Note that by benchmarking just your Utilities, Maintenance, Janitorial, and Security costs the participants are benchmarking 97% of their operating costs.

Figure 1: Cost by function Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

Figure 1: Cost by function
Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

A common question is, “What data do I really need to input to get started with benchmarking and get some useful reports?” In FM BENCHMARKING we call these inputs “critical” data fields. By inputting these critical data fields you will be able to see how your performance compares with others on most key performance indicator charts in the shortest possible time.

One of the issues that is frequently brought up is the lack of financial data to input in a benchmarking application. When this question is asked we normally respond with a follow up question such as, “What are you using to manage your facilities portfolio if you do not have financial info.” The usual response is that they just manage the monthly, quarterly, or annual budget for the entire facility. Benchmarking can still be done at this level but it is much more effective if you can break down your total facility costs by the major FM functions (utilities, maintenance, etc.).

In addition to financial data you will also need the area of their facility, occupancy, and year built. If you have fundamental cost and building attribute information available, most participants should take no more than 30-to-60 minutes to enter this information in a benchmarking system.

There are quite a few inputs on the building attributes input form and we are recommending you input as many as possible so you can filter your data in the output reports; but you don’t have to—all should be readily available. Just a few key data fields are needed such as:

  • Fiscal Year (of the data being input)
  • Gross Area of the facility
  • Primary use of the facility
  • Number of occupants (even if they don’t have an assigned desk)
  • Workstations with network connectivity

Figure 2 is a screen shot from the FM BENCHMARKING website of the attributes input page; can see the suggested critical inputs are easily identified by the red arrow.

Other fields such as the building age, setting, site type, ownership, security background clearance, area occupied by a data center, etc. are encouraged since they allow filters to be applied on the output reports. In other words, you can filter your reports to see buildings only of a certain age range, setting, etc.

Any good IT solution should allow you input your data on your schedule. If all you have is a little information to input at this time, the system should be able to accommodate your schedule. All well-designed systems should be able to handle multiple inputs at varying times.

Figure 2: Basic Building Attributes Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

Figure 2: Basic Building Attributes
Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

What does a facility manager obtain after entering this basic information? For a little bit of your time you will receive quite a bit of valuable feedback. FMs will be able to chart how their facilities compare on the major KPI charts of Cost per Area or Cost per Occupant for:

  • Utilities
  • Maintenance
  • Janitorial
  • Security

That is a significant achievement for about an hour’s worth of time and it is easier than you would expect. For example, Figure 3 shows all the information needed to benchmark utility costs, usually the largest component of the FM budget.

Figure 3: Utilities Costs Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

Figure 3: Utilities Costs
Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

To obtain the maximum benefit from FM BENCHMARKING or other benchmarking tools you will need to return and input additional data. But after you’ve entered your critical data, take a look at your output charts and discuss your organizations performance with others in the facilities organization. The types of reports you will be able to generate from this small quantity of data are shown in other articles in this Benchmarking section of FMLink.

The bottom line: You will achieve 90% of the benefits from benchmarking by inputting just 10% of the data.

Articles are based on data from FM BENCHMARKING, which until the pandemic had been the online benchmarking tool for facility managers and CREs. Data tracked by FM BENCHMARKING includes cost and labor data as well as best practices for more than 95% of typical facility costs. For questions about benchmarking, please contact Peter Kimmel on LinkedIn. Peter was one of the principals of FM BENCHMARKING and now is consulting in the industry.