A route map to strategic FM

FM practitioners to prepare for "what-if" scenarios

Johnny Dunford
Johnny Dunford

Many FM practitioners are already acting or aspiring to act at a professional and strategic level. However, until recently they were held back by the lack of unified view on best practice, particularly one reached collaboratively with input from the discipline’s leading minds.

There are varying levels of strategic thinking and planning involved in the delivery of an effective FM plan. The starting point must be an understanding of the corporate strategy and vision, which all areas of the business will cascade from and feed back into. Property is no exception and as one of the businesses’ biggest expenses, it must operate in accordance with the overriding company objectives.

This is where the FM team comes into play. It will develop the detailed strategy for space and services that will set out the purpose of, and performance levels required from, the company’s portfolio. This will involve an analysis of the resources to hand. This strategy must be implemented and reviewed to ensure it continues to support the different business unit strategies and wider corporate objectives.

To develop this FM strategy clearly involves a detailed knowledge of the corporate vision, which is why the provision of space and services should be embedded within the organisation’s wider business and financial planning. For this to be possible, a close working relationship between the board level and corporate real-estate teams is recommended. The FM team also requires data fed and accurate building data to ensure the correct allocation and use of space and services.

Following formation of the strategy, the detailed planning process can begin. This requires an in-depth assessment and understanding of how the building is used by occupiers at a corporate and staff level, as well as by visitors, including clients and, if relevant, the general public.

Facilities managers should be cautious about implementing generic plans and should take time to assess users’ genuine needs; otherwise there is a risk of dissatisfied staff or customers – and that can directly affect company margins.

The plan will then need to be tested and appraised financially as it develops. This should take into account the impact on other corporate resources, including staff, and will require close liaison with other service teams in the organisation, including HR and IT managers, as well as with operational teams. These operational colleagues need to be routinely challenged about accommodation – is it the right type? What about the quality, size, location, cost? This will help identify where the weaknesses lie and where improvements can be made to feed back into the FM plan.

The planning and delivery stages will need to be carried out while keeping open lines of communication between senior executives and staff to ensure that everyone understands and is content with the property management plan. Board-level directors need to be clear on the value of the strategy and how it will be implemented in line with wider objectives.

After developing the space and service requirements, facilities managers need to consider how to deliver the FM services, whether solely through in-house provision or by outsourcing, or through a carefully orchestrated mix. This must involve an objective assessment of the in-house capabilities as well as a financial analysis of the costs of various options weighed against the potential value returned.

The final element in ensuring delivery of an effective FM strategy is a review stage. This is a circular process, whereby a review should occur periodically, the findings of which feed into the FM strategy, enabling it to develop and improve continually.

Facilities managers need to sit down with business leaders on these occasions to have an open discussion about the FM plan. This should also take into account any business objectives that may have shifted, which may require a change in the management of facilities as well.

The tools used to measure the effectiveness of an FM strategy will vary depending on the sector, but it is unlikely that a simple cost-obsessive approach will provide maximum benefits.

The best approach, as outlined by the guidance note, is a scorecard system that looks at cost, space and utilisation metrics. This will then need to be benchmarked against past performance within the organisation and against comparable operations. Another important indication of an effective strategy is an increase in employee productivity, something that can be attributed to an FM plan that is operating in accordance with the needs of staff, thereby improving their satisfaction within the workplace.

About the author
Johnny Dunford is global commercial property director, RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors).

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