Working in local communities and advocating on a state and national basis for a just society, Wesley’s services include: support for people experiencing homelessness, providing housing and access to community activities for people with disabilities, seeking employment opportunities for people experiencing long-term disadvantage, supporting young people in home-based and residential care, supporting and counselling people in crisis, and providing housing and social activities for older people.
Wesley was founded in 1893, during a time of great economic depression and in response to inner city poverty. Part of the Uniting Church in Australia, it still occupies the same headquarters in Melbourne. Today, however, it has more than 100 properties throughout the city, ranging from houses to office locations - presenting a considerably greater challenge on the Facilities Management front.
In 2011, led by Peter Laws, Wesley’s Business Manager, Corporate Services, the organisation embarked on a major automation project that will ultimately rationalise its property and facilities management strategy and provide a fully integrated platform for measuring internal and outsourced service delivery.
“From our point of view we had been lagging behind in terms of information management,” says Peter. “Information is wonderful, but it’s useless unless you can access it. We were getting up to 100 calls a day for property services, but with an ageing paper-based system housed in drawers and cupboards, putting your finger on the right information could be a challenge, to say the least, particularly when there was a request from a compliance point of view - an essential services check, for example.”
Wesley’s corporate services team was already ‘borrowing’ the IT help desk to log calls. Now, says Peter, it was time to find a web based CAFM (Computer Aided Facilities Management) system for our property management function that could hold the information, generate tailored reports and be used to manage contractors on a single platform.
After a thorough search, Wesley compiled a shortlist of five potential CAFM providers and asked them each to provide a demo system for further trial. According to Peter, this separated the wheat from the chaff, exposing the shortcomings of some of the sales pitches. FSI’s Concept™ Evolution system, complete with a KPI module and Self Service Portal, was chosen and implemented in August 2011.
“We had to be sure of the functionality, and be assured that the product we chose would actually deliver on its promises,” says Peter. “We went back to our top three candidates to request final pricing and compare functionality again. Concept™ came out in front, both in pricing and in terms of product features.”
“We wanted a CAFM system that would be allencompassing,” says Peter. “Many of our services are delivered by contractors, and there is a lot of information going back and forth. We wanted our contractors to be able to log in, see their work orders and respond online - so that they become an extension of our organisation. Also, we run the service desk for the IT department so we wanted to be able to track internal relationships as well as external providers.”
However, in order for Concept™ Evolution to deliver this integrated vision, it has been necessary to gather contract information into a single place – quite a challenge when contract management had essentially been operating on an ad hoc basis for so long. In some cases, it was impossible to find the original documents.
“We’ve actually taken the opportunity to embark on a new contract renewal process, so by going out to renegotiate contracts we have the chance to capture the data and put it directly into the system,” says Peter.
A lack of clarity around Wesley’s properties, compliance with Aged Care and Disability requirements, and the lack of a cohesive Preventative Maintenance strategy were other challenges in preparing the system to go live.
“Implementation was completed on 19th August and we had a week to then familiarise ourselves with the software,” says Peter. “We are progressively going live with the system, firstly in our Aged Care area, then we’ll move out to the larger portfolio. We also plan to move all our ICT group onto the system in the next three months. Not all the challenges have been met as yet. However, we have made good progress with documentation, contract management and the logging of all calls with priorities.”
One of the most powerful aspects of Concept™ is its ability to give a complete picture of each of Wesley’s facilities, allowing the organisation to determine exactly how much a property is costing to run.
“We’ll use it for everything, from arranging to hang a picture to reporting a plumbing leak,” says Peter. “For example, if an air-con system has needed to be serviced three times, we might decide it is more cost effective to replace it on the fourth. Concept™ will provide us with that asset history and give us a clear idea of cost.
Thanks to Concept™ Evolution, Wesley now has a single web based repository for all its property-related information - a system that is used by all related property matters and can report by property, portfolio or organisation. In addition to IT services, future plans include implementing the Room Bookings module.
“The most tangible result will be that of compliance,” says Peter. “For the first time we will have information held in one system rather than being in files, directories or people’s bottom drawers.”
The initial response within the organisation has been very positive. Response times, information levels and assistance levels in the wake of initial implementation have been praised. Crucially, the automated system is helping to rectify maintenance issues more quickly and improve support for residents in their homes.
“To give an example, we have taken 140 maintenance calls in three weeks, and we can now make sure that agreed service levels are being met on all of them. If somebody wants an essential services report, it’s there.”
Peter says that as a supplier, FSI has been fantastic during the post-implementation period, providing every assistance in getting the system to run optimally. Any software-related queries are logged in Concept™ and calls are assigned to FSI - just like any other contractor.
“It’s still early days and for us at the moment, the priority is getting the information into the system,” he adds. “It will take a while to make sure all the facilities-related data is right.
“From my point of view, this is the first time we have got a clear indication of what our properties are costing us. We budget every year, and this will help us to move to more of a Preventative Maintenance mode rather than constantly being in reactive mode, probably within the next six months.”