Written By: Christopher Balmforth MC MBIFM,
Facilities Management Consultant for SSiFM Ltd. SSiFM Ltd provides an honest, innovative and simplistic Facilities Management service. Our FM consultants provide professional expertise in PFI, TFM, Managing Contractor and Managing Agent service delivery options. Delivering strategic and operational best practice to the working environment by integrating people, process and place in parallel with the overall business strategy.
A New FM Trend
The most significant change or trend I’ve identified this year in the Facilities Management Industry is not one of a tangible nature, but more of an ever growing need for FM cohesion and collaboration. The need to celebrate, promote and improve the FM profile in order for clients to recognise FM value.
Be it in-house, outsourced, middle management or the FM operatives, the desire to raise the FM profile is very apparent throughout all FM services.
Other support business units such as IT and HR have been promoting themselves much more effectively than that of FM over the last 10 years. IT was established within businesses some ten years after FM, with FM starting in the early part of the 1980s. Yet it is IT that is perceived to be of much higher importance than of FM.
The IT business unit has created and established a perception that without IT a business cannot function or be competitive within modern times.
HR and Health and Safety have also been ahead of the game in self-promotion with various legislative guidelines and approved codes of practice backing their importance. With the main perceived tactic being that if a business fails to use the HR or H&S department efficiently it could/will result in fines or even jail time for the CEO & potentially bad publicity for the business.
The common theme here is a hard hitting approach to convince the business that it could not function without them, self-promotion. Their arguments for self-importance are most likely all very important to the efficiencies of the business. However, in my opinion FM is far more important. I would argue without a property or a well-managed building you don’t have an IT, HR or H&S department to begin with. I believe however, that we are now catching up. There are many new publications that are driving the FM promotion and communication culture such as the ‘Value-based Facilities Management’ (Steven, 2015) and the Total Facility Management’ (Atkin & Brooks, 2015) books which are a more positive approach to the conveyance of FM.
FM Silver Lining
I believe this new trend and culture to promote and celebrate FM started in the 2008 – 2012 financial (economic) crisis. The crisis opened the doors to the controversial decision within FM of in-house vs. outsourced service delivery options. During the economic crisis this decision placed immense pressure on the FM industry where senior management took a quick and dirty option of cutting FM costs (FM World, 2008) irrespective of it being the right option or not.
FM is an expense and in most cases the second highest expense to that of people costs within a business. Unfortunately, FM has not been great in articulating it’s value to a business, and therefore those responsible for FM at a senior level turned to facilities to help plug the financial gap. After all we are “just cleaners and security” aren’t we?
It was too little and too late to change the perception of FM and uneducated decisions to outsource or bring the provision back in-house were made up and down the country in order to save costs. Which in turn placed massive pressure on the FM industry as a whole. Irrespective of whether in-house or outsource was chosen the timeframe for such change to hit the realms of efficiency and effectiveness can be in excess of 3 – 5 Years. This in turn would have had significant effect on the perception of the FM provision within any business. I have seen almost instantly after a transition and a reduction in resource, the requirement from higher up the chain to see improvements and efficiencies, which was and is an unrealistic expectation on their part.
I think we are all tired of being the second class service provision and communication and promotion is an innovative and cost effective way of enhancing FM perception. Which in turn will allow the FM practitioners to show their true worth and purpose. Do we want to be going through the same process in the next financial crisis?
I believe we have exhausted the in-house vs. outsource argument, and we now understand that no one size fits all and there are varying options such as; Insourced, Special Company/Business Unit, Managing Agent, Managing Contractor, Managed Budget and Total Facilities Management. Each of which have their pros and cons and should depend on the business needs and not on a cost saving exercise.
I believe that it was this crisis and pressure on the FM industry that has encouraged a new and bright future a ‘silver lining’ if you will. The new trend within FM industry and professionals is that of cohesion and promoting the FM industry’s perception within all business areas irrespective of which service delivery is chosen.
The real fight has always been FM communication and FM’s collaboration with its clients. How do we promote our provision, which subsequently promotes our industry? How do I get my client to recognise FM’s worth?
Now that the dust has settled I feel there is an ever growing shift in the force… everywhere I look from articles such as this, BIFM magazines, books such as ‘Total Facility Management’ (Atkin & Brooks, 2015) and ‘Value Based Facilities Management’ (Steven, 2015) through to FM operatives (teeth arms) everyone is crying out “Value me!” FM has struggled through difficult times with clients pushing the envelope on expectations without a real understanding of what FM provides.
There is now a real transition across the board where each and every one in the FM industry wants to promote and celebrate what we do.
After all, we aren’t just “Cleaners and Security” …
I believe that Facilities Management is a profession that strategically and operationally controls the essential working environment by integrating people, process and place in parallel with the overall business strategy.
So celebrate the successes of your team and promote the good work that you do every day! Work together to make the FM business the strongest it has ever been!