Paul Graves of the University of Kansas To prepare for next week’s webinar, learn a little more about the presenter, Paul Graves, P.E. and Deputy Director of the Office of Design & Construction Management at the University of Kansas.

Don’t forget to register!

What education and/or professional experience led you to your role today?

I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Massachusetts (UMass) at Amherst and Master of Science degree in environmental engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). I’m a licensed professional engineer in Massachusetts and Kansas (in the past I was also licensed in four other states). I worked in engineering consulting firms on diverse public works and land development projects in several states; part of this overlapped with my graduate studies in which I took evening classes. After relocating to Kansas with my wife, I worked for Kansas Department of Health & Environment (KDHE) regulating municipal wastewater facilities, and later, solid waste landfills. Following that I was assistant chief engineer for the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources, which regulates water rights, dams and other water structures, and interstate water compacts. This broad experience provided a good background for my current position as deputy director of Design & Construction Management at KU, where I assist in managing a staff of 50, an operating budget of $4 million, and capital improvements budget over $100 million.

What do you see as the 3 biggest hurdles that FMs face in the next 5 years?

In our case, I think our top challenges continue to include funding for deferred maintenance needs, streamlining processes, and improving data management. A lot of progress is occurring in these areas and much more is planned. KU invested in VFA.facility software and facility condition assessments to build more robust data on deferred maintenance needs and prioritization methods. We razed two small buildings in poor condition last year, and we’re developing additional revenue streams to address deferred maintenance and modernization of buildings. Recognizing that whole-building renovations are often more cost-effective than numerous piecemeal projects – though with a higher up-front cost – we’re taking steps to utilize that approach more frequently, where practicable. With regard to streamlining processes, KU increasingly utilizes university procurement and on-call contracts to save time and expenses involved with state procurement processes. We’ve increased office automation where possible with database-initiated reminders, letters, and customer satisfaction surveys. We’re exploring additional opportunities for trimming code review times and further facilitating timely inspections. On data management, KU continues transitioning to Maximo for enterprise asset management and we expect to integrate VFA.facility and other systems with that as appropriate. We’re also increasing use of BIM and GIS for the various benefits they bring to O&M, planning capital improvements, etc.

Hear more from Paul Graves as he leads a live webinar on Wednesday, October 29.

How to Align Your Buildings and Infrastructure with the Goals of Your Organization
A Case Study by The University of Kansas

Wednesday, October 29, 2 PM EST – Register now!

With amount of facilities data and reporting programs available, it’s natural to have that deer in the headlights reaction. Where do I even start? How can I maintain the data and my reporting program? What data is important? And what ever happened to tan M&Ms?? [Okay, that last one might be unrelated.]

The granularity of data is the very thing that makes it both powerful and terrifying. When you have too much of it, your spreadsheets and reports seem to close in on you and making heads or tails of it all seems impossible. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and then take this approach to overcoming analysis paralysis.

queen-mirror-dataA Good Look in the Mirror

Having metrics makes your ability to do your job and to show that you’re doing your job easier. Don’t be afraid of what the data says about your job performance or the performance of your department. Understanding the history of your metrics and the current trends will enable you to be more proactive and present opportunities to your team and organization. You need to have a solid understanding of your starting point if you’re going to decide where to go from there.

Cast a Wide Net to Start

cast-a-wide-net-dataWhether you’re new to a company, new to a role or new to reporting, starting or restarting should always involve casting a wide net. You don’t know for sure which data will prove significant so it’s best to start with more than less. It’s also important to analyze different time periods. Some changes to data may not seem significant month to month but maybe quarter to quarter or year to year there is a telling change. There may also be seasonality to your data; try comparing your data to the data of the same period of the prior year to get a different perspective.

Go Down that Rabbit Hole

data rabbit holesAnomalies in the data or unexpected trends can throw you. Sometimes you should get lost in the weeds to answer a specific question. The key is not to do it every time you run your data or you’ll never have time for your day job. When data perplexes you, determine what secondary or supporting data might help explain your confusion and systematically rule in/out theories this way. Proceed through this process until you have resolved the issue. This will lead to a better understanding of your data set as a whole and also your ability to vet and explain data.

Narrow the Field

narrow the field of dataOnce you’ve gotten comfortable with your data and you’re on a first name basis, you should start honing in on your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators.) What data do you need to track your success? What data shows your department’s success? What data do other stakeholders care about? By deciding what’s important, you can create measurable goals and a path to achieving them. This will also help you fine tune and optimize your reporting program so that wide net may not be necessary for monthly reporting and your rabbit holes have all been explored and explained. Focusing on your KPIs will make maintaining the reporting program you’ve established more manageable and meaningful. Gain consensus from your peers, management and other stakeholders as to what you will be tracking and reporting so that you create both accountability and visibility for your goals and ultimately, your success.

download data planning sheetTake the Next Step

Overcome your analysis paralysis. Download this free planning sheet to help you optimize your data reporting program. You can also read related blog posts:

With the ‘big data’ buzz flying around, many have tuned out and turned off to the trend. It can be hard to decipher what’s relevant to you and your organization amongst all the hype. The truth is that no matter what your professional discipline, data is your friend. Understanding data and having access to relevant data can enhance your ability to do your job. So whether you are starting out on your data journey or would like to shift your focus to new sets of data, you should make the case for data you need in your department and within your organization.

trust your gut with data

Trust Your Gut

Much of management and strategic thinking was ‘gut based.’ In other words, years of experience and familiarity with a certain area of expertise would lead one to have the ability to make informed decisions. This has not changed but organizational expectations have. Consider data as ‘back up’ to your gut or intuition. It allows you to put numbers to your hunches.


don't fear the dataDon’t Fear the Data

Many people fear data because of the ‘what ifs.’ What if the data makes you or your department look bad? What if it creates more work or opens you up to more questions? The truth is this: you can’t measure growth without a starting point and you can’t measure success without assessing the status quo. You may discover a lot about how your department can improve the way it spends its time and money. So whatever the starting point, you must establish it in order to start down the path towards success.


Quantify Successes

quantify success with data

Making your successes quantifiable makes them easier to communicate to stakeholders and in a sense, makes them more ‘real.’ Metric goals also help unify your department in terms of their mission and objectives. When you are all working towards a recognized metric goal, it’s easier to understand how you can contribute to the success of achieving that goal and that the success can be numerically verified.


set data goals

My goal? World Peace.

Data enables you to turn nebulous goals like ‘growth’ and ‘improved ROI’ into numerical targets and success metrics. Having real and measurable goals to determine your success allows you to very practically layout a strategy for achieving them. Large goals can be overwhelming. Specific and measurable goals are more approachable and realistic.


keep up with the data of other deptsKeep up with the Joneses

Other departments within your company and your peers at other companies are already relying on metrics. Start speaking the ‘new lingo’ and introduce your success metrics to the company.

Take the Next Step with Your Facilities Data

Are you ready to make your case? Download this free planning sheet to help you get started with making your case for data. You can also read a related blog post, How to Tell a Facilities Data Story.



Combine Facilities Data & Story Telling to Achieve Your Objectives

Reporting has always been part of most job roles in one form or another. Whether it is hours worked, tasks completed and so on, reporting is the way in which we measure the result of time and money invested. Due to advances in technology and the availability of data, reporting has become a more formalized task in existing roles. It requires data retrieval and storage, software, and a way to communicate to other departments and stakeholders. And with the abundance of data today, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the weeds.

overcome facilities data hurdlesThere are a few roadblocks to overcome when incorporating reporting into your role. Some roadblocks are internal. You might believe:

  • you’re not good with numbers;
  • you disagree that reporting is part of your job role;
  • you simply have no interest in what the data has to say.

My advice for jumping these hurdles is to remember:

  • it’s not about the math, it’s about being able to tell your data’s story;
  • the ability to analyze and report on data is a skill in demand in any role;
  • you’re missing out on opportunities that the data can identify.

The external roadblocks like access to data, reporting tools, and organizational culture can be overcome with a business case that discusses how your ability to tell your data’s story is beneficial to your organization.

Part 1: Get Data [ Casting Call ]

In order to build a story, you’ll need a cast of characters. Identifying the leading and supporting data is crucial to setting up your reporting program. It’s also important to consider which metrics resonate with different audience members and your ability to obtain the data itself.

facilities data questionWhat data is important and to whom?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by too much data, particularly if you’re too close to it. Try backing up and taking a higher level view. Consider both departmental and organizational initiatives. How can their successes be measured? What data will help you show this? Consider both your time and monetary expenditures. What data will help show the return on investment? If you’re unsure which metrics are important, it’s best to cast a wide net. A monitoring time period will help you determine which metrics are helpful and which do not contribute or muddy the waters.

You should also determine who your audience is and what data is important to them. Try to put yourself in their role and anticipate their questions. Your finance department will have different concerns than your IT department and so on. Communicating in metrics that speak to them will make your story more successful.

Don’t limit yourself

Consider what data is currently available to you, whether it is provided via already integrated systems, publicly available, etc. Then consider what data you need to be successful. Put together your ideal reporting program and if necessary, make the case for additional resources.

data-checkWhat about stage fright?

Confidence in your data is key. Establishing checks and balances in your reporting program gives you a solid base on which to make informed decisions and recommendations. Corroborating data when possible makes your story even more airtight. One way of doing this is identifying additional sources of data. A second way of doing this is vetting the numbers with a subject matter expert who is particularly close to the data set.

Part 2: Analysis [ The Plot Thickens ]

Once you’ve determined the data at the heart of your story, the next step is to identify what is happening to that data. If your metrics are the characters in the story, then your analysis will unveil the plot. What is the history of the data, what is it today, and can you tell where it will go in the future? Answering these questions forms the backbone of your data story.

What are the trends?

Now that you have the data, what is it saying? Frequently the data can be surprising; metrics that should be show stoppers don’t say much at all and metrics that seem innocuous can unlock a tidal wave of questions. The key is to quantify how the data has changed and investigate why these changes have occurred. This investigation will help you truly uncover which metrics are your stars, or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which metrics play supporting roles, and which metrics end up on the editing room floor.

Call the SWOT Team

The final piece to your analysis is translating the trend into something meaningful for your organization. Performing a SWOT (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) Analysis based on the trends you’ve uncovered will take your data off the page and into action. What does the data say about the success of current initiatives? Did you identify any opportunities for improved efficiency? Did the data unearth any concerns?

facilities data percentages and benchmarkingYou Do the Math

Assemble any meaningful statistics from your data. Can you determine any rates of completion, percentages of goals achieved, or ratio of return? Identifying compelling statistics will help you write attention getting headlines. You should also consider benchmarking data because it can help create a compelling storyline.  How well are you performing compared to your peers and what percentage ahead/behind are you?

Part 3: Report [ Tell Your Story ]

Be Compelling

When you have your data and analysis assembled, it’s time to create your story. It’s important to set up your analysis effectively. Consider the objective of your story as well as the perspective of your audience. Lay your story out in a way that is logical and also builds towards your story’s objective. Be sure to include any background or historical information that clarifies your outcomes and leverage visuals and charts that drive your points home.

starring facilities dataWho Are the Stars?

Make sure your stars shine. You may need to define some of your metrics or explain how they’re obtained. It’s important to include enough information to support your story without distracting your listeners by introducing information that may derail the plot. Only include what is essential to supporting your objective.

Be Ready for Questions/Criticism

There will always be questions and critics. Anticipating questions and having supporting data nearby will put you in the best position to respond. Having well informed responses on standby will give confidence to the story and support whatever next steps you suggest.


Take the Next Step with Your Facilities Data

Are you ready to tell your story? Download this free planning sheet to help you get started with your data story.



Seeing the effects of different funding strategies overlaid on one chart allows you to understand the impact of different strategies on the condition of your portfolio. It also empowers you to clearly communicate to your finance department or funding body the effects of the different strategies. Each approach matches an investment strategy or a way to anticipate the impact to your facilities based on a change to funding.

The Funding/FCI Options allows you to consider multiple funding approaches and overlay them. You can compare your current level of funding versus increased or decreased levels of funding, as well as its effects on your overall FCI. If you limit your analysis to a specific system, you can also find out the system condition index (SCI).

funding module fci options

Which Funding Option to Choose? Maintain vs. Target vs. Specific

funding fci options box

How much do you need to spend to maintain the building in its current state? This funding option applies the amount of funding that is required to maintain a consistent facility condition (“staying the course”). For this option, the FCI/RI does not change throughout the forecast term. It shows the years in which funding requirements and renewals peak and ebb, and provides a baseline for comparison with the other funding options.

funding module target fci option

You might want to target different condition levels for different facilities, due to a number of factors, such as the importance of a facility, whether or not it is used by the public, the use of the facility, etc. Understanding the right amount to invest will help avoid either over or under-funding the capital requirements of each facility. This option allows you to specify a target FCI/RI, and the number of years to reach that target. After the target is reached, funding is provided to maintain the target condition for the rest of the forecast term. This option is useful to compare the costs of upgrading and renovating an existing facility as compared to building the facility new.

funding module specific budget option
There may be times where you have the available capital and want to understand the impact on the condition of your facilities. For example, Finance might want to know what the impact would be with different levels of funding. This option allows you to enter specific funding amounts for each year in the forecast term. You can enter a funding amount in the first year and click Constant Funding to copy this amount to the rest of the years in the forecast, or you can enter a specific amount for each year. You can use the Apply Inflation to Funding checkbox to apply or remove the Forecast’s inflation rate to this funding option.

The other options are variations of these approaches. Percent selects a specific funding amount based on a percentage of the replacement value of the facilities, and Extrapolate sets a specific amount in year one, and then grows the investment by a certain percentage each year.

Comparing Scenarios
funding graph with different strategies
This graph shows you three funding approaches: Maintain (dark blue), Target (red) and Specific (light blue).

By overlaying the three approaches, you can make a long-term comparison of the impact of spending on your FCI. For example, you can see in the Specific (light blue) option, by choosing this approach to funding, the FCI gradually deteriorates from 0.25 to 0.7. The Target FCI (red) option in this example shows the increased investment required to improve condition over 10 years, as well as the reduced amount required to maintain that condition in the later years. Had we been targeting a higher FCI, then we would have seen the annual cost savings. And for all three options, you see the funding needed on an annual basis.

The Funding Module is a part of VFA’s facility capital planning software VFA.facility.

Learn more about the Funding Module

Check out Parts 1 and 2 of our Funding Module series:

VFA UK, VFA Ltd. VFA will be attending multiple events throughout the United Kingdom this autumn. Keep an eye out for our delegates and speakers. Hope to see you there!
  • EuHPN Workshop, October 1 – 3 – Our first stop will be the European Health Property Network’s 2014 Workshop in Edinburgh. VFA is sponsoring the event, which begins October 1 and continues through October 3. Look for Peter Scanlon, Vice President of Professional Services at VFA and Peter Haggarty, Director of Health Facilities Scotland at the NHS, on the programme on October 2. Peter and Peter will be discussing Strategic Asset Management and Prioritisation. Check out the full programme.
  • IHEEM Healthcare Estates Exhibition & Conference, October 7 – 8 - Our next stop will be the Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Estate Management (IHEEM) Conference from October 7 to October 8 in Manchester. Peter Scanlon and Peter Haggarty will be continuing their speaking ‘tour’ on the morning of October 8 when they lead their session titled A Strategic Approach to Asset Management.
  • Scottish Healthcare Facilities Conference, November 6 – 7 – You can hear from Vice President of Consulting Services, Ray Dufresne, at the Scottish Healthcare Facilities Conference on November 6th and 7th in Crieff.

Chris Low, Business Director, VFA Ltd.
Read more about VFA in the UK by visiting the Extranet Evolution blog, written by Paul Wilkinson.  Paul covers VFA’s presence in the UK market in his post, ‘VFA enters UK SaaS asset management market.’ You can also connect with VFA’s Business Director in the UK, Chris Low.


Chris Low, Business Director, VFA Ltd.



Viewpoints: American City & Council Blog

The Funding Module allows you to adjust a variety of parameters to tailor the results to your business. For example, changing the inputs for Years and Inflation allows you to see the effects of the inputs on funding. Extending the time period for consideration allows you to see long term funding needs that may not be apparent in shorter sighted reports. All requirements are in current year costs and the inflation option allows you to consider future purchases in amounts adjusted for inflation so that planning that occurs today will reflect future costs and spending, effectively allowing you to do a net present value analysis.

Funding Module - Forecast Parameters

Customize the Analysis

The Forecast Parameters box allows you to change inputs and consider its effects on required funding. You can change the duration of a forecast from 5 to 100 years. Commonly used reporting windows span from 5 to 20 years. By using the inflation rate, customer systems and current open requirements are in current year dollars.

There are a variety of statistical views for the required funding, and users can select the most appropriate Cost Curve for the analysis being performed. “Spiky 0” basically indicates that you want to see actual costs per year. Other curves spread the cost and make assumptions about investments made in previous years.

The Renewal Option allows you to understand your funding needs for deficiencies and deferred maintenance, as well as for systems reaching end of life that need to be replaced or renewed. You can see each independently or combined into a total amount for each year.

Backlog Deterioration is a risk factor that identifies the potential added costs for not addressing issues in the time frame suggested. For example, not taking of the roof could have consequences if there is an issue, where there could be damage to the sub-roofing, insulation, walls, etc.

Finally, you can look at just those capital needs (requirements) that go into the Facility Condition Index (FCI) calculation or all capital needs which are used to calculate the Requirement Index (RI).

The Funding Module is a part of VFA’s facility capital planning software VFA.facility.

Learn more about the Funding Module

Check out Parts 1 and 3 of our Funding Module series: 

Becker’s Hospital Review

Focus on Modeling Building Condition to Gain Insight Across a Portfolio

BOSTON—September 24, 2014—VFA, Inc., the leading provider of end-to-end solutions for facilities capital planning and asset management, today announced it will host a complimentary webinar titled “Taking the First Step: Modeling as an Element of Your Facilities Capital Planning Program” on Thursday, September 25 at 2 p.m. EST.

When beginning to develop capital plans and budgets, many facility managers may be overwhelmed by the prospect of collecting condition data on all of their assets, especially if they face time and resource constraints. This webinar will demonstrate how modeling the buildings across a portfolio, based on industry standard building types, can be a good first step to gain insight into the expected condition of facilities and to identify potential areas for investment.

This webinar is part of an ongoing series around the theme, “Deliver Strategic Value From Your Facilities Capital Investment.” The series features one webinar each month with speakers including industry leaders and rising stars in facilities management. To view the schedule and register, visit

To connect with VFA, please follow us on Twitter at @VFAINC, or visit our blog, Foundations, which provides information to readers that serves as a foundation for intelligent facilities capital planning and management.