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As the world of work evolves so must the services that support organisations and enables them to concentrate on core activities. For many SME’s (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) in the UK the management of their facilities, often wastes time, money and resources. Traditional service delivery does not always meet the demands of the client and as a result we must go back to the drawing board and do something different and new.

Often we find that business is met with an ‘off the shelf’ approach to their facilities management service and, as a result, are given very limited options as to how the contract is managed. This risks the relationship between contractor and client can often become fraught and the contract can become stale, lose purpose and no longer be value adding. For organisations to compete they must shift from a reactive mindset to a more strategic and proactive approach (McGregor, 2000). With people being the most expensive cost, and property usually being the second biggest cost for most organisations, can your business afford to waste valuable time managing your facilities and to distract resource from core business activities? By taking resources out of the business to concentrate on a reactive, uninformed approach to facilities management may lead to missed opportunities for change and improvement within their facilities management service (Pratt, 2003).

The position facilities management in organisational terms is essential to an organisations strategy (Atkin & Brooks, 2000). Not all SME’s may be aware of this immediately, but when an issue effects their business ability to function then concerns get an organisation to start asking about facilities place within their strategy. Also, organisations can often make ill-informed assumptions on what their contract provides. Believe it or not, I have witnessed organisations that assume their landlord provides a facilities service under a standard FRI lease. This circumstance came about through uninformed decisions to rent space as a critical business need, without considering a strategy of property management due to the time and resources that this would necessitate. The results can lead to complicated historic compliance and insurance issues and highlight the pressure SME’s are under in order to make core business activities succeed.

Indeed, the shift to more socially generated services is having an impact on all business. Terms such as ‘Uberisation’ have come about from the disruption to traditionally managed business networks, to open socially driven services (See Air B&B and Uber in the first instance). The facilities management industry as, arguably, always been slow on the uptake of new practices. However, it is an industry that, once has grasped the change, will run and succeed.

We are now at a point where this flexible, social approach should be hitting the facilities management industry, thus giving SME’s the dynamic, simplistic and innovative service that supports their core business activities and therefore adding value. The idea of adding value is nothing new. Facilities management has moved on from a simple cost reduction model ((Jensen, 2010) that often results in poor, miss-managed service. From start-up organisations, independent companies and established stalwarts, there is an increasingly open exchange of knowledge and expertise, bucking the traditional trappings of paid services.

So what will produce a fresh approach to the delivery of facilities management services? Ultimately customer demand will determine if there is a desire to adopt a new way of thinking and delivering facilities management services. But in light of the increased workplace productivity potentially adding 1-3.5% growth to the economy and 91% of UK workers still operating from the office location (Stoddart Review, 2016) SME’s are now in a position to see how the important their workplace is in terms of adding value to the organisation. With this in mind, it is now even more important to review how facilities management services are delivered and how those services can add value, and not be a burden.

Well if traditional outsourcing can save money, with small organisations benefiting from the economies of scale, time, through a reduction of dedicated resource and hidden costs, often discovered when an outsourcing decision is made (Embleton & Wright, 1998) then there’s no problem, right? Not necessarily. Poorly arranged contracts often tie clients into long-term deals that offer little in the way of movement and cost and time is ultimately invested to pick up the slack from the provider. On the other hand, if services are to manage in-house then dedicated time and resource has to be earmarked from the outset.

Therefore, maybe it’s time to approach the delivery of facilities management services without long binding contracts between contractor and customer and there is an open, honest and simple approach to picking services. One point of contact for all facilities needs, with work being managed from beginning to end by facilities experts who provide the client a personalised professional service built upon trust and understanding and not KPI’s and SLA’s that fail to materialise. Thus, sending the client into a cycle of re-tendering to find a suitable facilities management provider that understands and meets the values of the organisation. Alternatively, they are left with an in-house solution of juggling priorities and pulling in varying contractors, blindly, hoping for a solution and causing a real headache.

A ‘pay as you go’ solution to SME facilities management needs can be a progressive way forward. From projects to planned maintenance the benefits of creating an open, honest and simplistic approach to facilities management for SME’s is not yet catered for. Certainly, the big providers are on hand to invest time and money into their product. But for all the good services they provide they are unable to successfully fill the gap for the SME’s who may need the expertise sporadically throughout the year.

So if we are to move from a traditional contract-based service towards a more flexible client-focused approach, what will be needed? Well, trust is key from both parties involved. If the organisation providing the facilities management solutions can provide the client with the advice, guidance and tools to make informed decisions without the limitations of contractual obligations. Then with successful project implementation, over time, trust is built. This allows the client to refer back to the provider when suited, safe in the knowledge that the ‘hard sell’ knows where to be found. Secondly, the type of expert is important in order to gain the trust of the client. Again business development should not focus on the high-pressure selling of a particular service, the ‘selling’ needs to come from the assurance that the provider is open, honest and trustworthy and that their background is built upon knowledge, passion and dedication towards facilities management and the workplace and not monthly bonuses. The organisation charged with providing the service should not only be doing as such but also go the extra mile to give the client market insight, theoretical considerations and pragmatic examples whenever possible.

Once open and honest discussion takes place and is met with choice and flexibility for the client, then we will see a new circle of trust and lasting partnerships between client and contractor. These kinds of relationships will drive a new movement in facilities management that adapts to the trends of social working and open-sourced knowledge, leading to collaborations. Many in the facilities management industry will take a very different viewpoint, relying on the tried and tested methods that they have always practised. There is nothing wrong with that if that is what the customer wants, however, the world of business is evolving faster than ever and those services supplying these businesses need to evolve just as quickly.

Choice, flexibility, honesty, openness, innovation and trust are the new social and professional norms. Do your facilities management service provider meet these criteria? It may be time to ask where facilities management fits into your organisations business strategy and how important it can be on ensuring the delivery of the core business activities. There’s a new movement in facilities management and it is time for your SME to get on board!

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