The new ISO 41011:2017 Facility management standard is designed to ensure FM is viewed as a strategically important discipline in the management, operation and maintenance of the workplace. It was recently adopted formally by the BIFM; while IFMA and RICS have been active in encouraging those representing the industry to actively engage with the new standard. What benefits do you believe it can bring to the discipline and what more could FMs, suppliers and FM associations do to help promote it to organisations as a more formal way of demonstrating the consistent delivery and costing of support services?
The new standard is just the start of an exciting journey for facility management. Not least of its impacts will, I hope, be an end to discussions about what FM is, since it contains the final definitive definition of what we do: FM is the “organisational function which integrates people, place and process within the built environment with the purpose of improving the quality of life of people and the productivity of the core business”.
This new standard forms the key stepping stone to two other important standards. Firstly, there is ISO41012, on strategic sourcing of FM which has been published simultaneously with 41011 and provides excellent guidance on how to take decisions on what services are needed and how to decide how best to obtain those services, including issues around whether or not to outsource.
But most excitingly next year will see the publication of ISO41001, which is a management system standard, equivalent to ISO9001 which most people will be familiar with, but specifically aimed at organisations providing facility management. For me, that finally gives our profession and industry the credibility we have sought for so long. Having a standard which allows accreditation of both internal FM teams and external providers allows not only a benchmark by which fitness for purpose of an FM organisation can be assessed, but a means of demonstrating to clients – again, whether they are internal or external – that the service is both professional and tailored to meet their needs.
That is because the standard requires a process to be followed which ensures alignment of the FM service with the actual needs of the organisation it serves, known as the “demand organisation”. Starting from a strategic analysis of the demand organisation’s activities and real needs, through to the expression of those needs as specified requirements of the FM service, the standard not only stipulates a documented process but provides thorough guidance on the issues to be considered.
Following that, there is a process for assessing delivery resources and then controlling, measuring and amending service outcomes. Through this mechanism the management system approach permits FM professionals to focus on clients’ real needs and apply their skills to the development of consistent yet flexible service delivery.
For me, this combination of Standards could be revolutionary. Accredited FM organisations will, in effect, have the means to create their own specification of services by following the process set out, and the means to demonstrate compliance with both that specification and with the needs of client and service users. It makes it far simpler for internal teams to demonstrate their competence, for buyers to assess potential service providers, and for those service providers to guarantee the reliability and suitability of their services. If achieving ISO41001 accreditation becomes widely required, as I hope it will, the real value of what FM does will at last be beyond dispute.
Whilst I am all for standardisation of processes and qualitative output where necessary, I would question whether there is enough of a need for this and how much it will really benefit the industry. For a start, who decided this was necessary and on what basis? Who did they ask? Was it a client driven initiative or an industry one?
I would guess at the latter which is not, I believe, the best way to achieve the objectives of ensuring that the strategic importance of facilities management is recognised. This won’t happen through standardisation and process – it is and will continue to be through the way that FM companies engage with their clients.
In my opinion, most of the practices identified in the standard are already covered in some way through the typical Industry wide adopted standards (18001, 14001 and 9001). Does this then just become another tick box for procurement and an opportunity for increasing revenues for auditors and consultants? Is it just another cost that we will have to swallow and allocate valuable resources to? Will we just be cutting and pasting from existing processes?
The standard also covers the importance of having a global language and a global FM community. Again, who is this important to? Are our customers crying out for this? I doubt it. We operate throughout Europe and have never had an issue with this.
Perhaps more importantly I don’t believe that this level of standardisation is good for the industry. How FM businesses operate is surely their intellectual property and allows us to differentiate. Surely customers want to be able to choose an FM partner that suits them, that shares the same culture and drivers. What they certainly don’t want is a tender that involves participants all waving the same piece of paper that says “yes we are strategic and professional because we passed an audit”. Surely this positions the industry as less strategic and actually more transactional. It gives the end customer less choice and even stifles competition. How can that be a positive thing for our industry?
In conclusion, nobody has convinced me yet about the additional standards, expertise or innovation this will deliver to the industry or the benefits it will bring. Our clients know the value we bring to their operations because we demonstrate it every day. We operate as “trusted advisors” and operate both strategically and tactically. We demonstrate robust processes that can be tailored to meet individual client’s needs.
I have no doubt we will have to conform to the new standard. It is likely to become a requirement for most tenders and understandably some clients will believe the hype. I am confident that we can easily pass the standard – its requirements are lower than our internal ones – but I am yet to be convinced if it will deliver any additional client value which surely should be the point.