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Pushing the boundaries

One of the key themes to emerge from RICS strategic FM conference held in June, was the institute’s aim to help redefine the boundaries of the discipline, from conversations about cost to those of value creation – helping to define FM as a business enabler rather than a cost centre

“If you want to feel valued you have to create value”, said Kath Fontana, MD of Technical Services at ISS and Chair of the RICS Professional Board for FM in her presentation on changing the conversation from cost to value. “KPI’s” she said, “just prove you’re doing what you’re getting paid for, we must therefore move to demonstrating and proving that FM adds great value.”

But there are quite a few challenges ahead it was agreed, to meet those aims, not least that of embracing the new digital technologies in such a way that FM remains at the forefront of innovation within the built environment.

Speaking at a panel discussion on RICS’ ongoing Raising the bar initiative, ‘from operational excellence to strategic impact in FM’, which was presented by its lead author Robert Harris, of Ramidus Consulting; Philip Ross CEO of Unwork who is perhaps best described as a ‘futurologist’ argued that with technology moving at such a fast rate, there is a risk to the profession of being left behind if it falls into the remit of the CIO or the IT director. He said: “As digital technology becomes a big disruptor in buildings there is an opportunity for FM to grab it and own it, but the risk is – if you don’t act fast, you’ll lose it to the domain of the IT director.”

Another challenge commented Matt Mannion of Skanska UK was how FMs articulate themselves to the c-suite in ways they can understand, and in a corporate environment he added, that is often in terms of profit and loss. FMs need to ask what difference they can make to profitability – he said, but by collecting data they can explain it in a way the c-suite can understand – along with the benefits. “The c-suite wants something tangible and data is exactly that,” he said, “it’s not opinion, it’s fact.”

Russell Smith, Head of Estates at the University of Bradford stressed the importance of attracting people into the profession and offering them a clear career path – a point echoed by Matthew Fedigan, winner of the RICS young surveyor of the year 2016 who said with up to five generations entering the workplace now is the time for them to collaborate with each other, whatever their generation, as millennials might understand the technology but lack experience in other areas.

The conference was the perfect place for RICS to present its progress so far in its collaboration with IFMA which was announced last year. Combining global standards and an improved understanding of the FM sector is a key aim explained Jo Lindon, Head of Brand Marketing for RICS – alongside the Institute’s ongoing campaign to improve professional standards and identify a professional career pathway.

Dave Wilson, MD of Effective Facilities and author of the IFMA-RICS guidance note brought delegates up-to-date with the progress of the second edition which will be aligned with ISO standard check. He also reminded those RICS members in the audience that the agreement with IFMA offers them opportunities to engage with a global community of FMs.

As important as the direction of travel for FMs is to anyone in the profession, the conference didn’t indulge in naval gazing, with as much emphasis on the ways in which FM can enhance the experience of building occupiers as beat its own drum. This theme was brought to life by Maciej Markowski, Head of Workplace Strategy at Cushman and Wakefield who argued that a workplace can be a great tool in itself for organisations to sell themselves to clients and the talent pool, which he suggested, may mean that FM moves more towards being a sort of hospitality discipline.

The wider issue of a place’s influence on wellbeing was explored by Megan Horsburgh Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Sodexo which presented the services providers’ own case study which helps demonstrate how the overall quality of workplace occupants’ lives can be greatly influenced by the quality of their workplace.

Another yet to be begun, let alone completed case study is that of the work to be carried out at the Palace of Westminster where its much-publicised restoration and renewal programme has been poured over by the government, the press and perhaps most dauntingly for Emma Wharton Director of Temporary Accommodation and Andrew Piper Design Director for the programme; a Joint Committee of MPs and Peers.

In a fascinating presentation, they described the evolution of the building which dates back (in part) to Edward the Confessor in 1045. One job alone of finding the building records to the Palace’s largely Victorian sewage works involved a trip to the commons library, and it was explained, there will be a huge upskilling process needed for the project.

The theme of upskilling was one of the topics discussed by Conference Chair Rory Murphy – Commercial Director at VINCI and a member of RICS FM Professional Group, David Emanuel MD of i-FM, Chris Moriarty MD of Leesman Index in a panel chaired by Lucy Jeynes MD at Larch Consulting.

Skills is a complicated landscape said Chris Moriarty, and the challenge is meeting the range of skills needed to keep up with the pace of change, and he added, we need a better blend of formal and informal qualifications which adapt quickly.

David Emanuel argues that FMs need to be better communicators, and managers will need to be better at understanding analytics. Rory Murphy said that FMs have to be such generalists in management, technical and building skills the challenge is around understanding the competencies we need for now and the future.

In terms of communications he added, “we do get slightly obsessed about talking to ourselves – we need to be talking to our customers, clients and other teams to explain what our value really means”.

To learn more about RICS FM visit www.rics.org/uk/tag/facilities-management/

About Sarah OBeirne

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