Another project was successfully concluded last month, and as is often the case at such times it gave way to a degree of introspection. In fact, with two substantial pieces of work occurring back to back, this is the first time for some eighteen months or so that I’ve actually been able to stop and consider the high (and very occasional low) points, and the learning to come out of each.
Both projects presented what might appear to be logistical difficulties. The first was a total FM outsource encompassing nearly 100 sites and some 15 countries within Europe; the second – again, a total FM outsource – comprised some 2,200 sites, all in the UK but subject to a programme at least 30% shorter than would have been ideal. In each case, the client was initially uncertain as to whether the objectives that were set at the outset were realistic, but ultimately those objectives were exceeded by some margin. Despite the differences (and the two organisations were like chalk and cheese in every respect), successful delivery was based upon a few consistent principles.
However, another thing that was common to both both of these examples was the quality of the relationship between client and adviser, because when we really have the client’s trust, and when we’re really empowered to work as a member of the internal management team, the process becomes so much easier and so much more rewarding – for all parties.
In fact, the last eighteen months have probably been the most rewarding of my career, at no time more so than when the bid leader of a very impressive (but in this case unsuccessful) supply chain organisation told me that she’d never enjoyed participating in a tender process as much as the one that had just come to an end. Indeed, every project is to some extent about building relationships, and it’s the thing I love most about what I do.
Here’s to new challenges, then, and new relationships. And to another 18 months like the last.
Yet again, the sound of magazine landing on mat has resulted in me posting on this blog. In fact, this will be three posts within a week, which brings new meaning to “prolific” and reminds me of the days – many years ago – when I was quite well known (in the blogosphere’s anonymous way) for a personal blog that achieved a degree of notoriety. And no, I won’t tell you how to find it.
Anyway, FM World was the magazine in question, and the leader by Martin Read was the specific article that prompted a reaction. In a well-written piece, Martin bemoans the demise of the office of old; alive with the sound of hard-working salary slaves, and a thriving centre of social interaction. A place where we could all engage in a meeting of minds and a sharing of ideas, such that simply being alongside our colleagues would ensure that we achieved the very best that we could.
Martin’s view is that “technological trends are working against the priceless social cohesion that the office has traditionally provided”. He cites Instant Messaging, and the propensity for people to communicate electronically instead of face to face, for the disfunctional offices (my term, not Martin’s) that we find ourselves working in today, and concludes that “organisations should think really hard before committing to a future based upon flexible working”.
I can’t help feeling that Martin has missed the point here, because there’s no turning back the clock. Technology has revolutionised the way we work and will continue to do so; the issue is no longer whether it’s a good thing, but more how we can harness it in a positive way, rather than simply using it because it’s there. And if this means that we continue to rethink where property fits within the corporate environment and culture, so much the better, because the costs of commercial property are such that any increase in occupational efficiency can only be a good thing.
Now, I’m not for one moment suggesting that the days of the office are dead; on the contrary, a physical focal point for a corporate entity, and a hub for activity that requires interaction with others will always be required. But providing accommodation for all when many people can work more efficiently elsewhere is nonsensical. Indeed, the time and cost of traveling alone can mean that the traditional working day is inherently inefficient.
Where technology is implemented in the workplace, it has to be for the right reasons. In other words, we should be utilising technology because it makes us better at what we do, or at least more efficient in the way that we do it. And where technology is introduced, it has to go hand in hand with guidance and instruction on the manner in which it’s to be utilised. Indeed, it needs more than just instruction, because technology has brought about massive change in terms of organisational culture. To get it right, we need collaboration that involves not only an organisations leaders but also IT, HR and FM; all have a part to play in determining what a business needs; how those needs are going to be addressed; and how the resultant change needs to be managed.
Getting this right opens the door for effective flexible working. This might mean that people are no longer required to sit at a desk every day of every week, but if that’s the case it should be because a better alternative has been provided. And there are countless other types of efficiency that can also be realised, from video-conferencing instead of traveling the length and breadth of the country to removing the contraints of a corporate IT network whilst still enabling access to files and documents. In other words, escaping the physical constraints of the traditional working environment.
Perhaps we’re still learning what this means, and how we might best harness the power of technology without becoming it’s slave. However, the old days are gone, and I for one say “good riddance”. How can anyone not be excited about the future?
Some time ago, I wrote about the progress made within BIFM with regard to a meaningful qualifications framework. I now see that a further level (Level 7 – Certificate and Diploma in Facilities Management) is due to come onstream during 2012 along with a number of other new products as yet unknown.
BIFM state that these “have been approved by Ofqual and are regulated qualifications on the Qualifications and Credit Framework” and that they ” also form an integral pathway leading to a MSc in Applied Facilities Management which will be launched by Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) School of the Built Environment in September 2012.” You can read more about them at the BIFM website and also by having a look at the course in detail over at LJMU.
I can’t stress enough what good news this is for the FM discipline. I’ve been banging the drum of qualification – and the professionalisation of FM that it will lead to – for years now. BIFM’s old framework that lead for some to BIFMQual clearly needed overhauling, and that’s just what the Institute has done. We now need to see plenty of take-up because, with the other higher/degree level opportunities around, it’s never been easier to bolster experience with learning. And we need to be able to demonstrate to those alongside whom we work that we really can add value; that FM isn’t just about sourcing the cheapest toilet paper.
When I graduated, it was as a mature student with a demanding job and two young children. It was difficult to juggle work, family and study but it was an incredibly rewarding experience and one that I can’t recommend highly enough. Go on… take the plunge!
I just had my first Saturday morning cup of coffee (okay, I may have had a Marlborough Light with it too). On this particular Saturday I had the bonus not only of a quiet household as both kids and fiancé were still quietly tucked up in bed, but also of reading the FMX interview with David Emanuel. In fact, it was the magazine landing on the mat that woke me from my own slumber.
I’ve always liked David, partly because I think he’s a good guy with an engaging personality, but also because he’s not afraid to rock the boat, or to challenge the conventional wisdom. I’ve been called both a maverick and an iconoclast myself in the past, so I guess it’s not surprising that I respect those who have the courage to question those things that disturb them and to seek the truth where others might just fear to tread.
In fact, I thought that the interview was fairly low-key (damn you, David). It did raise one or two issues about which I found myself nodding in agreement, however, and it prompted me to seek out my quill and ink in order to summarise those thoughts here. (I should really do this more often, of course, but life just seems to get in the way!)
On Chartership – personally, I just about side with the “it’s a discipline, not a profession” camp but to be honest I haven’t lost too much sleep dwelling on whether or not Chartership is the right thing for Facilities Management. What I do think is that BIFM now needs to make known it’s intentions once and for all, and either progress the issue of Chartership to a conclusion or put the matter to bed.
On qualifications – for far too long, I’ve listened to the argument that qualifications are a waste of time, and that in FM its experience that counts; almost always, those arguments are put forward by those without qualifications and who are unwilling, unable or just unmotivated to achieve them. For me, it’s a no-brainer; the higher the percentage of FM practitioners that are qualified, the more seriously we’ll all be taken. And by that, I mean taken seriously by those who are genuinely responsible for strategic decision-making; yes, the Board, where FM’s don’t sit and likely never will. (Don’t get me started on that one.)
On communication – BIFM, RICS and FMA need to understand the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. All three organisations have a part to play in the future (and the future growth) of FM, and whilst it may be something of a pipedream to imagine them all working in harmony, and with common objectives, it’s a laudable pipedream. We need strong leadership from all three, but we also need forthright, honest and regular communication; many of us would say that this form of communication has been lacking in the past, and that’s simply not good enough.
On FM and property convergence – dear god, how long will we be talking about this before something positive happens as a consequence? I’ve been fortunate to work in an advisory capacity with some of the world’s largest corporates right down to SME’s, but one consistent theme is that there’s rarely enough concrete and accurate data on the property portfolio. Indeed, in every major outsource that I’ve managed getting consistent and reliable property portfolio data is always one of the hardest tasks. Yet without that, how are we in FM to identify opportunities; to provide the added value expected of us; or to properly define the services that will best serve the business? We need to be working hand in hand with our property cousins, and we need to be doing it now!
There… I’m now going to make myself another coffee (I’ve let the one I was drinking go cold) and carry on reading.
I see that yet more research on workplace changes has now been published, this time in the form of Johnson Controls’ Collaboration 2020 report. JCI based their findings upon the responses of some 1,700 people in 7 countries (respondents were from the US, UK, Germany, Australia, India, Canada and China) – not a bad number, and one that should be able to provide a pretty clear indication as to whether expectations are continuing to change as technology becomes increasingly available.
The findings indicate that team working, and the use of collaborative technologies, is on the rise (no surprise there, I guess). At the same time, the demand for traditional meeting spaces is likely to drop, with a decrease of 13% in respect of likely demand for such facilities in 2020 compared to today. Even the ubiquitous desk phone seems set for obsolescence in the not too distant future. Key findings of the survey included:
• Web conference – 19% reported high use currently, with 57% anticipating higher use in 2020
• Two-dimensional video conferencing – 18% to 51%
• Team spaces with incorporated collaborative technologies – 20% to 52%
• Dedicated collaboration room – 18% to 36%
• Instant messaging – 33% to 54%
• Traditional meeting room – 40% to 27%
• Desk phone – 50% to 33%
• Three-dimensional video conferencing – 44% of office workers anticipate high use in 2020.
This all seems like pretty conclusive stuff, but I was struck by one of the quotes from the report that was included within BIFM’s summary in FM World Daily:
“Failure to invest in collaborative technologies and updated workspaces will hamper productivity. This has an impact on people designing new workspaces or retrofitting existing ones today.”
To my mind, this highlights a deficiency of the report, in that it took its samples from a very limited geographic footprint; in particular, very little from mainland Europe and nothing at all from the central European belt or east thereof.
I’ve had a fair amount of experience in dealing with both FM outsourcing and office redesign/fit out across Europe, for some of the world’s largest corporates. What I’ve tended to find, though, are two things that hamper the harnessing of efficiencies through intelligent design and sensible utilisation of technology:
1) “Local” management operates with a large degree of autonomy, and is usually adamant that it will “re-engineer” central process and approach to suit.
2) Central REFM functions are unable to insist on a common approach and methodology across geographic boundaries, as to a large extent their role is advisory (less so in terms of acquisition/disposal, admittedly, but certainly in terms of the issues under discussion).
The inevitable consequence is that objectives get diluted, and that – particularly in central and eastern Europe where views tend to be a little more traditional than here in the UK – opportunities to embrace new ways of working are lost. What starts out as an admirable intention to drive the organisation into a new age becomes a whole lot less than that.
I’d be interested to hear the experience of others who have worked across Europe, and have encountered similar difficulties. It’s an interesting and challenging issue, but until the large multi-nationals determine to address it I suspect the consequences are inevitable.
Yes, I’ve done it – I’ve taken the plunge and joined the flock. You can find me here!
Some time ago, my involvement with BIFM was far greater that it’s been of late. I spent a couple of interesting years as the corporate representative on Council; was actively involved in the Knowledge and International SIG committees, and well as the Corporate sub-committee; and regularly attended events and conferences in order both to enhance my learning and to network with my peers.
More recently, I’ve been less involved than I would have liked, but my desire to do anything more that watch from the sidelines was to some extent limited by what I felt was a tendency towards bureaucracy, and a structure & public face that seemed far to entrenched in tradition. That now seems to have changed, and I for one am delighted to see it happen.
I can cite two immediate examples of this (although, bearing in mind that this is a blog, I’d be delighted to hear your views on the subject too). Firstly, the qualification framework – whilst still in relative infancy – is clearly much more fit for purpose that it’s predecessor, the BIFM Qual; the latter was to my mind singularly unsuccessful, with limited take-up and suffering from the constraints of being non-accredited. The second example is the introduction of the “Certified” status of CBIFM for individual members. For too long, I believe that members have felt that the focus on corporates has been to the detriment of the individual; however, CBIFM now means that members with tangible knowledge and experience can make themselves known. (As an early adopter and beneficiary of those post-nominals, I would say that, of course!)
Recently, I accepted an invitation to represent the Institute as one of a small number of EuroFM Ambassadors, a role I was delighted to take on in the light of my changing perception of BIFM. I’m looking forward to what will be a more direct involvement than I’ve had for quite a while, and am happy to give of my time for an organisation that seems to be heading in the right direction.