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July 17, 2014

Are you – as a 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 a ten percent smaller 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 organization released the “Facility Management Trend Report: Emerging Opportunities for Industry Leaders,” which explains what property and facility managers can do to better estimate 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). As Darwin put it, “It is not the strongest that survives, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Controlling uncertainty is part of daily life, and property and facility managers have to adapt to stay successful. The key questions in our field of specialization are to what and how quickly? In an answer to these questions, the Facility Management Trend Report identifies three strategic points.

1. Leading the conversation: increasing FM’s impact on the C-suite
Property and facility managers should engage in more activities which positively influence the creativity, productivity, efficiency, and the recruitment and retention of top talent. This begins by gaining a deeper understanding of the organization and its strategy. Every organization is different and will have different requirements for accommodations and related services.

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 organization isn’t going to get you there. Communicating in your own FM jargon generally has an “alienating effect” on the rest of your organization. Therefore, formulating this policy in a comprehensible manner is just as important.

3. Building the future of FM:
To continue formulating effective answers to the aforementioned challenges, the facilities organization 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 improvement?
  • Building integrated systems: Do we have the right information at the right time to identify the necessity to change and subsequently make the right decisions?
  • Building agility and change management processes: Are the corresponding processes in place to implement the decisions and changes?

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

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

Offering a relevant environment (by any definition) that enables people to optimally carry out their creative work, is therefore a strategic activity. It is possible that in a few years a dedicated building will no longer be required for this, and you will be managing only a fraction of your current property portfolio.
This is about posing existential questions. If you cannot explain what strategic role you play, you will never be in the picture to C-level management. If you wish to remain responsible for the furnishings, continue to focus on that work. However, if you truly wish to be important within your organization, 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