COMMENT

How analytics can transform federal real estate budget planning

Shutterstock image (by wavebreakmedia): doors opening to data streams.

Now is the time for federal facility managers and agency real property managers to drive modernization.

The new administration is led by a builder who is forming a council of real estate developers to emphasize infrastructure investment as a top priority for our nation. In addition to transportation and utility improvements, the proposed program will place renewed emphasis on budgetary decisions related to the United States’ vast real property portfolio – holdings that currently amount to 3 billion square feet. President Donald Trump is well aware that each decision about federal property acquisitions, management and disposal can involve tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

What if technology could be leveraged to instantly show decision makers where their assets stand, so they could align facility planning to strategic goals in support of long-range budgeting? And at the same time, provide federal asset managers with prioritized actions linked to those strategic goals and budgets?

Fortunately, in one client example, there is a prototype solution that Department of Defense agencies are examining that connects the strategy and objectives of the enterprise to asset and real property budgeting. Tying together the global military base footprint in this multi-layered platform provides enterprise insight into the actions facility managers are performing at each installation. The platform supports long-range planning in these important ways:

  • Dashboards display status in real time, immediately reflecting asset management decision analytic updates;
  • Cross-functional analytics spotlight where data suggests the agency is accepting risk in its portfolio versus mission requirements;
  • Data entry is simplified and streamlined, to help the agency capture up-to-date information swiftly and easily; and
  • The platform automates budget modeling and simulation, using the latest data to project months – and even years – ahead.

Analytics can drive strategy

This unique prototype encompasses two distinct platform-agnostic solutions, enabled by an underlying “middleware” that ingests, fuses and normalizes a combination of financial and real property statistics and measures. It’s the start of using a repeatable framework to better enable decision making for executives in the real property budget domain. The data-driven middleware behaves as an internal engine that powers the overall business intelligence and application technology stack for real property budget analysis.

In one DOD customer story, these advanced accelerators deliver comprehensive financial and asset management assessment dashboards. Ultimately, the result is clarity in the agency's infrastructure-related budget analysis. This is because the dashboard displays facility conditions from both financial and operational standpoints, benchmarked against each facility-related mission.

Another component of the solution, tightly integrated with the above financial dashboard, is an installation-level planning application that also utilizes a standardized, repeatable framework. The enterprise budgeting solution provides a 20-year outlook that is framed within the context of the organization’s future asset and infrastructure goals.

The platform allows end users to develop installation-level objectives that are tied to enterprise-wide goals. Base-level users then can formulate prioritized action lists aligned with the organization’s strategic intent. Instead of old-fashioned silos, users of this solution can share lessons learned and rapidly update resource allocation as the strategic direction changes – from the enterprise down to a single facility manager.

What it means for managers

Any civilian or defense agency that has a significant portfolio of real property, and needs more cohesion between facility operations and future planning, would benefit from this strategic approach to analytics, budgeting and performance management. Utilizing agnostic IT middleware in this adaptive and immersive fashion is the key enabler to connect strategic goals, real estate actions and budget impact.

In years past, agency real estate financial managers lacked a methodical approach that ties strategy to plans to budget and performance. The innovative, platform-agnostic methods and technical solutions described in this article can be applied to any organization to provide goal-based information linked to agency missions.

In the long run, this approach can enable frontline decision makers to defend facility management decisions with robust supporting data, This, in turn, can provide the desired agility to respond to new budget directives while maintaining a physical infrastructure that is responsive to future needs.

About the Authors

Rana Lahiri is director of the real estate consulting practice at Definitive Logic, a performance-based organization headquartered in Arlington, Va., that provides management consulting and systems engineering services to government and commercial clients.

Ed Cody is director of the financial management consulting practices of Definitive Logic.

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