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Take a chance

The theme of this year’s RICS Strategic Facility Management Conference in partnership with IFMA, was FM: A risky business?

One of the biggest lessons to come out of the Carillion collapse was the necessity for the FM sector to mitigate risk when agreeing and delivering outsourcing contracts. RICS annual FM conference, which brought together some of the profession’s most eminent practitioners, took the opportunity to reflect on the multiple forms of risk affecting business, including financial, cyber and reputational.

Opening up the day’s proceedings, Rory Murphy, Commercial Director, VINCI Facilities noted: “We are working in disruptive times. We need to work to high standards whilst being transparent and clear about what we do. It’s not about the profit we make, but how we make those profits.”

Andrew Burrell, Director of Forecasting – UK & EMEA, JLL delivered an overview of commercial real estate in the UK, with the good news that estate performance has remained resilient, despite some structural challenges. However, he warned; “understanding these changes in the occupiers’ market is the most important issue. We need to understand what serviced offices mean and how e-commerce will impact [on the sector] because if you want to understand property markets going forward, it’s not just about the economy anymore.”

This thinking was reflected in the views of a discussion on the future of the profession, moderated by Erik Jaspers, Director of Global Product Strategy & Innovation, Planon Software. The panel, which comprised Chris Kenneally, Group Chief Executive Officer, Cordant Group, Ross Abbate, Group Managing Director, Mace Macro, Lucy Jeynes, Founding Partner and Managing Director, Larch Consulting and Ian Townsend, Group Director of Facilities Management, Capita Corporate Real Estate discussed how collaborative ‘WeWork’ type of working is starting to change the way that business operate, and that “being able to sit anywhere in a building is the shape of how organisations will be run in the future.”

It was also argued that how younger workers judge a workplace is as much about connectivity as cleanliness. As Lucy Jeynes pointed out offices can be agile or not, but they simply must be connected. “This level of connectivity links through to the changing demographic, especially the influx of millennials. They don’t want to work from home, as they’re either in a small flat or still live with their parents.”

“It’s all about the workplace experience,” said Ian Townsend. “It’s not just about cleaning, security or maintenance, as what we’re finding is that more and more people expect their workplace to give them personalised environments, like adjustable ventilation and lighting.”

Chris Keneally, also spoke passionately about some of the ethical decisions and behaviours needed to take the sector forward. “How people can take huge bonuses when they’ve ceased giving bonuses to their workforce means their credibility is zero. The power is with people,” he said. “I think the innovation comes from those stepping into this industry, they are the innovators and we need to provide the platform for them to grow.”

There has been a lot of debate over procurement risk within the public sector and Samantha Ulyatt, Strategy Director, Buildings, for the Crown Commercial Service assured delegates her department is working very closely with a lot of the institutes to clarify the way in which outsourcing contracts are procured. This includes “spending a lot of time and effort looking at clauses within different government departments, looking at the construction industry, at FM and understanding what works.”

Ulyatt spoke about the importance of consistency, transparency and maturity in terms of how professionals should operate, all of which have come into question by investigations into the Carillion collapse. Trevor Pijper, Vice President – Senior Credit Officer at Moody’s Investors Service was able to give listeners an expert’s review of the accounts of Carillion and others to help explain the nature and scale of the challenge to the industry. He cited inconsistency, and a lack of transparency in relation to accounting practices when summarising key lessons learnt from Carillion’s collapse and the perpetuated ‘race to the bottom’.

About Sarah OBeirne


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