Strategic FM from the RICS Perspective
There has been a widely acknowledged drive within the facilities management industry to act strategically and professionally. Johnny Dunford, Global Commercial Property Director at RICS explains how the organisation is leveraging its global expertise to develop tools that will enable FMs to support best practice.
There has been a widely acknowledged drive within much of the Facilities Management (FM) industry to act strategically and professionally. RICS has worked hard to develop the tools to enable facilities managers do this, as we believe our global reach and established record in providing education and supporting best practice, makes us uniquely qualified to achieve this.
The launch last November of our Global Strategic Facilities Management Guidance has given practitioners a route-map of the processes needed to align business and facilities strategies and plans. It also outlines methods for managing service delivery and performance and measuring results.
RICS’ Guidance Note has been developed to directly address the needs of the FM sector, by providing it with a recognisable and agreed document outlining best practice. We believe that FM practitioners can become more strategic by consulting the guidance note and that this will support the ongoing professionalisation of the sector on a global basis, increasing the recognition and understanding of the importance of value added FM at all corporate levels and in all countries.
We know from our feedback that business has tended to categorise FM by its day-to-day service functions and has not given it the position it deserves at the decision making table. This is beginning to change in the UK and we believe the Guidance Note is already working to help drive professionalism and strategic thinking in the sector. This will, in turn, cement facilities managers role in the helping companies achieve their corporate objectives.
The management of facilities is an increasingly complex operation and requires technical expertise and experience. Professional facilities managers need much more than technical skills, they also need to understand how the working environment impacts on the productivity of staff, computing and mobile technologies, strategic business planning and the value and marketability of the facilities being managed.
The Guidance Note, prepared by RICS’ Strategic Guidance Working Group, can support facilities managers in all these areas. It has extra validity because it was shaped by feedback from both UK and global consultations, in which the views of FM professionals worldwide were listened to and analysed and incorporated into the final document.
It offers best practice guidance to facilities managers and corporate real estate professionals on developing, implementing and evaluating a strategic property management plan. Sections cover understanding of corporate vision and adapting strategies to wider business objectives. This ensures FM practitioners are given the skills to directly contribute to business plans and therefore become valued leaders in their field.
We know that the success of the facilities management operation depends on the delivery teams, both as client and supplier, understanding the strategic focus of the organisation and, in larger businesses, the varying strategies of each business unit. Ours is a personal business and the networking of the in-house team through the organisation and capturing the ‘over the horizon’ vision of operational managers will assist in producing an aligned and supportive operational strategy by the facilities group.
In these circumstances, it may be that the facilities manager is the conduit who relays the operational strategies to the real estate, ICT, HR and other corporate service support groups. It is also imperative that the client-side facilities manager passes on the strategic and delivery information to the supply-side manager so that there is a commonality of understanding about the direction of the business and support levels required to achieve business-wide objectives.
The communication networks should be used to gather operational and strategic information to inform the on-going accommodation and FM strategies but also to ‘sell’ the facilities service as a key constituent of the corporate support group.
The tools used to measure the effectiveness of an FM strategy will vary depending on the sector, however, it is unlikely that a simple cost obsessive approach will provide maximum benefits. We recommend a scorecard approach that looks at cost, space and utilisation metrics. This will then need to be benchmarked against past performance within the organisation and against comparable operations. Another indication of an effective strategy is an uplift in workplace productivity, something that can be attributed to an FM plan that is operating in accordance with the needs of staff and thereby improving satisfaction.
The guidance provides a clear route-map for practitioners and businesses detailing the processes that need to be followed to ensure alignment of business and facilities strategies, whilst still ensuring the management of service delivery and performance. This route map can be summarised by these stages.
There are varying levels of strategic thinking and planning involved in the delivery of an effective FM plan, starting with an understanding of the corporate strategy and vision. This is, by its very nature, the fundamental basis that all areas of the business will cascade from and feed back in to. Property is no exception and as one of business’ biggest expenditures, along with staff, it must run in accordance with the overriding company objectives in order to enhance business performance. The operational strategies of the building will therefore be based on a top level statement outlining what the corporate strategy requires from its space and services.
The plan needs to be tested and appraised financially as it develops, taking into account the impact on other corporate resources, including staff. It will require close liaison with other service providers including HR and IT managers and the operational teams. These operational colleagues need to be routinely challenged about accommodation – is it the right type? Quality? Size? Location? Cost? This will crucially help to identify where the weaknesses lie and where improvements can be made to feedback into the FM plan. Consideration is also needed as to how best to deliver the FM services, which could be solely in-house, outsourced or a carefully orchestrated mix. If services are to be outsourced, agreed tender processes and management procedures need to be put in place to ensure this runs smoothly and detailed advice is provided within the guidance document.
Crucial to developing and delivering an effective FM strategy is the review stage. This should be a circular process where findings regularly feed into the FM strategy, enabling it to continually develop and improve. Facilities managers need to sit down regularly with business leaders to have an open discussion about the FM plan. This should also take into account where any business objectives may have shifted.
RICS’ Global Strategic Facilities Management Guidance Note is freely available. To access it for more information on implementing a strategic FM plan visit www.rics.org/facilitiesmanagement and follow the links.