Integration, interoperability

A good CAFM system is never used as an island solution but is an organic part of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. While enterprise resource planning systems handle data and support up-to-date decisions with a financial approach, the CAFM software system has a technical approach when handling frequently overlapping data groups. This significant difference enables the good quality operation of the company’s real estate portfolio both financially and technically, while the budget appropriated for it can be minimized.

Overlapping data groups in these systems typically involve the cost unit structure, the staff, company registration, and, in many cases, assets inventory, as this may be important both from a financial and a technical aspect.

Integration between financial systems (such as SAP) and FM software systems has several stages, and generally they are realized next to each other at different levels per data group.

Although in many cases integration may require on-line, continuous live connection, in most cases it is enough to realize periodical data updating and transfer. The content and method of the data connection always needs to be determined on a project base, there are no two companies that find the same data important, and the availability of the data is always typically different.

Primarily the following data groups are usually adopted from financial systems:

  •         Cost center structure
  •         Budget elements
  •         Staff and all kinds of personal data
  •         Lessees, rental units
  •         Subcontractors, suppliers
  •         Contracts
  •         Inventory of assets

Typically the facility management system also supplies numerous types of data to the financial system:

  • Leased areas broken down per lessee
  • Other lease-related costs – e.g. other service or repair costs, public utility costs broken down per area or on the basis of individual agreements
  • Inventory of physical assets information – i.e. in the case that 100 chairs are activated at the same time, from the aspect of FM it is important where they are located precisely
  • Maintenance worksheets, their amounts
  • In the case of work completed, the payable status of such work attached to the worksheets
  • The values measured by intelligent meters – e.g. for accounting for tenants’ consumption in proportion with use
  • Accountable penalty values, for example in the case of using SLA contracts

and obviously innumerable other forms of data that can be determined individually by each user.

Typically integration is technically realized so that in the introductory phase of the project our clients determine exactly what data groups they intend to transfer between the two systems and in what form. Following this the CAFM system specialists decide in what form it can be done and, of course, how frequently.

The simplest way is when the two systems exchange Excel files off-line, that is by manual transfer. In this case an authorized user saves the given data file in a previously determined Excel form, and then the other system enters the data in the database with a dedicated function.

It is much more secure when after a manual start by the authorized user the two systems exchange data automatically, in the background. In this case it is also possible to check the data while it is being transferred, as a result it is guaranteed that both systems receive consistently good data from each other.

It is very similar to this when at previously determined intervals or on the basis of other rules the financial and FM software automatically perform data transfer, then record and log the result of the transfer. In this case obviously the system can be asked to report faults immediately by email to a given user or group of users.

The closest form of integration is when certain events in the two systems result in automatic data transfer to the other system. A good example of this may be when maintenance work sheets are handed over, and when they are printed – that is when work is started – they are automatically transferred to the financial system together with all their data. Later on, when the work has been completed, all the financial data of the work is transferred to the financial system, and after the work has been closed and found successful by an authorized person, the financial system receives automatic information about that payment is authorized (or prepared for payment).

Whichever connection or a combination of connections is used, it is important to emphasize that the FM system is not an island solution, but it is an organic part of the enterprise resource planning system. The integration of SAP or other financial system and the method of the integration may have a significant effect on facility management costs and on service quality.