Building Blocks for Success: APPA’s Facilities Management Evaluation Program
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Building Blocks for Success: APPA’s Facilities Management Evaluation Program

Taking a step back, evaluating the facilities department’s role and reputation – internal and across campus – and building a plan to address shortfalls and increase levels of service can be a daunting undertaking. The resulting plan of action, however, can be rewarding and advantageous to the entire campus community.

APPA’s Facilities Management Evaluation Program (FMEP) uses assessment criteria based in part on the renowned Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence Program as the framework for a department-wide self-evaluation and external peer review. The end result is an action plan to build on existing departmental strengths and to develop short- and long-term goals that can result in improved customer satisfaction and more efficient resource management.

“I like to compare the FMEP process to visiting your doctor,” said Lander Medlin, APPA’s executive vice president. “You may know going in that there are some things you won’t want to hear, but identifying them constructively and figuring out how to address problem areas while maintaining positives will be beneficial in the long run. The FMEP starts with a snapshot of the current conditions, but it can be leveraged to build a system that motivates the department and sustains excellence for years to come.”

The FMEP process starts with a departmental self-evaluation that covers the criteria of leadership; facilities strategic and operational planning; customer focus; assessment and information analysis; development and management of human resources; process management; and performance results. The self-evaluation is followed by an in-depth site visit and assessment report by a review team selected by APPA. The team is made up of facilities professionals from campuses with similar educational missions, student enrollment, and physical environments. This peer review process is familiar to the academic community and is integral to the eventual action plan that comes from the process.

The criteria used in the FMEP process are the same as those used by the APPA Professional Affairs Committee when reviewing applications for APPA’s Award for Excellence. After completing the FMEP process and executing its recommendations, the campus facilities organization is well positioned for consideration and to garner national and international recognition for its excellence in facilities management.

To learn more about APPA’s Facilities Management Evaluation Program and how to get started on the process, contact Holly Judd.

Case Study: Philadelphia University

In the early 2000s Philadelphia University had a rapidly growing student enrollment and expanding academic programs, which put pressure on the university’s physical plant department. The staff was stretched thin by new construction and large renovation projects, and the stress began to show up as concerns from university stakeholders.

"We reviewed our options and APPA’s FMEP was the best solution for Philadelphia University,” said Thomas Becker, the university’s associate vice president for operations. “All involved knew that it is difficult for a department working under a great deal of pressure to be placed under the microscope. However, the process and structure of this program allowed us to absorb the information and feedback more constructively. Ultimately, it allowed us to clarify where we needed to change; guard against resistance to change; ensure a comprehensive, collaborative approach to change; and make change happen."

Utilizing the FMEP report, the university established a baseline level of performance in line with APPA’s “managed care” attributes; created action items for each of the suggested areas of improvement; and developed a strategic plan with a goal towards “comprehensive stewardship.” Over seven years, Philadelphia University reversed course from going down a path towards "reactive maintenance" to meeting performance criteria that fall mainly into the national standards of ongoing "comprehensive stewardship." This was achieved without a significant infusion of annual operating dollars.

“The FMEP process involves the whole campus, so that in itself garners support and an expectation of improvement,” Becker said. “It was surprising how much could be accomplished by reallocation of staff and process without significant cost. Opening up communication was key to get departmental support.” Philadelphia University was then able to focus capital improvements in a way that created energy payback and also addressed or eliminated maintenance concerns.

In 2009, Philadelphia University received the Award for Excellence (AFE), APPA’s highest institutional award, but did not allow that to be their pinnacle. In the Baldrige concept of the FMEP they’re motivated by ongoing assessment and improvement. Since 2009 Philadelphia University has utilized the APPA credentialing program for their entire management staff; built two LEED gold facilities; attained APPA’s Sustainability Award in 2013; and will again be awarded the AFE in 2014.