Triskaidekaphobics Rejoice

Triskaidekaphobics Rejoice

The certainty of continued economic uncertainty makes it easy to fear the worst for the 21st century's thirteen year.  Yet FM has much to be positive about, so here, David Arminas finds thirteen reasons why the sector should embrace the new year.

How many FMs will admit to a fear of Friday the 13th?  Do you shy away from seat 13 on an aeroplane, or avoid lifts to the 13th floor?  If so, you might have triskaidekaphobia - a fear of anything involving the number 13.

Alas, ahead of us lies a whole year involving this unlucky number.  But does 2013 really bode ill for FMs?  In fact, there is much to cheer us, and over the course of the next four pages we talk to thirteen people who believe 2013 will be a good one for the facilities management profession.

Of course, pressures on FMs to boost efficiencies and save money remain, and will doubtless increase next year.  But that kind of pressure will always be felt to a certain degree.  What's changing is that FM has come of age.  We enter the new year in a more confident position, due to improving skills and an increasing ability to influence many core business areas.  We should be entering 2013 in a positive frame of mind - and here are thirteen reasons why:

1: Increasing political profile
As we go into the new year, the Cabinet Office is acutely aware of the importance of FM to the economy, says Gareth Tancred, BIFM chief executive.

"Recent initiatives such as Soft Landings and BIFM demonstrate how seriously the government is taking FM," he said.
"Soft Landings aligns design and construction with operational asset management and clear performance criteria.  This will embed FM in the early planning phase of any new construction project, so that the building design can be assessed for FM impacts, including input from the end-users and FM providers."

Also, recognising the living-wage issue is already a part of good corporate social responsibility.  "All key players in the political arena support this," says Tancred.  "Many FMs affected by the issue appreciate the need to play a role in its implementation."

2: Cost-cutting puts focus on FM
The economic downturn has created a culture of cost-cutting, with many businesses battening down the hatches on spending.  But the effect has been to shine a spotlight on FM, says Simon Grinter, head of FM at London's City Hall.  "There has always been the purely financial side of saving money, like combining contracts," he says.

"But there is now a trend, which will continue, towards sweating the assets like never before.  It's strategic, creating the office to accommodate more people but in innovative ways, thanks to IT.  It's no longer just about people working at a desk, but working anywhere in the office environment."

3: An Olympic legacy
If you are a betting person, you might want to wager that accessibility and sustainability issues will be even more important next year, thanks to London's Olympics, says Beth Goodyear, the former head of FM at Ascot Racecourse.

"One of the biggest impacts of the Olympics on FM is in raising the bar in the construction industry and setting new standards in sustainability, accessibility and inclusivity," says Goodyear, now a consultant with FMHS, whose clients have included blue-chip companies such as Rio Tinto, Lloyds Register and Network Rail.  "These issues are already on the day-to-day action list of a typical FM."

For FMs managing large construction, redevelopment or refurbishment projects, the Olympic legacy is setting higher standards.  For example, 98.5% of demolition material from the London 2012 construction phase was reused or recycled, diverting 425,000 tonnes from landfill.

4: Just BIM time
January 1 also sees FMs in Whitehall one year closer to 2016 and the mandated use of Building Information Modelling (BIM), as well as Government Soft Landings, a new method for new-building handovers.

"It's really important that FMs understand that Soft Landings encapsulates BIM, written very much from the FM perspective," says Deborah Rowland, Head of FM Category for the Government Property Unit.  "This is a chance for FM, construction and design and Computer-Aided FM (CAFM) to work collaboratively and not in traditional silos."

The goal is for much more user-focused operational outcomes through better monitoring of performance in the pre- and post- construction phases.  BIM provides clear measurements for building performance that are monitored up to three years post-completion.

In 2013, more work will be done to standardise data-capture, a process CAFM and FM suppliers need to develop collectively.  "FM will need to ensure that BIM data is kept up to date to ensure that maximum benefits can be obtained," says Rowland.

5: Standards to boost FM status
There are few things like a good BSI standard to give a profession credibility.  FMs enter 2013 knowing that the past three years have seen several facilities-specific standards published by the BSI, says Brian Atkin, director of The Facilities Society, a not-for-profit academic think tank founded in 2008.

Standards now exist in relation to procurement in general and FM agreements in particular: "There is no excuse for not having a more transparent and consistent approach to pre-qualification, request for proposals/tenders, evaluation of tenders, contract award, mobilisation and performance management," says Atkin.

"No more reinventing the wheel.  Owners and operators are able to say that they will work in accordance with the standards, enabling existing and prospective service providers to understand the procedures involved and the nature of the relationship that is being sought.

"Put simply, there will be fewer unpleasant surprises," says Atkin.

6: Heating up on qualifications
The coming year will be the best so far for getting FM qualifications and there is now a defined educational path for becoming a qualified facilities manager.

"We've seen rapid development of BIFM qualifications from level 2 to level 7," says Samantha Bowman, chair of the BIFM's Rising FMs special interest group and a consultant with GVA Acuity.  "There is also wide support for FM apprenticeships, allowing unprecedented learning opportunities, particularly for the young."

She says service providers are committing to personal development programmes for large numbers of employees in order to attract and retain the best talent.

7: Sustainability is here to stay
Sustainability, ever a multi-faceted issue, continues its rise in importance into the new year.  FMs will also continue to rise in importance because they, of all the built environment professionals, remain closest to it, from both the operational and strategic responsibility points of view.

Facilities managers remain "uniquely positioned and uniquely capable," of driving the sustainability throughout an organisation, says Dave Wilson, a director with FM consultancy Agents 4RM.

There really isn't any getting away from it, even though some FMs may still be reluctant to take up the mantle, he argues.

"We only need the confidence to articulate this and be proud to be the champions in our organisations.  If sustainability is a serious objective for any organisation, then who is best placed to direct and achieve that objective?  Who, uniquely, has the perspective to understand the inter-relationship between organisational working processes, staff behaviour?"

8: Outsourcing not on the back foot
It was a rough and tumble 2012 for G4S because of its contractual failure to deliver enough security guards for the London Olympics - and subsequent loss of a major prison contract.  But that hasn't put government outsourcing on the back foot for 2013, says Richard Sykes, chief executive of facilities provider ISS UK.

Whether it is running schools, trains, hospitals or offices, 2013 may see the debate on outsourcing focus more on brand protection.  "Many large private organisations outsource to FMs and they need assurance over their brands that can be harmed or improved by the actions of support services staff," says Sykes.

More than ever, outsourcing organisations must their clients' corporate responsibility agendas.  "For example, the London Living Wage is ethically and morally the right thing to do," he says.

9: FM at the heart of major projects
The new year marks another nail in the coffin for the thinking that used to exclude FM from involvement in major projects.

One only needs to look at this year's BIFM Awards to see the successful transition, says Terry Trickett, an architect, now retired, and lead judge of the BIFM's Excellence in a Major Project Award for the past three years.

FM and other professional services now underpin the success of all short-listed projects, he says.

"PWC's head office 7 More, in London, introduced the concept of a ‘service partnership': Honeywell was responsible for the building and accommodation, Aramark for catering and hospitality, and Mitie for document management services:
"A successful marriage was achieved between high-quality design by BDP architects and the users' evident delight in their new premises," concludes Trickett.

10: Hello smart workplaces
New IT systems and applications are making workplace management an interactive process between employees and facilities.  The effect is to bring FMs more in touch with the employees at all levels.

"FM could be defined as an invisible and unobtrusive function," says Compton Darlington, business development director of facilities at software provider FSI FM Solutions.

"However, the trend is for an active online engagement with end-users.  Information is increasingly pushed out via smartphones and other devices as part of the bring-your-own-device trend that challenges the requirement for engineers and technicians to use company-issued rugged devices."

11: Long live the FM revolution!
The coming year just might be the time for a "small revolution", says Mark Fox, chief executive of the Business Services Association, a policy and research organisation for outsource service providers, many of them small- to medium- size companies.

FMs have outgrown their given name, says Fox.  "It's old fashioned.  It fails to do FMs justice anymore and should be consigned to the dustbin of history."

Fox believes FMs are now doing so much more than looking after a piece of property or building.  "these people are business leaders, they have people-management skills, they balance resource use and set million-pound budgets."
Better, he says, to call them infrastructure services managers because their remit extends into the economic and political sphere.

12: Time to go compare
Many more FMs will, out of necessity, handle utility buying, whether or not it is given to them under the guise of sustainability.

We're set for big jumps in fuel and power costs, meaning pressure will increase on these FMs, says David Fisk, president of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

"Rising utility bills are often dismissed by businesses," says Fisk.  "They think costs can be passed on to customers since all their competitors face the same costs.  But customers may be getting choosy about their suppliers due to budget cuts."

It's time for FMs to get into serious benchmarking to see where the company's building stock sits alongside that of competitors.

"The Display Energy Certificate (DEC) database is a good place to start.  A DEC survey is cheap and several thousand buildings are on the English database."

13: FM no longer a black-hole
FM used to be an unlucky place for people to end up.  But many FMs now feel lucky to be where they are at such a time of great change, says Julie Kortens, head of corporate services at Channel 4.

"One thing is certain - the role of the FM is more important now than it has ever been.  We are increasingly viewed as the cogs that keep businesses functioning effectively.

"The economic pressures we face will continue into the New Year.  Building efficiencies, energy reduction targets and property consolidation are just the tip of the iceberg as far as FM pressures go."

"We are increasingly involved in people-related issues that lead to improved productivity, making a sustainable contribution to the bottom line.  This could be maintaining the work environment, developing agile solutions or providing a level of customer service that makes everyone's life just plain easier."