A couple of years ago one of our higher education clients told me that the reason they decided to invest in an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) was due to a University mandate to “begin treating space as an asset.” To this day, I don’t know that anyone has been able to explain the need for our software more simply and eloquently. That simple statement had a very powerful message behind it. The University’s leadership had decided to make a fundamental shift in the way they approach the management of their space and facilities. An asset is proactively assessed, maintained and planned for. Your assets are an investment. Investments must be properly managed.

The idea itself isn’t revolutionary. The first sentence on the first page of the Facilities Inventory and Classification Manual (FICM) states that “along with its human resources, financial assets and intellectual cache, space is a primary resource of an educational institution.” The overarching idea of that first page is this: if you don’t have accurate and defensible space and facilities data, you can’t truly know if you have the proper resources to fulfill your mission as a higher education institution. So why don’t more universities adopt a similar view of their space?

There is no simple answer. Higher education institutions are under a lot of pressure these days. Some would even go so far as to say they are facing a crisis. There is tremendous competition in higher education and the cost structure has dropped significantly. Students now have more choices than ever before. This would also require a change to the traditional faculty-driven model of allocating space–and we all know how most people feel about change.

However, crisis leads to innovation and more and more universities will inevitably come to the same conclusion: space must be viewed and treated as an asset. Universities must truly understand the cost of doing business and a large part of that is understanding how their space is being utilized. The ability to easily capture an accurate snapshot of your space as it is today, understanding your space utilization and having good data to plan for the future is and will continue to be a critical part of an efficiently functioning higher education institution.