Facilities managers must be adept at collaborating, whether it’s with contractors, internal staff, or responding to diverse tenant needs and requests. So when businesses reevaluate areas like real estate investments, workspace design and remote worker policies the facilities team’s collaborative approach can be the difference between stumbling and excelling in the midst of rapid change.

When business priorities shift, facilities teams will want to quickly obtain valuable intelligence from expert advisors outside the organization via video conferencing. The key is to have these experts in place ahead of time, not scrambling to assemble them amidst a strategic shift.

Commonly known as virtual advisory boards, these types of external collaborations are used by many companies to gather expert insights on a particular topic, and foster ongoing dialogue within a closed group. Hosting virtual advisory board meetings via video conferencing provides a lower burden on coordinating meeting times, and allows for members to communicate face-to-face.

A myFacilitiesNet article entitled, Collaboration: The Key to Maintenance Management further expands on the need for facilities teams to incorporate more collaboration with outside experts. According to the article, many facilities teams have taken a strategic approach in establishing greater collaboration protocols with internal stakeholders to ensure a facility is successfully operating.

With a solid internal collaboration process in place, the next logical step is to begin building strategic collaborations with expert advisors outside the organization.  These collaborations with outside advisors are beneficial in helping facilities teams gain greater valuable insights and information when a strategy shift by the enterprise forces new, unexpected priorities.

Facilities management peers in comparative (i.e. non-competing) businesses, for instance, have an excellent understanding of what is going on in organizations with a similar number of employees, real estate footprint, or geographic disbursement of offices. Should a new direction be dictated by management, these industry peers can provide sound recommendations coupled with a fresh, outside perspective to help with just about any situation.

In addition to facility management peers, consultants, contractors, engineering firms, or manufacturers of products being used in commercial facilities can also provide helpful perspectives on how to improve operations within facilities. Each of these carefully selected external advisors can provide their own unique insights and valuable information, which can help facilities teams sustain long-term success in their real estate operations.

While collaborations with experts outside the organization can help facilities teams improve operational performance, being able to receive timely recommendations without spending a lot of time coordinating meeting logistics is also critical. This is where “virtual” comes into play as facilities teams can leverage video conferencing and content sharing solutions to communicate face-to-face and spark more meaningful engagement and ideation regardless of location.

Companies such as GE, Target Corp., and American Express Co., use advisory boards to spur new ideas and boost productivity as this recent Wall Street Journal article points out (subscription required). The carefully selected external panel members regularly connect with executives and provide recommendations on how to stay ahead of trends. As a result, executives and their teams get smarter and more nimble in doing business.

One of the examples cited describes counsel Target received from one of its virtual board members regarding in-store technology. Based on this feedback, Target developed “smart” shopping carts that could link with a shopper’s phone, providing a more individualized and differentiated consumer experience.

In times of strategic change and day-to-day operations, facilities teams can leverage their collaborative prowess to engage with virtual advisory boards. These outside experts provide targeted expertise and sound recommendations that improve operations in either scenario ultimately increasing the value of facilities to the business.