IN MY VIEW – Gareth Tancred, chief executive of the British Institute of Facilities Management, discusses why the organisation decided to pull out of merger discussions with other key sector bodies, and what that means for BIFM members.
Looking back on the BIFM board’s decision to pull out of the merger talks with Asset Skills, FMA and CSSA in late August it is easy to say it had a sense of inevitability about it. Cynics are already commenting that the move by us to allow the other three bodies to continue their discussions and step aside was a failure, a reflection of the support services sector’s inability to speak with one voice. Other commentators have praised BIFM for its honesty in making a decisive move on behalf of the members of the institute and the profession it serves.
The reality is somewhere in the middle. The facilities industry needs to speak with one voice – no one disagrees with that. However, that can be achieved by the various representative bodies working together. Even if the four groups had successfully merged other bodies would remain on the outside – RICS and the BSA. That situation has not changed – what is needed is for all of us to talk more openly and move forward.
We can still do that. Indeed, one of the potential benefits of the merger process is that our colleagues in Asset Skills, FMA and CSSA have all been privy to BIFM’s strategic direction and our goals and ambitions for the next few years – all of which are summarised in our annual review. When we withdrew from the merger talks the detailed strategic direction for the ‘new look’ was still being discussed – but in theory, whatever is unveiled and proposed to the respective membership of the FMA and CSSA and the Asset Skills board will take all of us forward. Everyone should benefit.
However, everyone needs clarity. One reason we couldn’t pursue the merger was we felt that there was not enough detail to be able to go to our membership for consultation. But in many ways, BIFM didn’t fit into the set up as being an ‘institution’ representing a professional discipline it has a different rationale and impetus to the ‘industry’ representative groups.
It was the right thing to do to explore the merger talks – after all, we have publicly stated that merger and acquisition is a central element of the strategy for BIFM to grow and develop on behalf of the profession. We also believed at the time of the board’s decision, moving ahead with this merger was not right. Hence it made more sense to take a step back – leaving a clear path for Asset Skills, FMA and CSSA. It is up to them to determine what that path will be – and when they announce it we will be supportive.
What does BIFM do next? We have clear goals and at the heart of what we do are continuing to improve the services available to both individual professionals and the organisations that we work with both within the FM industry and with organisations from across the economy that employ FM professionals to help deliver and enable their corporate strategy. That means the mechanisms and systems to develop as professionals, share knowledge via networking and original research, developing and nurturing the FM community in the UK and overseas. Fundamental to what BIFM does is maintaining and enhancing professional standards and education. This is important for individuals and their employers, often BIFM corporate members and it also serves to highlight the role of the FM profession itself to UK plc and the Government.
Indeed, BIFM has a vital role to play in promoting facilities management and the wider area of support services. We must be seen to walk the talk now; BIFM will be judged by its members and pundits on whether it offers leadership, opinions, guidance and wise counsel on industry issues. BIFM engages with Government and industry, direct at Cabinet and Department level and via the Construction Industry Council – but we must take a more public lead on issues. That way, what we say will add to, complement and take forward the debates often led by individual corporate members or driven by investigative reporting or the passions of trade editors. Such an approach demands a more radical and bold approach than we have chosen before now, it also requires liaison and discussion with other representative bodies and influencers as well as Asset Skills, FMA and CSSA. It also requires the buy in of our members – not everyone joined BIFM for it to be voice of reform, but what they do all expect is for BIFM to provide leadership. That is something we must do more boldly.
We are all in this together – so we have to work together – and this has been a constant, before during and now after the merger plans and the outcome of the Asset Skills, FMA and CSSA discussions.
Until then we have to focus on what’s right for our institution, as the professional body for FM. We want to reach out to the thousands of FM professionals who are not currently members, we want to build a global FM community to help everyone in the profession learn, share and develop and we want to educate everyone that the facilities management industry is one of the most important sectors within our global economy.