The drive to professionalise the Facilities Management profession is one I have long been a strong advocate for. The current appetite for strong ethical and responsible business practices can only enhance and develop the standing and relevance of all of us that are working and delivering services in the FM arena.
The need to work to a defined standard and to hard bake into the delivery of FM services robust, clear and professional processes has obvious benefits. In the first instance customers want to engage with professional organisations with a degree of certainty as to the quality and type of service that will be delivered, in house organisations will equally wish to ensure that their teams are efficient and providing best value solutions against a measurable and definable set of parameters.
The rapid digitisation of our industry will also mean that we will need to be very clear about the business processes that we follow to enable those procedures to be digitally replicated and built into the management systems of the future.
Standards also give an auditable performance criteria which allows organisations to be assessed, benchmarked and improved by independent third party organisations to ensure that the industry improves its performance.
The case for standards is clear but the proliferation of standards from the various awarding bodies is anything but. Are we expected as a sector to adopt every standard? Can any business genuinely purport to being able to administer and manage all the ‘relevant’ standards in the market? Do the standards offer best value to our end users and fundamentally do all our people understand and appreciate the obligations that compliance with the various standards entails?
We have three main standard setting bodies that operate across our sector that can impact and influence how FM services are delivered. The BSI operates purely in the UK with CEN (Comité Européen de Normalisation) bringing the European dynamic and ultimately ISO (International Organization for Standardization) looking to standardise internationally wherever possible.
These organisations are also joined within our own FM sphere by our professional bodies in terms of RICS, BIFM, CIPS, CIBSE to name just a few.
Every FM business operating within the UK would require the Health & Safety, Environmental and Quality ISO standards to be able to deliver any services but after those three how do businesses assess what are the best standards for them to operate within and comply with?
We operate within a market that now offers us standards in Facilities Management (ISO 41011) Asset Management (ISO 55001) Energy Management (ISO 50001) to name but three. These more operationally focussed standards are also sat alongside documents that look to standardise our behaviours such as Collaborative working (ISO 44001) or even the design and operation of the environments within which we work such as the WELL Buildings, Fitwel or BREEAM standards. We have standards of measurement, sector specific standards such as HTM’s in healthcare and obviously SFG 20 in terms of recommended maintenance strategies within the built environment.
Surely we can’t do it all…. The reality in the FM sector although true across any facet of our economy is that excellent delivery is a balance between people and process. The difference in FM is that we rely heavily on the human factor and our teams on the front line may drown under the weight of our perceived standards if we are not careful about choosing the ones that truly make a difference to our delivery.
Standards are undoubtedly a fundamental plank of consistent performance but before layering more process and procedure within any business there should be a healthy challenge as to the ultimate business benefit this can deliver. Standards should never become a tick box exercise for any operation, if a standard is relevant and necessary then they should be adopted wholeheartedly, if a standard is being adopted to simply bolster a list of credentials then a degree of scepticism would be healthy.