As the globalisation of business sees a multitude of job functions evolve into an international remit (e.g. HR, communications, finance), top industry experts from BIFM, FSI, KONE and UBM Live, take a look at the future of the global FM. As global business continues to drive cost efficiencies in the current economic climate, the panel discusses the viability of the FM role migrating to board level, to service large international territories and the impact of technology in this process.
"The increasing pace of globalisation, combined with huge advances in technology, is forcing a paradigm shift in facilities management," says Adrian Newton, Portfolio Director for Total Workplace Management and The Facilities Show. Ian Fielder, CEO of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) agrees: "Globalisation of FM is absolutely happening in the market place. We are seeing a growing number of client organisations going down the large-scale procurement route, purchasing from fewer, much larger suppliers to create consistency across their different regions, whilst achieving far greater economies of scale."
Globalisation has also seen the role of the FM evolve radically over the last decade, with levels of responsibility broadening into a diverse range of areas as the profession has become more established, Jon Clark, Business Development Manager for FSI (FM Solutions), says: "The recognition of the importance of the FM role is still fairly embryonic in many organisations. However, more and more corporates are now recognising the significance of efficient FM management to their bottom line, resulting in a shift from an operational to a strategic focus."
As the FM's remit continues to branch out further than traditional maintenance and operations skills and into key areas such as energy management and sustainability, Facilities Managers are now in a strong position to add strategic value to organisations. "There is an ever growing recognition at board level of the importance of FM to corporate strategy and business success, and the natural next step to supporting this is for FMs to take a seat at the board table," says Newton.
Fielder, however, believes that global opportunity and a seat at the board table should be viewed as two entirely separate concepts. He argues that most board decisions will have some impact on the FM function, forcing FMs to act as strategic consultants. However, he believes that it is a misconception that FMs must sit on the board in order to have the desired influence on business strategy. It is far more important, he believes, that FMs are listened to by senior management, helping them gain the right training for the necessary management skills.
In the current economic climate, organisations of all sizes must evaluate ways to drive cost savings across the entire business. Newton comments: "With buildings and assets accounting for the second biggest budgetary spend after staffing, it is vital that global organisations evaluate ways to achieve maximum cost efficiencies," Newton says. "Appointing a head of FM to manage multiple territories will also help to achieve greater consistency of service delivery."
Globalisation brings with it many challenges for FMs, not least the requirement to deliver a consistent service across a wide range of environments, geographic barriers, cultural differences and ever changing regulations. Jim Woolley, UK Business Development Manager at KONE, is keen to highlight that a ‘one size fits all' approach will not work for the regional delivery of Facilities Management: "Every territory of an organisation will be working to a different set of rules and regulations" he says, "learning and best practice is transferable, however, localised delivery of services is vital." Newton agrees that there must be a solid bridge between the global service and local delivery if the global FM role is to prove successful.
FSI's Clark sees the global FM as a highly strategic position supported by local teams: "It is unrealistic to expect one FM to develop a deep cultural understanding of every region across global territories, so it is vital that they work with local experts to deliver services. Employees in our Middle Eastern office, for example, know to respect certain practices during Ramadan, which is absolutely critical if you want to achieve business success in this region." Clark is keen to raise the point, however, that while local regulations may affect delivery at a grassroots level, "the development and application of technology remains largely the same across global territories."
Advances in technology have be
en instrumental in the creation of the global business platform we see today, from the most basic of communications technology (video conferencing, e-mail) telecommunications and computing advances, to newer, more specialist software which supports the delivery of core FM services. For example, Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) is now used around the world to enable FMs to keep track of their organisation's assets by linking a variety of information together electronically.
"The FM world is embracing new technology at a considerable pace. Just five years ago CAFM was stuck on a terminal in the boiler room. Now we are increasingly seeing it integrated into the financial and HR disciplines, putting FM services at the heart of global organisations," Clark affirms.
Woolley responds: "By leveraging emerging technology, FM is helping global organisations move towards every-increasing levels of efficiency and transparency." By taking the latest innovations in lift and escalator technology, he understands that software can now help FMs reduce energy consumption and their organisation's carbon footprint, ultimately translating into a considerable cost saving for their business.
"Adoption of new technology is intrinsically linked to the success of the global FM, as it provides a holistic view of service delivery across multiple territories at the click of a button," Clark adds. "Without this bird's eye view, it would be virtually impossible to identify issues and opportunities, which in turn should be fed into the forecasting process. New technology will support the global FM to become the commander of multiple local teams and predict future trends and spend before they impact negatively on an organisation."
Furthermore, fielder believes that Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a key factor in the move towards globalised FM: "CPD is fundamental to career progression in any profession and particularly for FMs as their roles continue to grow and evolve to meet the demands of global business. We must also make sure that FMs are supported at all stages on their career journey, from those fresh into the profession to those that have been working in the field for many years."
Newton adds: "Facilities management is one of the largest investments organisations make so it is imperative that FMs are equipped with the skills to not only deliver cost efficiencies, but also communicate this at a senior management level."
Woolley believes that in order to truly move towards a global FM model, more needs to be done to bring the FM community together to share best practice and drive innovation: "Naturally, FMs working for large corporates are keeping their cards close to their chests with regards to cost savings and service delivery - retaining competitive advantage in today's market place is tough. This is a barrier we must overcome to enable FMs to learn from each other. Newton adds: "Trade events such as Total Workplace Management provide the perfect platform for this as FMs are immersed in grassroots examples of best practice which they can take away and apply within their organisation."
"Both in the UK and internationally, we are now seeing a clear move towards the convergence of FM with real estate, so CPD is more important than ever if FMs are to compete in the global workplace," Fielder concludes. "Our next generation of FMs will be expected to have a far greater skill set and range of competencies than those who came before them so it is crucial that the industry shares best practice."
Jon Clark, Business Development Manager at FSI (FM Solutions) Limited. FSI, Microsoft Gold partners, are developers of the Concept Evolution™ completely web-based Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) solution.
FMJ is one of the top magazines for the Facilities Management Profession. Visit the FMJ website at www.fmjdata.com