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Condition Surveys – Procuring and Interpreting the data

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n this, the second in a series of short articles about condition surveys for schools, we will look at methods of data collection and handling and give advice on interpretation of the data and how it can be used to make optimum strategic decisions to benefit the estate.

In the first part of this series we looked at the importance of accurate condition survey data, how it can help the estate management function and how to go about procuring condition survey programmes (if you missed it you can catch up here). Whatever the scope you decide upon, it will be necessary to collect, collate and analyse a large data set. For a typical trust this is likely to run into many hundreds, if not thousands, of lines of data.

Data and data management is an important part of estate management. Managing your data helps you

  • Develop and monitor the estate strategy and asset management plan
  • Deploy limited funds across the portfolio
  • Measure the performance of the estate (internally and externally)
  • Manage and commissions projects
  • Assist in discharging some of your financial and governance requirements.

Efficient management is dependent on the availability of reliable data in a format that allows meaningful interpretation.

Before deciding on the most appropriate route, you should ask yourself

  • What data do you need?
  • How will you hold and manage this data?

Property asset data is only valuable if it is current, correct, complete and consistent, but it also needs to be accessible. There is also little point in collecting data that will be onerous to maintain and will not add significant value to the estate management process. For example, maintaining detailed information on types, manufacturers and condition of internal finishes could add a disproportionate amount of data when the management of such items is likely to be managed locally rather than part of the overall estate strategy. IF you do want to collect and manage data at this level of detail it is important to understand the amount of internal resource that will be required to monitor and maintain it and this should be factored into the overall decision on how far to go with your estate management systems.

We are all familiar with spreadsheets and this is where most condition data will be held in the early stages. But as the estate portfolio grows it may become necessary to look to more sophisticated solutions to enable information to be collated and analysed without resorting to days of specialist and complex spreadsheet modelling.

In the DfE’s Good Estate Management for Schools (GEMS) guidance outlines some of the core requirements of a data management system (see link). You might also consider whether you wish to manage your condition data in isolation or integrate it with other related information such as compliance or energy/utilities data. There are complex computer aided facilities management (CAFM) programmes that can handle these enhanced tasks but they are expensive and not always suitable for the education sector. Before committing to a CAFM system it is important to understand the training requirements not just for trust level staff but also those stakeholders at a local level.

EOPortal is an example of a simple and cost-effective estates management system developed especially for the education sector. It is referenced in the DfE GEMS guidance (see Performance Management of the Estate tab) as a good way for trusts to manage and analyse their data.

Using Microsoft Power Bi embedded in a portal solution gives a simple, robust and industry standard system. It works with data you already have whether that be stored in an excel file or on a database. Importantly, the portal ensures the data is presented in a way which is intuitive for the user and allows them to make evidence-based decisions in an efficient manner.

The portal can be customised enabling our clients to present their data in a way which is consistent with their own branding.

Presented in tabs, each page presents data in different ways depending on need. Progressing through the tabs allows analysis at a more and more granular level. The dashboard pages are useful for directors at trust level with later pages for site usage to determine work packages.

For a demonstration of the EOPortal click here.

By having a better understanding of the funding requirements and stratification over time, those responsible for managing the estate can better prepare and deploy their limited resources. For example, data-driven asset management can help ensure that the available funds are delivered to areas of need rather than want and introduces a level of third party independence to the process.

By having a clear long-term view of the estate requirements, programmes of work can be planned more carefully and economies of scale utilised. For example, it may be more efficient to bring forward a programme of external decorations utilising the scaffolding for an urgent roofing project rather than doing this work at the time originally allocated. Alternatively, it could bring clarity to similar types of works being carried out on different sites opening up the possibility of joint procurement exercises which could result in significant cost savings.

In the final part of this article we will look at how this can be pulled together in the area of performance management and how benchmarking can be used to drive improvement across the estate.

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