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A call to arms

The RICS Integrated Property Services Conference 2019, which took place in London on 1 July, focused on how to build trust in the facilities management profession

With a change in name from ‘Strategic FM Conference’ to ‘Integrated Property Services Conference’, this year’s annual RICS FM conference, supported by IFMA and the IFMA UK Chapter, saw a renewed focus on property and its relevance for those working in all strands of the sector. The theme was the issue of trust – in particular whether a decline in the public’s confidence in construction and outsourced services could adversely affect commercial prospects within the built environment.

The event, chaired by Lucy Jeynes, Founding Partner and MD of Larch Consulting, examined the role of the profession’s senior leadership in creating conditions conducive to sustained success. It included an illuminating discussion on how the procurement process for FM contracts can take a less transactional and more cohesive approach.

In his keynote address, Walter Boettcher, Chief Economist and Director of Research and Forecasting at Colliers International, outlined the state of both the world and the UK economy, honing in on how this could impact the health of the UK’s commercial real estate market. With Brexit uncertainty overshadowing the economy and political uncertainty here and abroad, he spoke of a sense that “the wind is shifting and the economy is at a turning point”, which might not bode well. “Part of my job,” he advised, “is tracking the property cycle, and the good news is that companies still have cash to invest. Brexit certainty down the road may even lead to a surge in demand. However, the current level of uncertainty is eroding business confidence.”

In the end, he concluded, “it takes educated people in a position of power to keep business flowing.”

His remarks segued neatly into the topic of the next session, which asked whether the FM market is putting enough value on procurement excellence. Derrick Tate, Director of FM Strategy and Transformation Lead at PwC, opened the session with an update on the progress of RICS’ draft Procurement of facility management: global code of practice, 2nd edition (see Institute news, page 8, for details).

Tate outlined three important criteria for success in procurement: preparation, transparency and professionalism. “I think it’s really important to prepare carefully before you go to market,” he said. “Know what you want, understand your needs, prepare your documents and determine your criteria.

“The next important area is transparency; be very clear with your potential suppliers on the timeframes and subtleties of what you are looking for and what you’re hoping to achieve. And finally, approach the supply market professionally, treat the companies you want to work with as partners, be professional in your communications and follow the code of practice.”

Nicholas Caton, Director of Procurement, Barclays, also had some salient advice. “If you’re going to drive business change you need to listen and be clear on the outcomes you want to drive for your organisation, including your cost chain against revenue, your talent agenda, your real estate portfolio, and look for innovation around all those ideas. Overall, you’ve got to listen and engage with the market.”

The main panel debate of the day brought together a group of FM professionals to discuss how facilities managers should act as ambassadors for the profession. The session, which was moderated by Russell Stevens, Operations Director – Facilities at Mace Macro, kicked off with a presentation by Margot Slattery, Country President – Ireland and NI, Sodexo, who dived right into the most pressing question of the day: how to rebuild trust.

“The services sector has become too transactional,” she argued. “FM has great professional pride but we’ve become too transactional, and driven [contracts] to the bottom line. The facilities sector, she concluded, needs to become more transparent and be prepared to demonstrate that it experiences both successes and failures.

Satvir Bungar, MD and Head of FM at BDO UK, argued that FM needs to be seen less as purely transaction but instead as a huge enabler for the workplace environment. This, he counselled, “demands strategic partnership and engagement. The future for FM is very positive, but it must be all about collaboration – not just a nice to have.”

The day also included some practical advice sessions, such as the primer by Terry Hayward, HR consultant for Workplace Law on outsourcing and the impact of employment law. There was also a review of the lessons learnt from the Edelman Trust Barometer, which helped to show why trust is a valuable asset for all institutions.

There was also a look at the potential of blockchain technology on the built environment and a case study, presented by Rory Murphy of VINCI Facilities, on the challenges of providing integrated operational services to the London Stadium.

Finally, Kath Fontana, Managing Director – Government and Critical Infrastructure, MITIE, and RICS Senior Vice President, gave a stirring talk on her ambitions for the sector. Her perspective was valuable, not least because from 2020 she will be the first FM to take on the presidency of the RICS.

“What excites me about facilities management is the opportunity to influence people’s lives,” she said. “Most of the people who work in this industry are not white collar, they’re much more likely to be blue collar professionals, many of whom are on minimum or living wage. We have a great opportunity to influence their futures and achieve lifelong employment in our industry.

“That’s what excites me, the ability to affect that social value. But achieving this sort of change requires effective senior leadership and trust. We need therefore to prove that our decisions stem from the very highest standards of practice, and demonstrate that we understand what makes communities tick.

“The FM sector offers us a unique playground to find ways of making things better for society. We have a huge opportunity as professionals to reframe our value add for clients, and most importantly to reframe the social value we generate with our employees and our communities.”

About Sarah OBeirne

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