As many college and universities seek to “right-size” their budgets in an era of dwindling resources, all administrative units face increased pressure to better communicate their value. With operations and maintenance budgets hit particularly hard, facilities executives have even greater urgency to demonstrate how their work advances strategic priorities to avoid further cuts. However, three characteristics of strategic plans make it difficult for senior facilities officers (SFOs) to clearly link facilities activities to institutional goals.
Characteristic 1: Broad and unspecific priorities
Rather than articulating a concise vision, strategic plans typically include unspecific, broadly defined institutional priorities—making it difficult for facilities to frame its impact. A recent EAB analysis of strategic plans revealed that the pillars are strikingly similar, with over 90% percent including the broad priorities of academic excellence, student success, and fiscal stewardship. Beyond a lack of specificity, many strategic plans are also difficult to navigate, with many 100+ pages long.
Characteristic 2: Unclear next steps to execute priorities
Strategic plans often lack measurable and actionable objectives and instead rely on lofty and abstract language. For example, many plans include goals such as “improve access” and “enhance the student experience,” without elaboration on how to achieve those goals. Even strategic plans that include more concrete initiatives lack measurable performance measures to gauge progress. Without clear indicators of success, facilities departments struggle to explicitly show their contributions to strategic goals.
Characteristic 3: Failure to include facilities
Very few strategic plans explicitly mention facilities as a major area of focus. EAB’s analysis revealed that facilities receives a dedicated strategic pillar in just 8% of strategic plans. Even more concerning, facilities merits an explicit mention in only 19% of plans. This is especially concerning in light of factors like the growing deferred maintenance backlog and a looming skilled trades crisis. Despite the urgency to resolve the backlog and extend the useful life of buildings, the physical plant is often seen as secondary to the core educational mission.
Leverage key inflection points to highlight facilities’ impact on institutional goals
Given these challenges, the Facilities Forum spent the past year researching strategies for SFOs to better communicate facilities contributions to institutional goals. At our 2018 national meeting series, we will present our findings, including:
- Strategies to leverage the master and strategic planning processes to showcase facilities’ impact on institutional priorities such as research, enrollment, and student success
- Tactics to elevate the campus perception of facilities value by better calibration of limited resources to match customer expectations
- How to cascade institutional strategic goals into facilities-specific metrics and targets through a formal scorecard
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2018 Facilities Leader Roundtable