Best practice makes perfect

Kit Ord, regional manager of consult services at Faithful+Gould tells Becca Wilson where the region currently stands in relation to best practice.

ANALYSIS, Facilities Management

Best practice is that which fully integrates the business requirement, value, cost and the flexibility that is needed to respond to changes, almost on a daily basis," states Kit Ord, regional manager of consult services, Faithful+Gould.

If assets - human, information, financial and intangible, as well as physical - are operated, sustained, developed and maintained to meet the business objectives day-by-day, that is best practice.

But in a region where developers are under pressure to catch up with so many international standards, best practice is currently on the back burner.

And for the time being, Ord thinks this is the best place for it to stay. "I don't think there is any point trying to build best practice guidelines at the moment because the baseline is so low. The key issue, as I see it here, is one of education and training. I'm not saying that in a college sense."

Best practice baselines need to be increased before guidelines are implemented.

He explains that if people are to deliver best practice, they need to understand issues about risk and transferring risk. "Once senior management in organisations understand that, then there will be a move towards best practice."

But the critical point in this part of the world is the contractor. It doesn't matter who a company brings into a management team and how much experience they have, if the contractors, the people delivering, haven't got a clue, companies could well be fighting a losing battle. Ord says this is where education and training is needed.

"It is a challenge to influence best practice. What often gets lost in the race is this transfer of knowledge from the people who have come out (expatriates) to the people who are actually delivering it (locally employed staff), so everything backslides to the traditional approach," he adds.

But does a facilities manager manage a facility? "No, they don't. They manage risk. They look at what's facing them today in terms of keeping the business going," claims Ord.

He says that in the Middle East, the traditional way of procuring a service contractor is to buy their time for a number of hours or days and tell them what to do. "But this means all the risk stays with you and all the reward goes to the sub-contractor. It doesn't lift up the best practice threshold," he explains.

With property portfolios in the region far outweighing many on an international level, Ord claims the big players are doing themselves no favours by procuring a very well renowned and experienced facilities manager to come in and look after their FM requirements and portfolio. Why? "Because these people who have been used to running a little basket now come out and find they have a dumper truck full of properties to look after. They get sucked in to the coalface and you loose the strategic overview."

He gives this statement off the back of his thoughts about what developers are concerned about. "So many of the lead players here are primarily interested in development rather than in operation. It's critical for property developers and the big players to ensure that they employ and enable a strategic facilities manager or director to take that long view and look at the needs."

While developers still execute this train of thought, buildings being constructed will inevitably have a shorter life cycle. But when owners find their property looking a bit tawdry sitting besides the new glitzy ones, they will want to give their 10-year-old building a face lift.

There are two options here: retrofit or demolition to create space for a new building, which could be a difficult process.

"I suspect what is going to happen is that owners are going to want to strip the building back to the structure and then refurbish the envelope and the interior. But the key element is whether the building has been designed to facilitate a façade change or whether the façade has been heavily built into the structure and that's a challenge for the designers."

What most building owners whose building was constructed in the past 10 years could consider, is a move towards assessing when they think the building's life cycle will be up.

Ord explains that world-wide there are buildings that have come to the end of their life cycle and operations are still running at full capacity. However, if two years prior to retrofit or demolition, the FM evaluates the risk and plans a maintenance schedule, costs can be heavily reduced.

Measuring best practice in the Middle East can be difficult. It can only be measured if both the client and contractor understand the contractual terms and conditions.

Best practice can only be measured if the client and contractor understand the contractual terms and conditions.

"Whether it be an in-house team or a contractor, if both know exactly what you're expecting them to deliver, you can then measure against that and tie it back to the contractual terms and conditions. You can also tie the contractor financially into delivering exactly what you want," states Ord.

However, with contracts currently going through a transitional period - from a traditional handshake to a document consisting a page, increasing to two pages and now clients insisting on contracts being more detailed - benchmarking best practice is something that will begin once companies understand the full value of a detailed contract.

"If you have an FM provider who is delivering services in line with best practice, then the client themselves will perceive that they are getting a better service and value out of the service," says Ord.

An area of caution is legislation and whether or not the government and governmental departments can play a positive or negative role in increasing the awareness of best practice.

"Facilities management is very much a personal thing and it will always remain that. It must be focused on the clients needs and as such, laying down a structure at federal or rulers court level is likely to be counter productive, as people will slavishly follow that particular guidance and not actually achieve the need of their business.

"I think the rulers courts are taking a much more structured approach to it and I think they are looking equally more at asset management and trying to get value out of assets, rather than just building the assets," says Ord.

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