How to Choose and Implement an Integrated Workplace Management System for Your Organization

Smartsheet Contributor Joe Weller

November 22, 2016

Across industries, the majority of organizations have a physical space to maintain: an office, a work site, or simply company assets. Managing these workplaces takes multiple dedicated teams, time, and money - in fact, rent is often a company’s second largest annual expense. Many companies have turned to software solutions to stay organized and increasingly, teams are switching from disaggregated systems to comprehensive software platforms that store information about all of their locations, projects, and maintenance programs. 

This article explores the rise and value of these integrated workplace management systems (IWMS), defines the function and capabilities of successful programs, and offers expert insight and studies on the benefits of IWMS. Then, we give a run-down of the leading platforms to help you choose the system that best fits your needs.  

What Is IWMS?

IWMS stands for integrated workplace management system. Typically, IWMS refers to a cohort of different processes designed to help companies manage, track, and organize their physical workplaces. This can include real estate, facility budget and maintenance, and management of any other company assets, as well as other considerations like energy and sustainability efforts. In the past, each individual workplace component was managed separately, often by different teams and different programs. While some companies still opt for this siloed approach, many teams see the benefits of combining (integrating) the systems for a more collaborative, efficient process. 

The term “integrated workplace management system” was first coined by a 2014 Gartner study. The analysts were interested in how companies manage all aspects of their workspaces, as facilities are often one of a company’s largest expenses. Ultimately, the authors concluded that effective workplace management “requires modular deployment of a strategic, integrated suite of functionality.” In other words, IWMS only works if the disparate systems are integrated. 

Following the Gartner study, several software programs were developed to help integrate existing facility and real estate management systems to provide a comprehensive, high-level view into all underlying workplace data. When used correctly, IWMS can cut costs, save time, and help optimize workplace resources to increase efficiency. 

There are five main functional areas of IWMS:


  1. Real Estate includes the acquisition and financial management of all property assets. Within real estate management, teams will typically provide strategic planning, transaction management, lease analysis, tax management, and lease and accounting services. 
  2. Facilities encompasses operation and maintenance of all company facilities. Platforms that support facility management will include space modeling programs, site and employee service management, and resource scheduling tools. 
  3. Capital Projects refers to the development of new facilities (remodeling, building enhancements, expansion projects, etc.). Capital planning, design, funding, bidding and procurement, and resource management all fall under this umbrella. 
  4. Maintenance includes both corrective and preventive maintenance of all company facilities and physical assets. In addition to asset management, maintenance software tools should provide inventory and vendor management, warranty tracking, and condition assessment tools. 
  5. Energy and Sustainability consists of all efforts related to reducing waste and energy consumption. Strong sustainability management systems will include performance metrics (emissions and consumption tracking, as well as energy benchmarking) and should integrate with other building management systems (BMS) to ensure that your goals match industry standards and laws. 

In addition to these typical areas, IWMS can also include asset management, general project management, site selection, and occupancy. You may choose to add any of these components into your IWMS system as your business grows or demand and resources change. A successful workplace management platform should allow you to add modules over time without disrupting your existing flow. 

What Is the Value of an IWMS, and Who Does It Benefit?

An IWMS helps teams and organizations of all industries and sizes cut costs, save time, and create more efficient workplace operations. By integrating the various space and facility systems, teams can stay up to date on the various management sectors - this increases transparency and makes it easier to collaborate. Additionally, this visibility across teams makes it easier to meet compliance and identify a problem before it’s too late. 

David Karpook, a business consultant at Planon spoke to Software Advice about the benefits of an integrated system. In the interview, he explained that “multiple groups in the same organization can take advantage of the capabilities, and put in their information that others then have visibility into… That’s where the real value proposition is.” 

This type of visibility is not unique to workplace management, however. In 2008, Rod Gapp, Ron Fisher, and Karou Kobayashi of the Griffith Business School in Australia studied the benefits of integrating cross-functional teams’ platforms for business. In their report, Implementing 5S Within a Japanese Context: An Integrated Management System, the authors studied a Japanese management system “5S” to understand the logic and assess its effectiveness. While the study focused specifically on this technique, one major finding was the importance of integrated management for projects of any scope: processes were strengthened when managerial decisions were made with an integrated management system in place. Therefore, integrating the many different workplace systems can give companies the visibility they need to make the best long-term choices for their business goals. 

First and foremost, IWMS eases facilities managers’ jobs, as it saves time and money on the organizational and administrative sides. But an effective IWMS will also benefit your employees. A synchronized, streamlined system will save everyone time and ensure that all company resources - from small daily-use items to the company building itself - are well-maintained. 

How to Choose an IWMS for Your Company

Because IWMS is a set of systems (and not a universal tool), you can select the specific capabilities to suit your project(s). Below is a list of functionality to consider when choosing a product:


  • Modular System: Pick and choose the exact applications for the aspects of your workplace you want to manage. A modular approach allows you to add individual modules as your business grows, rather than re-structuring every time you need to make a change.
  • Integrations: One main goal of IWMS is increasing communication among teams, so be sure to select applications that “talk” to each other for easy collaboration. When choosing a tool, ask: Does the platform integrate with other programs I use? Do the different modules integrate with each other?
  • Scalability: Consider your company’s projected growth - you’ll want a system that will scale as you grow. Again, a modular approach can ease much of the difficulty of scaling. 
  • Customization: While the key functionality is the same across most integrated workplace management systems, companies retain a large amount of flexibility. So, look for tools with customization options that will make it easier for your team to maximize efficiency - this could be UX, multiple views, colors and symbols, sharing and privacy settings, or any number of other capabilities. 
  • Mobile Application: Will your employees need to access the IWMS on the go? This is especially important for teams with remote or field workers who will be reporting facility or site information.
  • Reporting: If you’ll be reporting to management or executives, you may also want to look for a program with report rollup or dashboard capabilities for high-level data surfacing.  
  • UI/Ease of Use: Ultimately, if the platform is difficult to use, the employees won’t use it. Choose a tool that is intuitive so you won’t waste time training your workers and can focus on the task at hand. 

You’ll also want to do a comparison of the leading products to help inform your proposal. Below we’ve compiled a list of popular options:

Manhattan IWMS by Trimble

Even with the demonstrated value of IWMS, it can be hard to convince your superiors of its necessity. However, because real estate is the second highest cost to most organizations, implementing an efficient, cost-effective management system will lead to enormous annual savings. Be sure to do your research and have numbers to back up your claims. To help demonstrate need and gain buy-in from your management team, FM Systems put together an IWMS Value Guide which can be downloaded here.

IWMS as an industry continues to evolve, so look forward to increased functionality in years to come. In an interview with Chip Piper, Stan Tims, Program Director & Product Manager at IBM - Internet of Things, weighed in on the current and future states of IWMS. He explained “each category [of IWMS] has evolved in roughly the same sequence: departmental, operational systems to enterprise allocation systems to integrated, operational-decision support systems to cloud-based offering. However, in each generation, the acceleration to the next level has taken fewer years. To this end, from the start of the category, IWMS is evolving faster than preceding software categories.” To keep up with the demand for more efficient workers and organizational systems, IWMS will continue to grow and become both more powerful and easier to use, too. 

How to Implement an IWMS for Your Company

Regardless of the specific needs of your company, experts agree that sequential integration is the most successful method for implementing IWMS. In sequential integration, teams introduce the management platform starting with the immediate value items. From there, you can expand and add modules to manage other aspects of your workplace. Remember, there is no specific order you must implement in - just start with the most at-risk or high-need areas and build out over time to areas with less demand.

This phased approach minimizes disruption and makes for a smoother transition. Incrementally introducing the new system will enable you to identify and address problems early on. Be intentional and define a hierarchy of needs so you can plan when and how you will expand your IWMS across departments.

The final step of this implementation is continual evaluation. You should evaluate your IWMS based on organization, products and services, vision, and overall performance - make sure you have a process in place ahead of time to assess the costs and benefits with defined metrics. 

IWMS for Healthcare Organizations

Healthcare organizations have thousands of assets and resources that need to be regularly managed and tracked. IWMS help healthcare companies save time, increase efficiency, and ensure that all resources and physical workspaces are being leveraged in an impactful way by managing all process in one integrated system.

Healthcare organizations face a pressing need to manage their facilities, uphold health and safety standards, plan and execute on the construction and management of new clinics, and adapt to merger transitions and acquisition changes. To organize information regarding different workplace needs and manage resources and changes effectively, you need a powerful, real-time tool that empowers organizations to improve overall workplace management.

Smartsheet is a work execution platform that enables healthcare companies to improve work efficiency and scale repetitive processes, while securely storing and sharing protected health information. Streamline healthcare processes and eliminate silos, manage facility changes and upkeep, and organize all necessary resource and asset information in one centralized location while meeting or exceeding all of HIPAA’s regulatory requirements.

Interested in learning more about how Smartsheet can help you maximize your efforts? Discover Smartsheet for Healthcare.


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