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17 June 2014

Are you - as facility or property manager - focusing on the right things?

“Thank you for all the great work you’ve done this year. Can you do the same next year, but with ten percent less budget?”. If you recognise this question, you might ask yourself whether you are being sufficiently strategic. If you truly want to be beneficial at a strategic level, it is not about saving money, but about actually delivering added value. But what exactly does the added value consist of?

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This is a question which is regularly discussed within the occupational group and to which the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) is attempting to formulate an answer. Following IFMA’s 2013 World Workplace, the organisation has released the ‘Facility Management Trend Report: Emerging Opportunities for Industry Leaders’, which explains what property and facility managers should or could do to be better recognised for their value.

Changing world

The world around us is in a constant state of change. With change comes uncertainty. A term often applied for this is ‘VUCA’ (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). Controlling these aspects is part of daily life. As Darwin put it: “It is not the strongest that survives, it is the one that is the most adaptable.”

Do property and facility managers have to adapt? And if so, to what and how quickly? These are key questions in our field of specialisation. In an answer to this question, the Facility Management Trend Report identifies three strategic points of attention.

1. Leading the conversation: increasing FM’s impact on the C-suite
Property and facility managers should engage more in activities which positively influence the creativity, productivity, efficiency and the recruitment and retention of top talents. This begins by obtaining a deeper understanding of the essence of their own organisation and its strategy. Every organisation is different and every organisation will have different requirements for and expectations of accommodation and related service provision.

2. Speaking the right language: FM’s direct connection to business priorities
Simply connecting accommodation and facility policies with the goals and key activities of the organisation isn’t going to get you there. Formulating this policy in a comprehensible manner is just as important. Communicating in your own FM jargon generally has an ‘alienating effect’ on the rest of your organisation.

3. Building the future of FM:
To continue formulating effective answers to aforementioned challenges, the facilities organisation must continue to develop itself on three points:

  • Building talent: Have we employed the right people and are they developing themselves in the areas where we expect or notice change?
  • Building integrated systems: Do we have the right information at the right time to identify the necessity to change and subsequently take the right decisions?
  • Building agility and change management processes: Are the corresponding processes in place to effectuate the decisions and/or implement the changes.

Added value: product management?

When we look at the current, formal definitions of accommodation and FM, we see that their focus lies on aspects of the constructed environment and internal services. But is this truly the core to your right to exist? Or are there more important matters you could (in part) assert responsibility for? We often concentrate on what we have to do, and ask ourselves less often why we should do it. Or, what other things we could do, in order to add more value.

Why do we need buildings? And FM services? Within organisations, work is the factor that creates value. Producing goods, providing services, inventing new products and innovations are the driving force behind the economy.

Offering a relevant environment (by any definition) that enables people to optimally carry out their creative work, is therefore an activity with strategic aspects. It is possible that in a few years time a dedicated building will no longer be required for this or only a fraction of your current property portfolio.

It is about posing existential questions. If you cannot explain what strategic part you play, you will never be in the picture at C-level management. If you wish to remain responsible for the furnishings, please continue to focus on this work. If you truly wish to be important within your organisation, you must first be able to explain why you are important. It is not up to me to answer that question, but it is vital to everyone in our field to reflect on it. Consequently you will seldom be asked to save ten percent.

Erik Jaspers
Global Product Strategy & Innovation Director