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Integration, Testing, & Training–In that order

Planon and a myriad of UVM’s other software programs (e.g., Peoplesoft, Kronos) must be able to “talk to one another” for data and information to be pulled into or pushed out of Planon in a useful and accurate way.  Integration is a fancy way of saying this, and the magic of getting software to work well together relies on behind-the-scenes efforts by the Enterprise Technology Services department, spearheaded by the talented duo of Christian Behr and Justin Banker on UVM’s Enterprise Application Services team .

The Core Team and Planon have wrapped up the Integration Design steps this past month. All Integration Design documents have been signed off, including: Purchasing (i.e., how Planon and Peoplesoft talk back & forth about what we buy, how much we buy, our vendors, and when they are paid); Kronos/HR Payroll (i.e. how Planon and Kronos talk to each other to accurately record hourly employees’ time & attendance and to accurately capture “effort” billed against work orders. This integration also pulls in all the data about employees and students who may be users of the Planon system; and Fuel Card (i.e., how Planon will talk to the Voyager Fleet Commander credit card system so we can track fuel purchases for UVM-owned vehicles (“assets”) in the same place where vehicle operations & maintenance records are kept.

Our next big step before a real testing version of the software is available is uploading real and existing data from FAMIS. This data upload includes all floor plan drawings, property and space data, asset information, etc. (Hence, the reason that Campus Planning has been pushing departments to complete their annual space inventory in a timely fashion).

Thinking ahead to training in the fall, we are considering various methods to effectively get users on board. People have suggested a written manual, a set of “mini-manuals,” and short video tutorials linked to a website or ETS’s IT Knowledgebase. Training might include an initial series of MS Teams meetings where participants can login to Planon themselves and follow along, or perhaps regularly scheduled “drop-in help” hour each week. We know many users would like to have a “sandbox” environment to learn the new software (without risk of breaking it!) There seems to be consensus that in-person trainings inside a computer lab would not be well attended.

Lastly, looking way ahead to Phases 2 and 3 implementation of Planon, the Core team has held initial  conversations with stakeholders involved in EHS (Environmental Health and Safety) functionality, Sustainability Tracking functions, and the eventual replacement of the ResLife Fixit app with Planon.

Monthly Q&A Open Forums are scheduled for June, July and August.

Stay tuned.
~The IWMS Core Implementation Team

April showers & May flowers won’t bring IWMS this Spring

The IWMS Core Implementation Team and our business partner, Planon, have had to slightly adjust the project timeline which means the Planon system “go live” date will not coincide with the start of new fiscal year. Instead, we are aiming to deploy the first phase of Planon — and fully unplug from FAMIS– by the start of the Fall 2022 semester. (As a reminder, campus departmental Space Inventory Administrators are still required to complete their FY22 Space Inventory in FAMIS by June 13, 2022.)

We are still a few months away from having the configured version (i.e., more realistic “look and feel”) of the cloud-based Planon application for campus stakeholders to test and explore.

As of late March, the Core Team and Planon have wrapped up the initial design phase of the project so that Planon can now begin their configuration work and start incorporating the UVM-specified configuration and functionality into the development version of the application.

Our team continues to engage many campus stakeholders and subject matter experts along the way. Several additional meetings were added to the original scope of the design phase to involve representatives from Procurement, Disbursement, Payroll and Cost Accounting Services ahead of the formal data integration phase.

Since October, we’ve hosted eight “live” Q&A open forums on Teams with over 100 attendees in most sessions, and we conducted focus groups of about 80 front line maintenance technicians and supervisors. Additionally, we’ve received 105 responses to a lengthy (but fun!) survey which provided our team with great insights into which menu options of Frequently Requested Services make the most sense for our campus users.

More Q&A Open Forums will be scheduled this spring, so be sure to subscribe to our Users listserve to receive the invites.

Stay tuned.
~The IWMS Core Implementation Team

Preventive (Planned) Maintenance


In contrast to Reactive Maintenancewhich is performed in response to a request or if something is brokenPreventive Maintenance (PM) refers to activities that are done to prolong the life of an asset or piece of equipment, i.e., to prevent it from breaking or wearing out prematurely. Routine tasks such as replacing air filters and drive belts, and performing safety inspections of equipment are examples of preventive or planned maintenance.

Every equipment asset has an associated “standard service plan” which lists the specific maintenance tasks and frequencies (e.g., weekly, monthly, annually) that are needed to keep the asset running in tip-top shape. Plans are often based on the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule or can be modified based on actual field experience.

Although a popular adage tells us, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, we Facilities Management professionals prefer to “fix things before they break” to minimize any disruptions to campus operations caused by equipment failures.

The Preventive Maintenance (PM) module of Planon will primarily be used by maintenance supervisors who plan and schedule PM work and by technicians who perform the work in the field. Planon will provide similar functionality as our current system but through a more intuitive and graphical user interface and with more bells & whistles. For example, technicians will have the ability to view related building floorplans and system schematics from their mobile device. Supervisors will also have access to a visual scheduling tool (sort of like a fancy calendar) for planning work based on actual available staffing levels. For example, if a supervisor knows that an HVAC technician will be on vacation the coming week, they can simply “click and drag” a scheduled PM task ahead in the calendar.

One of the IWMS Core Team design tasks is to extract, review and transform all of our existing PM service plans on all equipment (from FAMIS) in order to build out the new “library” of standard service plans in Planon. Adam Holmes (PPD Asset Coordinator) has been coordinating this task and meeting individually with Physical Plant managers and supervisors to gather the relevant information.

As always, please feel free to submit any comments/questions to the IWMS Core Team .

Stay tuned.

~The IWMS Core Implementation Team

Ways to Give Us Your Input

Thus far, the IWMS Core Team has already received a great deal of input from many campus stakeholders and end-users through various methods: During the Functional Review Sessions (September 2021), the Exhibit Sessions (October 2021), and the Design Sessions (November 2021); through our Monthly Q&A Open Forums, and through other informal and ad hoc conversations that Core Team members are having in their respective units.

Still, we don’t want anyone to feel left out of the IWMS conversation or be left behind as we swiftly move ahead to implement this new, user-friendly, and fully integrated work management portal for all things facilities at UVM.

This is our invitation for all users of our current system (FAMIS) and all users of our future Planon system to speak up and provide input –

Please use this IWMS Feedback WebForm and all submissions will be shared with the entire Core Team.

“About 20 Weeks to Go”

During this week’s Core Team meeting, one team member noted we have “About 20 weeks to go!” before we launch. The words were like a lightning bolt, reminding us of our original timeline goal to design, configure, test, train users and launch our new Planon platform —and unplug FAMIS— to align with the start of the new Fiscal Year.  Ambitious? Perhaps. Achievable? Yes!

The IWMS Core Team has been busily working with Planon, convening conversations with internal decision-makers and SME’s, and hosting regular Q&A Open Forums on MS Teams for campus stakeholders. In early January, the Core Team received hands-on training with Planon, and team members now have full access to a development (“dev”) website being built for UVM. A sampling of UVM facilities and space data has been uploaded to the dev site so that we have “real” (and familiar) data to work with. Our ETS team members have been working on and testing integrations with other UVM systems (i.e., Peoplesoft, Active Directory Single Sign-On, etc.). Other behind-the-scenes work being done includes the clean-up of all Asset data currently in FAMIS, and also identifying and capturing new data about any Assets which are not currently in FAMIS.

The Core Team has completed two rounds of Design Document Reviews for Planon so that their software design and configuration team can get to work on laying out the system for UVM in a way that meets all of our functional needs.

We’re still quite a few months away from User Testing (or an opportunity for end users to get access to a Planon testing website), and we appreciate everyone’s patience until then.

Stay tuned~

The IWMS Core Team

Reactive Maintenance (a.k.a. Service Requests, Work Orders & Cost Recovery)

Conceptually, once the foundational elements of Space and Assets are laid out in IWMS, then we’ve established the places where and the things that Facilities Management personnel take care of everyday through various maintenance activities and tasks.  Maintenance is categorized as either Reactive (i.e., responding to requests) or as Planned (i.e., preventative maintenance to prolong the life of an asset). We’ll address the first type here.

The Reactive Maintenance module is the most visible aspect of Planon for most campus stakeholders. It will be the one user interface where staff, faculty (and eventually on-campus residential students) will enter their requests for maintenance services—what we now refer to as Self Service Requests and Work Orders.  In our current system, campus stakeholders request building repair and maintenance services by entering a Service Request directly into FAMIS, and then each request is converted to a Work Order and routed to the appropriate facilities personnel who in turn “react to” (i.e., do the job) to repair the situation or perform the service for the customer.

The new Planon system will provide this same basic functionality …and a whole lot more. For starters, the look and feel of the user interface will be more intuitive and easier to navigate. “Front-end” users will be presented with simple icons to click to indicate the type of service they’re requesting. We’ll have the ability to customize on-line forms based on the type of service requested, where users can enter details about the request, select from drop-down menus, and easily upload photos or attachments to their request.  “Back-office” users (i.e., facilities personnel) will be able to create new Requests with just a few simple clicks.

But wait, there’s more! Other new system features include automated notifications pushed to users, an easier to view dashboard for users to check the status of their requests, and a streamlined numbering system which assigns just one number to each request. (Hurray, no more separate SR#’s and WO#’s to lookup.)  New features for the maintenance crews include a Resource Planner tab for scheduling work. The entire IWMS is mobile-friendly and technicians in the field can view the work assigned to them, details of the request, and related Asset information and track and enter the labor and materials associated with the job with a few simple clicks.

Cost Recovery is also handled through the Reactive Maintenance module. This is very important for ensuring that labor and material costs are “billed” against the proper budgets. The Core Team has been working very closely with Subject Matter Experts and representatives from University Financial Services, Payroll and Enterprise Application Services to hammer out the details related to Chart of Accounts, billing “rules”, and business processes to ensure that Planon integrates with PeopleSoft and Kronos Time & Attendance systems in the most optimized way.

Stay tuned.
~The IWMS Core Implementation Team

Purchasing and Stock (Inventory) Management

On any given day, Facilities Management units need and use dozens of parts, supplies and materials for the operation, maintenance, and renewal of our assets. Keeping accurate records of what is purchased, how much we have in inventory, and where and how it’s used (and by whom) is vital information for determining the total cost of ownership (TCO) of our assets. In other words, determining how much it really costs to own something over its lifetime with the goal of reducing the TCO while maintaining or improving the utility of that something.  

The Purchasing and Stock functionality within Planon provides us with an opportunity to catalog and manage all the parts, supplies and materials in enhanced ways. It will help us determine adequate stock levels and inform us on where we spend and how we might do so better. In other words, ensuring we purchase materials at the best price and at the right time. This enables us to know what services we can perform and at what cost, again valuable inputs to know for calculating the Total Cost of Ownership. Additionally, the software will enable us to attach the specific health & safety information associated with a material or product within the catalog, thus eliminating the need for technicians to “look up” this information elsewhere.

Planon will allow us to manage our purchasing and inventories in ways we simply could not do within our legacy software. A totally redesigned and enhanced interface with PeopleSoft will pave the way for an all-digital procurement process as well as end-to-end digital inventory management. The workflow layers and digital approval mechanisms will ideally “break our reliance on paper processes” and allow the University to procure and manage its materials warehouse more holistically and nimbly.

We look forward to these exciting times, recognizing there is much hard work to be done during the IWMS implementation to get us to this more efficient and streamlined future.

-The IWMS Core Team

Asset Management

Along with Space, “Assets” are a foundational element within IWMS and the module we’ll discuss here. The two are interrelated as “Space is the place where assets occur.” What do we mean by Assets? If you think of space as “places” then assets are the physical “things” within or attached to those places.

Assets include mechanical, electrical, and plumbing equipment within a building such as parts of the HVAC system, air handlers, transformers, domestic hot water heaters (and even the kitchen sink!)  Assets also include things such as architectural elements (e.g., roofs, windows, walls, doors); built elements beyond the footprint of a building (e.g., lamp posts, sidewalks, roadways, utility infrastructure above- or below-ground such as pipes or vaults, etc.); and other exterior or unique elements such as sculptures, flower gardens, and campus trees. Vehicles are also a type of asset. 

The caretaking and management of all these assets is at the heart of what our Facilities Management organization does in support of the University’s mission. Having a complete and accurate catalog of assets– along with the details and documentation associated with each asset– in one integrated system will enable us to do this work in a more comprehensive and strategic way.

Our new system (Planon) will contain asset information such as name, make, model, serial number, specifications, location, area served, acquisition and warranty dates and information, maintenance schedules and records, renewal cycles, equipment condition and much more. Capturing all this information (which exists in disparate UVM systems now) into one integrated platform allows us to optimize the management of assets and leverage new functionality that will greatly improve our capabilities. For example, front-line technicians will have critical information like drawings and manuals at their fingertips, and campus stakeholders will have access to comprehensive investment information, analytics and reporting related to facilities to make smarter decisions more quickly.  Other new and enhanced functionalities we’re developing with Planon include: Document management, workflows, automated notifications, graphic scheduling and workload balancing, mobile applications, end-to-end digital materials management, location awareness and much more.

Bottom line: the new IWMS is a “tool” that paves the way to a future where we can provide the best possible stewardship of the University’s built environment.

~The IWMS Core Team

Space Management

The University of Vermont uses approximately 6.2 million gross square feet (GSF) of space in carrying out its mission. Space is comprised of a variety of building types and sizes both owned and leased. Keeping track of accurate and comprehensive data related to space is essential for the calculation of Facilities & Administrative (F&A) costs, Income/Expense rates, program costing and for assessing facilities and space costs for Incentive-Based Budgeting (IBB). Space data is also critical for effectively planning and managing the University’s space needs centrally; for determining what or when facilities upgrades might be needed to address inefficient or ineffective spaces; and for making space allocation decisions in support of University priorities.

The new system (Planon) will replace our existing space management software as the system of record for all data related to space and attributes (i.e., characteristics) such as department, college and division allocation; personnel location; room usage; and function occurring within the space. 

The Space Management module will be the first part of Planon we implement because location data is the basis for many of the other modules. Space is where assets (a.k.a. equipment), people and departments are located, and space is where activity takes place. Space allocation and use will be recorded in Planon by those currently assigned to conduct the space inventory for their departments, and Facilities Management will utilize the data collected for regular reporting and analysis and ongoing management of space. New reporting tools in Planon will include graphics that will be more broadly available to the campus community.

The Core Team’s work involves migrating all existing data along with hundreds of building diagrams that visually represent our campus spaces into the new Planon system to provide a comprehensive picture of space use across campus. After existing data is initially established in Planon, there will be opportunities for us to add new attributes or enhanced data fields so that facilities management personnel can also keep pertinent information about a particular space in one unified system. (For example, Custodial Services might want to keep track of the flooring type of each space so they can plan or coordinate cleaning schedules).  

Users of the current system are already familiar with the Space and Moveable Equipment inventory conducted once each year and managed by Planning, Design & Construction and Cost Accounting Services. We envision the new system will be a more intuitive, graphical, user-friendly, and streamlined portal where users can potentially update their space allocation and use data in real time and not solely once per year.

Our goal is to provide the campus with a system that offers tools to easily track and update space data, for both the centralized management of space campus wide, and for the localized management by a college or division of the space assigned to their unit.  Another new feature of Planon is it allows for granular security, meaning that departments will be able to use it to create new data fields for specific attributes of space that might be important for their work.

We think campus stakeholders will like this new system and we look forward to rolling it out in 2022.

-The IWMS Core Team

Project Timeline and Implementation Plan

The vendor and the Core Implementation Team have mapped out an ambitious timeline of specific steps and tasks to accomplish by the fall of 2022- our desired implementation date for the first phase of the system. We’re confident we’ll reach our target date because of several factors in our favor: The new IWMS solution is “cloud-based” and hence the University will not have to set up or maintain its own servers and hardware (which was the case with our existing system). This past year, several UVM facilities and IT professional staff have already been doing the enabling (“pre-work”) for this project such as ensuring that existing data in our current system is accurate and up to date. Lastly, the vendor we’ve chosen has worked with many other higher education facilities organizations who’ve been successful.

Continue reading “Project Timeline and Implementation Plan”
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