Sidebar: Facilities, IT Staffs Face Overlap

As convergence of IT and building systems accelerates, IT and facilities management groups may find that some staff responsibilities merge as well. Although a complete integration of the staffs is unlikely, both departments are already being grouped under the same director or vice president in some organizations.

In the area of physical and computer security systems, deeper changes are already under way. "IT can't ensure the security of the company's data unless everything is secured physically," says Mark Cherry, marketing manager at Honeywell International Inc. in Morristown, N.J.

Common policies and procedures could help avoid problems such as what Arthur Zyat went through during a building-automation system (BAS) project at the headquarters of Panasonic Corporation of North America in Secaucus, N.J. "It was a freaking headache," he recalls of the effort to piggyback the BAS on corporate backbone network. "We had lots of meetings, and it took a long time to get to where we are right now."

Rick LeBlanc, president of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) products at Siemens Building Technologies Inc. in Buffalo Grove, Ill., says misunderstandings and coordination problems are common. "It is now a common requirement for the building-automation provider to coordinate with the owner's IT personnel," he says. "The challenge is that often there is no one decision maker, but several opinion-givers."

"The facility side is relatively small and not well-understood by the IT people," says Ben Sun, a design engineer at engineering firm Flack and Kurtz Inc. in San Francisco. But one place where the two groups do work together is in the data center because management of power and cooling needs are a shared concern, he adds.

LeBlanc sees an increasingly direct role for IT. "It is easier to hire an IT tech and teach them our automation products and HVAC applications that it is to hire an HVAC engineer and teach them IT," he says. Anno Scholten, chief technology officer at BAS vendor Plexus Technology Ltd. in Irving, Texas, says many facilities people don't yet understand the Web-based systems he sells. "When we present it to the facilities guy, he kind of glazes over," says Scholten. "When we present it to the IT guy, there's an instant 'Aha' because they've already done it."


Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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