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Evolution of Facilities Management

Ask any FM and they will tell you that the face of Facilities Management has changed greatly over the last decade, resulting in businesses no longer looking at the financial cost of support Departments in general as money through gritted teeth.

For those unaware, Facilities Management is, of course, a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure the smooth operation of the built environment by integrating people, place, process, and technology.
In the past, and in general, support departments have never been perceived as favorably as fee-earning departments, who have evidently sustained the business through their services. However, as clients continue to become more environmentally minded and amidst growing concerns about sustainability, businesses have had to adapt to meet recent changing demands and seriously look to the value of their support departments who often drive building efficiency aims from within.

In particular, the need for carbon reduction programmes along with the value of health and safety Accreditation has put the spotlight on facilities teams within the industry. Their role has enabled businesses to comply with legislation whilst meeting the growing demands of clients. In the 21st century, company ethics are just as important as the ability to get the job done. In the current challenging market, businesses often need to fulfill specific criteria from green compliance and company values to corporate responsibility before being able to tender for contracts.

With the value of Facilities Management being more commonly recognized through minimizing costs and maximizing standards, the FM Industry has boomed.

Property, processes, and people
One of those areas of recognition is property management. It has been suggested by some, that in their view, offices are set to be a thing of the past. And for years, this has been the argument for advocates of virtualization. Supporters of the ‘virtual office’ will tell you that technology is brushing aside the need for costly office space by the ability of remote or home working. However, evidence suggests otherwise. Despite the option of virtual working, the demand for office space shows no sign of abating, as people want the opportunity to be part of a vibrant, physical congregation with a definable purpose.

Regrettably, tragedies like 9/11 have recently served to remind FMs of the true value of effective property and facilities management, and general safety in the workplace. However, ultimately as a consequence of these terrible events more businesses are now investing in business continuity programmes along with a variety of security procedures to enhance the provision of staff safety.

In between juggling the property and facilities management needs, the aspect of improving client care has always been present. In many respects, the role of the FM is the glue between a variety of departments and key personnel. A good FM will be on first name terms with both the cleaner and the managing partner and be very aware of the contribution of each.

Saving the world

Beyond energy costs, the emerging pressures around environmental impact and compliance is another challenge for today’s FM. And the need to reduce carbon Emissions on a grand scale is a very real one. The legislation requires accurate reporting of energy consumption, and this, in turn, is giving FM’s a chance to identify trends through analysis and recognize potential energy wastage through each office’s consumption. Whilst corporate social responsibility (CSR) teams are to be encouraged for their commitment to the environment and receive recognition for their contribution, often the efforts of the FM go largely unsung.

Earth’s limited resources is always close to the FMs heart, and he/she will engage best practices in sustainability whenever possible to ensure operations are energy efficient, environmentally sound and promote the wellbeing for all. In doing so, FM’s also help preserve natural resources, work to limit organizational footprints and always try to do business with like-minded responsible individuals.

Whether it’s cutting costs or cutting carbon, all organizations are faced with fresh challenges in the post-recession economic climate, and a review of strategies for sourcing, management, and compliance offers an opportunity for positive change in difficult times. The forward-thinking FM needs to consider new solutions against tired practices. I recently read that Bill Bowerman, founder of the shoe company Nike, got his first shoe idea after staring at a waffle iron. This gave him the idea of using squared spikes to make the shoes lighter. The beauty of this fact reminds me that, sometimes, innovative ideas for improvement can derive from the oddest of places.

The future

The role of the FM is changing. Facilities Managers are stretching out of their comfort zone and looking to sophisticated technology to enhance all aspects of building management. This evolution of the FM is vital to meet the growing demands of organizations and individuals, whether its employees or clients. To be an effective FM in the 21st century you need to show flexibility and sustainability.

Facilities managers are now required to rise above the tactics related to management of their property and participate more fully at the corporate strategy level. Buildings and other assets must be developed and managed so as to complement brand, support corporate culture, and contribute broader value to business needs. As a key business element, each project or initiative undertaken by the FM will have to be developed to support productivity, innovation, worker satisfaction and positive client perception.

These days the challenge of leadership within the FM industry is a perplexing one. An FM needs to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour, but without foolishness.

Written by: Liam Guiney, Facilities Manager at Royal London

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