Nickalos A. Rocha is Director of Research and Operations at the International Facility Management Association, the world’s largest and most widely recognized international association for facility management professionals, supporting 24,000 members in more than 100 countries.
Q. What technology or technique has you most intrigued right now?
Using the best possible survey software with the least amount of resources is a challenge due to all the bells and whistles each software offers. Incorporating application program interface (APIs) into the mix makes for interesting possibilities in future efforts. I find the Conjoint analysis and MaxDiff engaging and targeted for products our association needs to focus on. We are always trying to refine survey administration efforts, but involving all of our members can, at times, be complicated, given the vast concerns and interests of facility management professionals and the rapidly evolving trends and practices within the built environment.
Q. How can researchers make the insights they deliver resonate more strongly across the organization to impact business decisions?
Definitely have a comprehensive organizational review of what data is available by department and what data supports answering organizational/product-based questions. Plan, plan, plan; then execute, execute, execute. The planning process is key as it can eliminate/minimize many concerns in the future.
Share the data with employees – it’s important for staff to be aware of industry research and understand how the findings impact their work and customers. If you’re an association, share it with your members, as they can benefit from it the most and it’s a service they expect their association to provide. Social media is perhaps your best communication channel, reaching employees, members/customers, partners and those seeking industry information. For a more detailed data overview, hold an in-office “Lunch and Learn” for staff, and offer a webinar for members/customers. At the end of the day, it’s not only about sharing the information with key internal/external stakeholders; but also making sure they understand it so they can benefit from it.
Case studies go a long way in making the case for future steps; but more importantly – if you can show a cost savings specific to the company, more executives/board members tend to listen, in my experience. Moreover, showing the direct and indirect benefit to the organization/association and how it impacts different departments – final output, life of the product helps.
Q. What are your top challenges right now?
Resources. Our association’s 24,000+ members consistently ask for more research-based products. I would like to give them a plethora of products, but with a limited budget there is only so much I can do as a staff of one. I do have a good support system from other internal departments; but as with most associations – we deal with many requests and have few resources. That is why we took a few calculated steps recently.
We executed a research-focused survey examining multiple areas – one of those areas focused on the possibility of increasing annual membership dues in support of providing free research reports and webinars and the possibility of future sponsorship in multiple areas. Our members are smart, passionate supporters of their association, and they were agreeable to the proposition of a dues increase, with 3 to 1 in favor in the preliminary data. Also, the possibility of sponsoring future research studies, benchmarking modules, research-based webinars, conferences/symposiums was well received. Another option for us is to pursue future grants and/or state or federal contracts or joint partnerships in specific areas of mutual interest.
Another step we took was examining the cost of developing research reports and how we could minimize long-term cost. By building a new research advantage platform specific to benchmarking, we were able to decrease research report development costs by two-thirds. Much of the cost in developing the association research reports is on the front end in the first year; each year after, costs are minimal in reproducing and publishing. We will begin to see cost savings within the first year of deployment.
Speed and cost remain challenges
This is a never-ending juggling act in some instances. I can usually get the product completed quicker (1/3 quicker at minimum) if I go to the private sector, yet it will cost 2/3 more than I would have paid in the academic sector. The trade off, as with most academic institutions, is they are based on semesters, so each contract is usually for the duration of multiple semesters for product completion. A previous chapter in my life had me working in my undergraduate and graduate school days within the academic model. The product is usually very robust, but the timeframe is lengthy.
Cost is always challenging. What I found is that you have to find the best contractor for the resources you have available – a contractor that believes in what they do within your field is key and are not just there for the quarterly revenue. This is lacking within select industries. A key component is to find a contractor that believes in your long-term vision, able to show a cost savings based on mutually agreed upon steps/products for a long-term agreement. I firmly believe having the ideal contractor saves money, time and duplicative efforts. And have a contingency plan – should you need it, it is available.
Doing more with less human and fewer financial resources
This is a critical factor in the research world. I’m a one-person team, but I do have the luxury of reaching out to select departments for targeted support. We commission all of our product-based research, so finding a quality-based contractor is key. The association has been lucky in that we have benefited from the end product, which, in the end, is why we serve – to advance research for our members.
We are always working on diversification of existing and new financial resources. Sometimes this is highly dependent on the economy. If the economy is doing well, some companies are eager to sponsor research studies or fund other initiatives or benefits. The goal is to not always go back to the same funding sources, but increase the pool of potential sponsors, develop a funding plan, make sure it is cyclical; and every effort is made to not go back to a prior sponsor for several years after the initial funding, unless it is a multi-year sponsorship. Developing new partnerships also helps increase new revenue streams from new markets. Another option: Should your organization be large enough to benefit from any mergers, advocate for increased resources depending on market responsibility.
Finding good talent
Finding ideal contractors, as noted above, is key to minimizing problems. I have been fortunate in this respect. Each contractor is different. It’s about how much micromanaging you want to do versus tried, tested and proven contractors who need less oversight.
NewsBusinessNickalos A. Rocha