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Surveying FM

Earlier this year Hannah Davis became the latest member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Facilities Management Professional Group Board. In 2015 she also clinched the Women of the Future Award for Real Estate, Construction and Infrastructure. After her first few months in the role FMJ sat down with Hannah to find out her views on the industry

hannah-davis-rics_e9b4744Hannah Davis has spent pretty much her entire career with Faithful+Gould a property expert dealing with commercial management, project controls, project management, asset management and more. But this doesn’t mean she has stood in one place, of the 14 years Davis has spent in the industry half of them were spent in Singapore, with regular trips to Malaysia, China, Myanmar and other Asian nations broadening her experience.

Davis on her trip from England to the Orient and back again has had the opportunity to gain a great deal of varied experience, primarily working in Strategic Asset Management focusing on three main areas – life cycle, technical advisory and FM consultancy. Davis considered other industries when undertaking work experience during collage “I was going to be an accountant,” Davis says. “But my Dad, who is an engineer, suggested quantity surveying. I did work experience in both industries, both involved a lot of spreadsheets but the surveyors let me drive the tower crane at the end of the week…how could I choose accountancy after that?!”

In order to become professionally qualified Davis studied as a quantity surveyor (QS) one day out of five in order to gain the experience required to qualify under the RICS Quantity Surveying Pathway. “When I was training, the RICS Strategic FM Pathway didn’t exist, and this is why I trained as a QS. It was quite frustrating that we in strategic FM didn’t have our own RICS pathway. Its’ great that this has now been established. If we want to attract the youth of today and tomorrow then we need to establish a clear pathway to professional accreditation for them.”

What was your experience of the FM industry in Asia?

Whilst in her mid-twenties and working in London Davis decided that she needed a new challenge, so, staying at the same company, moved to Singapore and established a consulting division for Faithful+Gould focused on asset management, FM and sustainability. For the next half decade or more she travelled all over the Far East working with clients from various sectors to share lessons learned in FM and life cycle costing in the UK. This work initially focused on technical advisory in PPP, and then expanded to FM, life cycle costing and sustainability.

I asked Davis about the comparison between the FM industry in the UK and in Singapore.

She outlined her belief that we in the UK have developed our FM industry within the context of having a built environment comprising of large, ageing building stock with limited funds. In Singapore the industry is different because the different commercial drivers associated with the escalating cost of real estate, results in a strong drive to replace buildings with bigger buildings. The result of this is that the average age of the estate is much lower.

Davis noted that “As a result of this, our challenges are different – in the UK we are challenged by the condition of our built environment, whereas in Singapore over design can be more of a factor.”

We discussed the main differences between PPP in the UK and Singapore markets and Davis noted two key differences. This first related to the commercial drivers for FM where she outlined the importance of PPP in really focusing the UK markets on FM and life cycle efficiency. She explained that “The majority of my workload when I moved to Singapore was around the use of PPP which was being introduced to social infrastructure schemes in the region. In Britain PPP has been in place for about 20 years and this has driven the market towards modelling and understanding risks and costs associated with the in-use phase of a building. Because of this we have a greater volume of data, and benchmarks, available to us.”

The second key difference relates specifically to the use of PPP and availability of capital investing. Davis commented “In the UK we have ageing infrastructure, but lack the ready capital investment to address this. This provided a key driver for our use of PPP. In Singapore, capital investment is more readily available and the infrastructure condition better. The drivers for Singapore, then, are different.

“In my opinion, one of the key drivers for Singapore trialling PPP was that they understood the potential demand in the wider Asia region and were looking to gain experience which they could then export.”

Those different drivers lead to two very different working models.

Singapore and the RICS 

Many of us in FM work globally, and so we touched on the more general differences that Davis had experienced. She noted that in the workplace people were less combative. In Singapore “losing face” is a huge issue, anyone from the West working out there should make sure not to make people look foolish in public. Davis asserts that if you’re working in the international arena but not accounting for differences in culture it reflects poorly on you as a professional. She says “I would advise anyone working internationally to research and adapt to cultural differences, and of course not to approach international work with an attitude of ‘I know better than you.’ I have experienced this obnoxious behaviour before – it is a barrier to both producing good work and establishing good working relationships. The best results are seen through a collaborative approach.”

The role of the RICS is mentioned as being a good way of understanding both cultural and technical differences in different locations. “Singapore is a fantastic place. There is a fast paced industry, interesting projects – and the food is incredible (you must try Durian!). But anyone who goes out there needs to take the time to understand how things are done and why. I think that providing insight to legislation and guidance through a central body of knowledge, which is specific to different geographical areas, is something RICS is doing very well.”

Woman of the Future

After so many years abroad Davis asked herself whether she could really put down permanent roots and settle down in Singapore. In 2013 she transferred back to her old team in London. She was soon encouraged to put herself forward for the Women of the Future Awards. Despite being initially hesitant, “I wasn’t sure about a gender specific award,” Davis eventually submitted her name.

The awards don’t just cover construction and FM, there are awards open to those working in the finance and legal professions, budding entrepreneurs and more. “The objective,” Davis adds, “is for the winners in all the divergent categories to link up and network. To learn from each other and take what they can from different industries. I think this is huge for FM because I don’t feel we are as established as the legal or financial sectors – particularly when it comes to diversity and inclusion. The opportunity to learn from these industries is huge for us.”

The procedure is pretty familiar. Davis had to submit a nomination pack, make her way through a shortlist and overcome an interview. Finally she had to attend an awards night, (she insists she didn’t expect to win) and, finally, make a speech. “I got on stage and said something, it wasn’t very prepared but it was heartfelt!”

There were a plethora of events arranged afterwards. She was asked to speak at conferences about diversity, FM, even at Tesco’s Women in Property Group. She commented “Winning has really opened up the networking side of things for me. This is something which I find quite challenging, and it has become evident that it can be for others too. Having these introductions has really helped me.”

I asked Davis about the other initiatives she was involved with as a result of the Woman of the Future Awards. She said “I also took part in the Ambassador’s Programme which pulls together A Level students so you can talk to them about your industry. It is a little bit like a career’s fair.” This obviously ties into the long running discussion about making FM specifically, and the built environment in general, a career of choice for the next generation.

Davis has plenty of ideas for how to solve the skills shortage issue which is a problem that seems to plague every FM conference and event. Her view is that “Getting into schools at A Level, making people aware of the wide range of professional opportunities within FM would be ideal. We need to make people aware that there are many options available within FM as a whole, there are actually loads of careers fitting in within the same industry. I don’t have a definitive answer to this but I think we need a TV campaign, or similar, to get that information out to everyone.”

Davis mentioned that she had been asked the same question recently “I was on a panel at the RICS Diversity and Inclusion Conference, and was on a panel with some apprentices. They asked me what we needed to promote the built environment as a good career path and I said an ‘Ally McBeal of construction’ someone glamorous and successful that helps people understand what the work is like – albeit subconsciously.

I thought this was a really good answer until they all admitted that none of them knew who Ally McBeal was.”

The RICS FM Board

But all jokes aside what is it that Davis is looking to achieve as a part of RICS? “After winning the award I contacted RICS to try and understand how I could best offer support. I thought there were two main areas in which I could support – the first is through involvement in the RICS Diversity and Inclusion agenda. The second is around increasing awareness of the FM profession, and of the RICS as a professional body representing FM.”

Davis joined RICS through the Quantity Surveying Pathway in 2006, and is a strong advocate of the APC, and of the development of the Strategic FM Pathway. “The FM industry desperately needed a professional body which focuses on the strategic elements. RICS clearly recognised the need for a professional body in strategic FM when they created the faculty. The faculty is relatively new but already it is a hub for technical guidance and case studies, and the pathway to becoming a professional member of the RICS through the Strategic FM Pathway has been established.

Davis noted that organisations play a significant role in professional development too. Within her own organisation, Faithful+Gould, there is already an excellent graduate development programme which she was involved with by providing APC mentoring in Singapore and the UK. She also established the Strategic Asset Management Graduate Development Program at Faithful+Gould on returning to the UK. The development work for this included undertaking a gap analysis of the skills graduates would have, against those you would expect of a Consultant grade. Davis recognises that the RICS APC can address part of this gap through the further development of competencies, as is already being undertaken at RICS. The importance of this is recognised by the RICS Strategic FM Board who are working towards change in this area.

The future

In response to being questioned on where she believes the FM industry is currently, Davis said “I believe that the FM industry is becoming increasingly self-aware, and that this is leading to the recognition for standardisation. There has already been some standardisation, for example through the development of ISO 15686: Part 5 and the New Rules of Measurement 3 (“NRM 3”). We are also seeing the Building Engineering Services Association (“BESA”) further advance the SFG20 standard maintenance tasks and timings.” Davis believes that the development of this best practice guidance will improve standardisation and thus improve the efficiency of the industry.

When asked about the growing trend in the industry for people to think about the workspace over traditional facilities, she is less than convinced. “Anything that promotes people thinking about their area of work and amending this to improve productivity is good, but I do feel that we have bigger issues to contend with at this stage. For example, we don’t have a standard form of FM contract. The result of this is that organisations and FM companies create bespoke contracts. This is terribly inefficient for everyone. I think we need to give priority to focusing on tackling issues like this which can significantly improve efficiency across the industry.”

She also has strong views around board representation for the FM industry. “This is an issue very close to my heart as I work in strategic FM consultancy where board level engagement is key. To drive change we need to be involved at a board level as a FM function. At the very least we need to understand the direction of the business through interaction with the board. How else can we support the core business?”

Davis further noted that “At present too many FM teams are pursuing a completely separate strategy to the company they are meant to serve. With the built environment being so key to many businesses, this is madness. However, we as professionals in strategic FM need to establish robust maintenance strategies that align with the organisation’s business strategy, and report progress in a meaningful way. This way the benefit of having FM ‘at the table’ is recognised by the board.”

Faithful+Gould have recently launched a FM Maturity Matrix which is an assessment tool which helps organisations develop a plan for developing their FM strategy. Davis outlines the FM Maturity Self-Assessment tool as a simple online tool which would be a worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in the way their organisation’s buildings and assets are managed in operation. The tool allows FM functions to define how they believe different areas of FM operations compare to international best practice and standards. The review includes how sophisticated, robust, and consistent your planning, systems, and delivery approaches are across the FM service. The output from the tool is a short summary of potential next steps to improve performance. The Maturity Matrix can be assessed here: www.fmmaturity.fgould.com

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