The expensive, complex projects and five-year plans of capital planning and budgeting can feel far away from operations and maintenance, with their focuses on the day-to-day demands of keeping a facility up and running.

But regardless of the size of your capital planning project, from constructing a new building to adding lights along a pedestrian path, you can ensure more efficiency and effectiveness by integrating data from both operations and maintenance. Traditionally, sharing between the teams has been difficult, but new workflows supported by the right software solutions make integration not only possible but relatively painless. 

What is capital planning for commercial and industrial real estate? 

Capital planning is the process of allocating funds for future facility projects that help support overall organizational goals. These projects generally fall into one of three categories: 

  • System renewal: Replacing or repairing existing infrastructure 
  • Strategic: Constructing new buildings or adding wings 
  • Mandated: Upgrading facilities to comply with local or federal regulations 

So, if an automaker wants to better position itself to better take advantage of an international trade agreement, state tax incentives, transnational supply chains, and local real estate costs, it might investigate splitting one manufacturing plant into two facilities, with one in Location A producing parts and one in Location B assembling them.

If a new regulation comes into effect related to accessibility for the physically challenged, the owners of an office building might initiate a project to install ramps and lifts. 

In fact, capital planning projects can take many forms, including: 

  • Land improvements or purchases 
  • New construction 
  • Additions and alterations 
  • Retrofits 

Depending on the size, scope, and timeline for a project, an organization can categorize it as a major capital project or a minor capital project. For example, there’s the difference between a seismic retrofit on Building A and installing better pedestrian lighting on an exterior path between Building A and Building B. 

Why is capital planning important? 

There’s that old saying, “You have to spend money to make money.” The problem with that old saying is that it’s not true. 

Or rather, it’s incomplete. 

When you want to make money, what you need to do is spend money wisely, but you can only do that after carefully considering your options and how each one might play out. According to this explanation of the importance of capital planning, “Companies are often in a position where capital is limited, and decisions are mutually exclusive.” When you choose one project, what you’re also doing is rejecting another, so you have to choose carefully. 

Capital planning helps you make informed decisions, ones that create opportunities for success while reducing risk. Without a solid process in place, you run the risk of building a bridge to nowhere. 

What is the capital planning process? 

Capital planning can be a complex, multi-step process that pulls data and people from all over the organization. Because you’re often basing capital projects on predictions with multi-year timelines, the planning process itself can be lengthy. That said, you can also understand capital planning as just four main sequential steps. 

  • Identify 
  • Prioritize 
  • Plan 
  • Implement  
  • Monitor 

The process begins when you identify possible projects. Typically, you would want to look at what’s changing, and then think about how those developments are set to affect the organization. For example, it might be a case of your facilities getting older, the workforce growing or shrinking, more people moving to a hybrid work model, or even changes in regulations.

From there, you can start to prioritize the possible projects, focusing on the availability of funding, overall feasibility, and overall organizational goals. For each project you choose, you then develop a comprehensive plan, including funding, resources, and timelines. After implementation, you need to develop a system for evaluating and monitoring the relative success of the project, carefully choosing the right set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to track.

If the project was to replace the boiler, you would want to look at how well you budgeted for time and money. But you would also want ongoing KPIs. For example, were there the expected reductions in unscheduled downtime, maintenance costs, and energy bills?  

What’s the connection between capital planning and maintenance data? 

Ideally, there should be multiple seamless, lossless connections, with relevant real-time data flowing between the facility and maintenance managers and the capital planning team.  

For the capital planning team, the more they know about the current condition of the facilities, including all the associated assets and equipment, the more effectively they can plan. Basically, the more the capital planning team knows about day-to-day operations and short-term trends, the easier it is for them to know where and when to invest. 

For the maintenance team, the more they know about future capital projects, the easier it is for them to make data-driven decisions on labor and resources. Here, it’s the opposite of the capital planning team, who need to see the short-term to better plan for the long-term. The facility and maintenance managers need to see the long-term to do better work in the here and now.   

Unfortunately, that’s all a description of how things should be. Currently, at many organizations, there is little to no communication between capital planning and the facility and maintenance managers.  

Different time scales 

Even with smaller capital projects, the planning team isn’t thinking about today; they’re focused on the future. With larger projects, they might be planning far into the future, trying to make decisions on organizational needs and facility conditions as far out as 5 to 10 years.  

But maintenance is much more about the here and now, setting up schedules for the month, week, day. In fact, the maintenance team often plans work out to the hour. Checking the pump and changing out the lubricant takes an hour. Pulling out a bad pump and replacing it, all morning.  

On some levels, then, capital planning and maintenance are speaking the same language but at different speeds, and the result is there’s not much of a conversation. 

Siloed data sets 

Worst-case scenario, everyone in both capital planning and maintenance are working from paper. And it not paper, then disconnected data like PDFs and spreadsheets, with zero version control. Any changes made on one sheet don’t carry over to all the other copies, pushing everything except one file out of date. And no one knows which is the “true” file. Sharing data is painfully slow and prone to errors.   

How can you integrate maintenance data into capital planning? 

By including up-to-date maintenance data in your capital planning, you can make better decisions, ensuring your organization has the facilities and features it needs to meet its objectives. Done correctly, adding in maintenance data is just one of a series of steps you need to take to get ahead of the maintenance curve and on top of capital planning.  

Go digital 

It all starts with digitizing your maintenance data as part of the larger process of implementing a robust integrated workplace management system (IWMS) platform. When all your maintenance records are trapped on paper or inside spreadsheets, it’s impossible to easily capture data or keep what you have up to date in real time. Even when you can share data, either within teams or across departments, all those manual methods are unreliable because they’re so error prone.   

Plan and track holistically 

Once you’ve gone digital and have reliable data you can trust, you can leverage it further for more efficient, more effective capital planning, saving the organization from expensive, time-killing projects that fail to deliver the desired results. 

The key is finding the solution with the right combination of features. With the Archibus Capital Budgeting application, for example, you get the help you need at every step of the process. 

First, you can use intelligent workflows to help you compare different what-ifs, so you can use data-backed cost estimating to find the best use for your finite funds. You can also manage multi-year budgets to see the different possible impacts of projects and programs.

From there, you can combine existing condition assessment information, for example a facilities condition assessment (FCA), and building operations and maintenance data to justify capital projects using cots and depreciation information and compare conditions to budgets. 


Capital planning is the process of choosing and completing projects for renewing or replacing infrastructure, constructing new facilities, or upgrading facilities to comply with regulations.

The overall goal of these projects is to create and maintain facilities that help the organization meet its goals. Capital planning is important because it helps you create the conditions for success while reducing the risk of wasted time and resources. It is a multi-step process, involving identifying possible projects, prioritizing based on current conditions and future needs, planning, implementing, and monitoring results.

Traditionally, it has been challenging for organizations to incorporate operations and maintenance data into the process. The capital planning and facility and maintenance teams tend to have siloed data, making sharing difficult.

Even if they could share across departments easily, they all tend to think in different timeframes: capital planning looks years into the future while maintenance usually schedules in months, days, even hours.

But with the right IWMS and capital planning and budgeting solutions, you can efficiently combine all your data and planning to ensure more effective capital planning. 

About the author

Jonathan Davis

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