Tricks Of The Trade: Organizational Tools

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By James C. Elledge, IFMA Fellow, CFM, FMA, RPA, RIAQM
Published in the February 2008 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

QIn my position, I oversee 40restaurants in the Mid-Atlantic. I have yet to find an organizationaltool that helps me keep their gazillion problems in an organized manneryet reminds me to follow up. I’ve tried Outlook, calendars, andtraditional notebooks, but I need your advice. We already use a thirdparty call center for the daily issues. I’m concerned about all theother issues that are my responsibility.

Michelle Williams
Regional Facilities Manager
Cosi, Inc.

AIt sounds like you have the right idea, but possibly not the propersolution. If you want something you can create and customize yourself,I would recommend Microsoft Access. As a database, it can performseveral functions and still interact between Word, Excel, and Outlook,and provide some Web capabilities.

If you decide to go theAccess route, I would suggest starting out by creating a database ofall the restaurants you oversee and then defining a corresponding“problems database” to track all of the items.

You could adda “completed” checkbox, which would allow you to generate a reportdisplaying all “open” items. You could even sort the report bylocation, to see the number of items for each unit. I would alsoconsider adding your service providers to the database, so you cantrack who is assigned to each issue or task.

As I previouslymentioned, Access interfaces seamlessly with Word, so you can use themail merge feature in Word to create custom work orders, bid requests,or RFPs as needed. In addition, Access allows you to post forms andreports on the Web, which comes in handy if you have an intranet.Depending on your network, the stores could check the status of theirrequests at any time.

Costs would also be easy to track, asyou could record invoices by vendor and by store. This would then allowyou to view the number of requests and costs for each restaurant.Depending on how much information you need to keep, you can add thingslike equipment, finishes, and other specific details to the database.

Anothersolution would be to purchase a general CMMS system. A listing ofdifferent programs is available from the TFM Quick Product Search (under the “Computer Software” heading) or use a Web-based application hosted by a service provider. Yourdecision will be influenced by the volume of calls you receive and thebudget you have.

Elledge,facility/office services manager for Dallas, TX-based Summit AllianceCompanies, is the recipient of the Distinguished Author Award from theInternational Facility Management Association (IFMA), is an IFMA Fellow, and isa member of TFM’sEditorial Advisory Board. All questions have been submitted via the “Ask TheExpert” portion of the magazine’s Web site. To pose a question, visit this link.

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