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10 October 2019

To measure is to know … nothing!

A recent interesting conversation with a marketing consultant inspired me to write this blog. Don’t worry, this won’t be a blog where I go on about all the benefits marketing has to offer. Instead, I am going to talk about the renowned proverb ‘to measure is to know’. Within Facility and Real Estate Management, we seem to consider this of high importance. 

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So what was our conversation about? The marketing expert told me that their company’s website had seen a 15% increase in website visitors for three consecutive years. And he smiled proudly, even a bit smug. For me, the non-marketing specialist, it was a great opportunity to ask a few silly questions:

  • What are the exact numbers? Growing from 10 to 12 visitors is less impressive as growing from 100,000 to 120,000 visitors. Unfortunately, he didn’t know.
  • Why didn’t the traffic increase by 30% or 40% or even more? His answer was and I quote: ‘my target was 10% and I over achieved that, so don’t doubt my great achievements.’
  • What’s the average number of visitors and the average increase for a comparable company in your industry? He didn’t have any idea, ‘but I’m sure we’re on the right track’. And he left the room.

This is a great example that shows that measuring in itself is not that valuable. Yes, once you measure you can identify channels, improvements or regressions. But what do the numbers imply? Is a 15% improvement good and is it good enough? Without being able to compare and validate the numbers against other peer organisations, measuring itself simply remains a pointless exercise. It is nothing more than a nice tool for employees who don’t bring any value to the entrepreneurial senior management.

In the field of Facility and Real Estate Management, I have also come across many statements about facility costs per workplace, occupancy rates of space, maintenance costs per building, m2 per FTE, and many more. Whether these statements were based on good data and consistent measurements, I don’t know. What I do know is that, again, without a point of reference by which the numbers can be measured, they are worthless. Fortunately, in the FM and RE industry, there is an increasing number of standards available, such as BOMA, EN15221, ISO, OSCRE, FASB, or LEED. Standards provide a method for measuring and comparing performance. Local and global initiatives such as the Netherlands Facility Costs Index (NFC), CoreNet's global real estate benchmark BenchCoRE, IFMA’s green initiative with Energy Star, or Leesman’s workplace effectiveness standard (Lmi) allow Facility and Real Estate Managers to compare their measured data with other organisations within the same industry. This truly transforms measured data into actionable information and knowledge that supports senior management in making the right decisions and taking the right actions to achieve the business goals.

It all starts with correct and consistent measuring and transferring operational data into comparable information by making use of the standards available. Once you have the basics in place, compare yourself with your peers and act on the findings.

Sometimes there are other factors to consider when trying to get value from your data. My colleague will discuss the importance of personal insights in data analytics in next week’s blog post.

Jos Knops
Director Product Marketing