It was only a few years ago that building staff and maintenance contractors were writing work tickets on those triplicate forms. Often, at the end of every week, building managers and engineers would sieve through stacks of pink, yellow and white receipt boxes to find billable tickets and missed maintenance requests. While many buildings are still in the dark ages, others have graduated to PC-based software.

More than ten years ago, PC-based and LAN based software was developed to handle work tickets and preventative maintenance. These systems were, and still are, a vast improvement over the old NCR forms. PC-based systems add the much-needed mechanisms for gathering, storing and analyzing data. However, PC-based software has severe limitations in deployment. Dependent on the hardware of each PC and the configuration subtleties of each network, many of these systems quickly become headaches with each upgrade. Upgrade a computer; re-install the software. Upgrade the software; find out a new computer is needed. Traditional loaded software puts a tremendous burden on each building to maintain its own in-house or out-sourced IT staff. This proves not only expensive, but extremely inefficient/annoying when the IT staff can’t be found to fix a problem.

Things have gotten a lot better. Eventually with the pervasiveness of the Internet, applications to manage building work-tickets can be distributed from a central hosting facility (i.e. ASP). One single system can be used to manage the operations of 1000s of buildings. One system can be managed by a small expert IT staff, upgraded easily and loaded with features at very little added expense. With one powerful computer platform running many buildings, a tremendous amount of money and headaches are saved with deployment and maintenance. Meanwhile all building data is kept in a far superior secure offsite environment. Because these work order systems are not dependant on a PC, they can be worked on from any computer with access to the Internet. If a Building Manager is sick or does not have time to get to all the work tickets, managing the building from home is a distinct possibility.

With this new era, buildings may run expensive software at very little cost, or in some instances, at no cost. With the ability to distribute the system to building staff, the Internet provides the capacity to distribute the function of entering/starting work ticket information to the tenants. Rather than relying on a translation of what someone said to an engineer, by using the tenant’s direct online request the level of accuracy of each work request is dead on. No more, “But, I thought you meant”. Plus, these new Internet based systems share pertinent data with the tenants. This eliminates the questions as to what is going on with a particular work request.

The ability to include tenants in the work-ticket process provides a distribution channel to deliver additional services and information. The same work-order system can provide the channel for building notifications, access control, local merchant information and building rules and regulations. Building services that may include the contact information for locksmiths, moving companies or electricians having their insurance certificates with the building can be mentioned within these work-order systems. Directories and building classifieds can be part of the functions and provide additional functionality to tenants. The Internet provides a wonderful landscape for work-order systems to distribute additional services to tenants. Right now, brokers are showing these systems to potential tenants as an added amenity. This will translate to higher rents and greater tenant retention.

What’s next? Wireless. The ability to distribute a wireless Internet is going to take building operations and tenant services to a new level. On the move, building staff can retrieve information necessary, create a work ticket and answer requests while actually being in clear sight of an issue. No more remembering what someone said, or did, and running back to the office. Data can be entered on the spot. With building staff no longer tied to PC’s, engineers and building managers can supervise outside construction while still managing the everyday operation of the building. Images through CCTV can be broadcasted to wireless devices allowing security guards to monitor an entire building while completing a walking tour.

Currently, Internet-based solutions, like Shortpath, are much less expensive than their PC-based ancestors. They cost less to implement and much less to manage. Those building owners and managers that are paying by the square foot for an online work-order system are getting ripped off. Internet-based work-order systems are very inexpensive to run on a per building basis. With the ability to diversify services to tenants, a work-order system should be able to run at no cost to the building.