Total FM – but not as we’ve known it

As an FM consultant I am fortunate in that I get to visit a lot of different organisations representing a variety of sectors and all coming at facilities management (FM) from slightly different perspectives. It certainly helps to keep things interesting, but I have noticed an increasingly common theme that invariably comes up at some stage during the discussions and which goes something along the lines of ‘so Mike where do you think the future of FM lies?’

Being a true consultant I normally try to avoid providing direct answers to such questions; this on the grounds that I might be incriminating myself and, more seriously, in recognition of the fact that different organisations will be at different stages of FM maturity so that what is the right ‘future’ for one might be completely unsuitable for another. Having said this, over the past year or so I have become more and more convinced that the answer to the question is – yes you guessed it – the title of this article, i.e. ‘It’s total FM but not as we’ve known it’.

By way of explanation as to what I mean by this, it is perhaps appropriate to first think back a few years to the start of the outsourcing ‘phenomenon’. This was probably sometime around the late 80s/early 90s but I am prepared to be corrected on this. At that time total facilities management (TFM) was seen as being the ‘magic bullet’ that was going to cure all of FM’s ills.

Unfortunately too many organisations rushed into things and it was not very long before TFM became something of a ‘dirty word’. From some perspectives much of the criticism levelled at it was unfair and resulted from organisations seeking to outsource without fully thinking through the implications – i.e.: the ‘baby and bathwater’ syndrome. However, there is no doubt that some of these early TFM contracts suffered E 
F from slow response times, gaps in service provision, duplication of management effort, etc.

Obviously the market has matured greatly during the interim and many of these early issues have now been ‘solved’, but let me be clear, when I refer to TFM I am not advocating a return to the ‘bad old days’. Instead what I am advocating is what I envisage as being an intellectual collaborative between all parties i.e.: end users/occupiers, service providers and consultants.

To expand further on my theme we need to next think about the criteria necessary for efficient and effective FM to take place. Within my own organisation we tend to refer to these as being the three facets of: sponsorship, intelligence and service management.

Sponsorship in this context is all about the ownership of responsibility for the provision of facilities, i.e. the stewardship of an organisation’s facilities policy for the provision, maintenance and allocation of the facilities resources required to support corporate objectives. The facilities policy is therefore effectively the service level agreement between the FM regime and its parent organisation; it requires constant monitoring, directing and changing to ensure that it is always supportive of organisational objectives (as set out in the corporate business plan).

The Intelligence facet has two aspects; the first of these is inward-looking and revolves around understanding what the internal customer’s objectives are and how these translate into FM needs (rather than wants). Equally, Intelligence needs to look outward to what the external marketplace is doing in terms of understanding its capabilities and the implications of service delivery changes, technology improvements and the like. Both the internal and external marketplaces are subject to constant change and the Intelligence facet is concerned with making sure that one is always in tune with the other.

Service Management is probably the easiest of the three facets to explain – essentially it does what it says on the tin. Thus Service Management is concerned with the tactical, day-to-day operational management and delivery of FM services. Of course in real life it is often not as simple as it sounds. As we all know there is a multitude of different ways in which services can be packaged and deciding which is most appropriate to any particular organisation is something of an art in itself.

So much for the theory, let us turn our attention now to some of the realities of the situation in which FM finds itself. Here we firstly need to be mindful of the effects of the recession and the associated Public Spending Review. The implications of both are only just starting to work their way through the system and it seems certain therefore that (rightly or wrongly) the emphasis is going to remain of ‘cost reduction’ rather than ‘value for money’ for the foreseeable future (until at least 2017/18 if I remember the Chancellor’s Autumn statement correctly).

Conversely, there are a number of issues that have the potential to push the cost balance in the wrong direction for organisations that are seeking to reduce expenditure. Here we need to be aware of the effect of several things: The ever-increasing legislative/regulatory framework within which FM (of necessity and quite correctly!) operates. Starting with the Corporate Manslaughter Act of 2007 this is an area of ever-increasing complexity; The rapid change that is taking place in terms of information and communications technologies. Technological advances mean that the use of hand-held devices such as palm-tops is becoming the norm rather than the exception that it was just a short time ago. Equally remote monitoring through the use of RFID (radio frequency identification) devices is now a reality and the use of BIM (building information modelling) is starting to gain traction;

The sustainability agenda, which has immense implications for FM particularly when we think in terms of whole-life (I am convinced that as facilities managers we should be thinking about the environmental impact of buildings over their life rather than simply in terms of the resources used to create them in the first place).

New methods of working which, with their focus on the more intensive use of space, present a whole new series of challenges – and have knock-on effects in terms of all of the above, i.e. legislation, technology and sustainability.

In seeking to reconcile these opposing market led influences and derive a cost-effective solution it is likely that a facilities manager will need to call on a variety of different skillsets (see ‘The FM Skillset’ panel). I have listed some of these below – apologies in advance to any that I have forgotten; this list is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to be fully inclusive.

I could go on, but hopefully I have made my point which is essentially that FM is a complex ‘beast’ that operates in an ever‑changing environment.  Given this, I believe that it is impractical to expect that any one organisation can ever deliver all of its FM needs from its own internal resources. Instead what we should be aiming for is an intelligent co-operative or intellectual collaborative involving the whole of the FM supply chain. In achieving this service providers will need to be ‘less backward about coming forward’ – less colloquially, they need to contribute positively to the overall FM value proposition of the organisations that they are working for.   

Similarly, end-users/occupiers need to encourage service providers in this respect by being more open to ‘risk and reward’ type arrangements. Lastly the consultants need to fill the gaps and in so doing provide the gel that pulls the whole ‘piece’ together. In other words the future of FM is ‘Total FM – but not as we’ve known it’.

About the author
Mike Packhamm is a member of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) Expert Interest Panel which supports the on-going development of the BIFM knowledge provision for members.

BIFM has a number of special interest groups which would be of interest to those involved in the Government public sector including healthcare, building services, health & safety, procurement, sustainability, risk & business continuity management and workplace.


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