Suffolk University graduates from managing space with a homegrown system and spreadsheets to real-time visibility and data driven decisions on space utilization
With the ongoing need to scale up or down based on fluctuating student enrollment, space management has always been a top concern for universities. Today, the pressure to reduce costs and the rise in real estate prices, particularly in urban areas, make it even more critical for higher education institutions to uncover underutilized space and efficiently manage campus facilities. This is especially true for Suffolk University, located in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts.
Since its founding in 1906, Suffolk University has grown to become an integral part of the urban landscape. The campus includes classrooms, residence halls, labs, offices, athletic facilities, and event space that together span a half-mile stretch through the heart of the city. These facilities support the nearly 5,200 undergraduate and over 2,000 graduate students that make up three schools.
When Ashley Lindsey joined as director of facilities, the University’s 1.6 million square feet and 10 geographically dispersed buildings were managed using a homegrown system. The system lacked the intelligence, reporting and capabilities Lindsey needed to most effectively do her job.
“We had no true inventory of space or people,” said Lindsey. “It was basically a repository of outdated data that didn’t reflect how we were actually using the space. I couldn’t run reports, there was no user interface and it didn’t allow me to add fields that would capture the data I needed.”
In a previous role, Lindsey had used Trimble CenterStone, a feature-rich CAFM solution designed to help organizations streamline the tactical work of managing the complete lifecycle of building processes including space, moves, assets, work orders and operations. Without hesitation, she set a plan in motion to bring CenterStone to Suffolk University.
“When I saw there wasn’t a CAFM solution in place, I immediately thought of CenterStone,” said Lindsey. “I heard from former colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health that Trimble’s partner, ROI Consulting Group, had done a tremendous job of implementing CenterStone for them. With that feedback and my personal experience with CenterStone, moving forward was a no brainer.”
Lindsey and her team began working with ROI Consulting Group to implement CenterStone. She was eager to get started and had high expectations for a rapid implementation. Through collaboration with the Suffolk University team, ROI Consulting Group was able to successfully get CenterStone up and running in just four weeks. “I was very impressed by the implementation speed,” said Lindsey. “CenterStone was a much-needed addition, so it was a bonus that we were able to start using it so quickly.”
With CenterStone in place, Lindsey and her team had access to real-time data and are using that information to evaluate historical space usage and find opportunities for more efficient use of certain areas. “We have many departments that have been in the same space for many years, but their programming has changed significantly during that time. Logically, the use of that space has shifted over time as well, she shares. “Using CenterStone, we have the ability to take a strategic look at that space and improve how we use it.”
CenterStone also gives Suffolk University deeper insight into space information by allowing Lindsey and her team to categorize and color-code space. “CenterStone goes beyond basic utilization by allowing us to categorize different types of space, which is extremely useful,” said Lyndsey. “With that capability, we have data points that weren’t available to us before. The categorization and color-coding in CenterStone make it easy to identify vacant and underutilized space and use that information to improve utilization in real-time.”
By capturing and analyzing data, CenterStone’s out-of-the box reporting tools are also helping Suffolk plan for the future. For example, Lindsey is able to provide a complete picture of utilization and opportunities for maximizing campus space to support a strategic plan that will be implemented beginning in fall 2019. “CenterStone provide us with data that is helping us better define priorities for the campus by understanding where we are today and our capacity to do something different,” said Lindsey.
Working side-by-side with ROI Consulting Group, Suffolk University was up and running with CenterStone in just four weeks, allowing Lindsey and her team to capture and view real-time space utilization data across the campus for the first time.
Before CenterStone, space allocation was undertaken with spreadsheets that offered little data and were often based on historical information. CenterStone has made it easy for Lindsey and her team to seamlessly plan, manage and execute changes to space allocation and accommodate seasonal changes in space programming needs.
By capturing and accessing real-time data and eliminating manual data entry, CenterStone has given Lindsey time to focus on the more strategic aspects of her role. In addition, other departments are taking more ownership of their space by using CenterStone’s reporting features to understand their own utilization and weigh in on strategic planning.
With CenterStone, the University gained the data needed to understand how space was being used, break out of its historic utilization mindset and begin basing important decisions to drive efficient use of space on accurate and up-to-date data.
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