For over a decade, until around 2010, the FCA industry continued to be focused on the delivery of reports. My team and I (and other firms providing the same service) were report generating machines. We would brag about how many reports we were producing like a badge of honor. I still hear some firms that focus more on transactional due diligence, as opposed to capital planning, making these statements, even today.
However, as we continued to pump out reports that mainly served the purpose of “ticking boxes” (So and so said I had to get a report, check, I did!), the whole process started to feel a bit meaningless. Organizations that were underfunded when it came to maintaining and renewing their buildings were spending millions of dollars on getting reports that were providing little to no value beyond saying that they were complete.
Not only was this a waste of money, but we also had a real issue in retaining staff to do the work. Personally, I started to see the work as a bit hollow. What were we really accomplishing?
Thankfully, around 2010 or so, we started to push for a change, and we started to see our clients wanting to make a shift as well. Reports were fine for ticking boxes. However, the real value in an FCA was the data that was buried in the reports. Up until that point most FCA reports were either hard copies or PDFs of Word or Excel documents. This made the process of extracting the data a terribly manual and onerous process.
The biggest change that occurred during this process was clients starting to ask for Excel tables with their data. At first there was a lot of concern about clients changing the recommendations in our reports, and what that meant from a liability perspective. However, we quickly overcame that by providing a PDF or control copy of the data maintaining our original recommendations while also giving the client data that she/he could use.
The most proactive clients were starting to look past the reports and were finding ways to utilize the data to help make more informed capital renewal decisions. That being said, we saw many clients still struggling to utilize and leverage their data.
Up until this point, typical renewal decisions were still very reactive, finding the money to fix things when they broke. For those that were taking a more proactive approach, oftentimes a group of knowledgeable staff would get together once a year and build a plan based on the opinions of the staff. Having data on the renewal needs over the next number of years allowed facility and asset managers to enhance their planning with the independent, third party data from their FCAs.
The end result of an FCA was no longer just issuing a report. We started to see real-world changes resulting from our work. Clients could finally use their data to make better renewal decisions and many successful advocacy programs resulted in increased renewal funding.
After nearly a decade and a half of just producing reports, our work was having a more profound impact. Students, patients, tenants and workers were benefiting from an improved built environment, renewed based on data provided in our FCAs. Finally, we started to see more staff becoming more engaged in the work and the professional assessor started to become a career that staff were interested in pursuing.
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