An Introduction to Strategic Facilities Planning

Article excerpt

WHAT IS STRATEGIC FACILITIES PLANNING?

For many corporations and organizations, the first reaction to any perceived facilities need is to hire an architect or a design-build contractor. However, the design skills that architects offer are only one factor in creating wise, cost-effective, and long-term facilities solutions. Design and construction are expensive acts of execution; major expenses--and major mistakes--can be avoided by starting with the most fundamental steps of planning and following them in sequence, making certain that all of the right questions are asked. More often than not, the needs and answers that initially seem obvious often miss the real opportunities. In actuality, a corporation's needs for facilities begin long before they actually consider constructing new buildings, and in fact are driven by the corporation's specific, unique business needs. Strategic facilities planning can address these needs. This discipline, comprised of planners and architects dedicated to delivering customized sets of applicable processes and meth odologies, has grown at many firms to include the input of social scientists, MBA graduates, real estate experts, and data managers. When successfully undertaken, strategic facilities planning designs are integrated, comprehensive, transparent processes and introduce each discipline of specialized expertise at the appropriate moment, and position corporations to better develop, produce, and deliver their products, whatever and wherever they may be.

Effective strategic facilities planning methods align the business needs of a corporation with its physical needs, thus working to ensure that a corporation's facilities actively strive to support the company's business mission, rather than hinder their goals. These plans are also flexible and living documents, appropriate and applicable to both immediate and long-term facilities goals. They address overlapping needs and potential shared capacities, and are by definition proactive. An effective strategic facilities plan includes data and recommendations to guide companies through relocations, consolidations, downsizing, mergers and acquisitions, new construction and renovations, site and facility selection, and contractual real estate decisions. In short, they are a vital and often under-used tool available to today's business leaders seeking to better manage and grow their companies.

HOW IS A STRATEGIC FACILITIES PLAN ACCOMPLISHED?

Facilities planning recognizes that every business plan decision has a direct impact on a corporation's real estate assets and needs. The mission of the plan, therefore, is to develop an implementable, adaptable real estate plan based upon the specific and unique considerations of the individual business. This mission is accomplished by a step-by-step process of understanding, analysis, planning, and acting.

Planners begin to develop the strategic facilities plan by understanding the needs of the client's business, building on whatever internal analysis an institution has already completed itself or with other consultants, and define the corporation's short-, mid-, and long-term goals, considering the range of their products and services, and learning about their goals, limitations, and opportunities. The work planners do for a client is entirely dependent upon these specific needs, and should address both strategic and long-range planning, and, conversely, the evaluation of current facilities and the conceptualization, planning, and implementation of new facilities, depending on their requirements. Most commonly, strategic plans provide a combination and range of services, as required by the client to maximize the value of their assets. The team considers such factors as the current position of the business and its current real estate asset base, its overall direction and the projects currently underway within t he company, how the business may change, and how those changes may affect the real estate needs of the corporation. …