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fmME Interview: Mohammad A. Khamis, Deyaar FM

Eng Mohammed AbdulKarim Khamis, general manager of Deyaar Facilities Management, talks to fmME about the company’s synergies with its parent organisation, and how greater regulation could impact local FM perception

Eng Mohammed AbdulKarim Khamis, general manager of Deyaar Facilities Management.
Eng Mohammed AbdulKarim Khamis, general manager of Deyaar Facilities Management.

This June, Abdulla Al Gurg, group general manager of Easa Saleh Al Gurg (ESAG) Group, said property developers in the Middle East must build with the aim of promoting high-quality service. Maintenance is “the most important factor” in attracting buyers and tenants, Al Gurg wrote in a comment piece for ConstructionWeekOnline.

“Having a high-quality and well-kept property that is safe and secure is crucial to the retention of tenants, and also to the creation of a positive reputation within the market,” he added.

These views are echoed by Eng Mohammed AbdulKarim Khamis, general manager of Deyaar Facilities Management (DFM), during a conversation with fmME at the company’s Business Bay offices in Dubai. Not far from DFM’s headquarters is the construction site of parent company Deyaar Development’s $218m (AED800m) mixed-use project, The Atria.

The twin-tower investment marks Deyaar’s foray into hospitality, and all main works on the project are due for completion in the first half of 2017, contractors Al Rostamani Pegel told Construction Week this January. For Khamis and his colleagues at DFM, being a part of the Deyaar family offers an oft-coveted chance to drive FM involvement early on in a project’s life cycle – a model that has been implemented for The Atria.

As Khamis explains, the collaborative approach also helps the FM team plan its operation and maintenance (O&M) works in a timely manner: “We’re wholly owned by Deyaar Development, and we work together very often.

“Earlier today, I was attending a meeting with my colleagues from the parent company and its business development team to discuss their [pipeline of projects], including The Atria. We have a year to complete the project’s handover works and [operate] it, but since mid-October, we’ve been working on an asset list of The Atria and started the take-over process – and that’s a good thing.”

Khamis says one of DFM’s prerogatives is to maintain “a level of trust” regarding its reputation in the market. In its dealings with Deyaar Development, DFM achieves this by following an established chain of project procurement, which includes bidding on tenders.

“Whenever there is a Deyaar project in the market, we bid on it in order to be considered for its FM operations,” Khamis adds. “We have processes within the company and are even audited for those, and we aim to do everything in the right manner.”

According to Khamis, this process assumes greater significance given the “couple of challenges” that accompany FM delivery in the regional market, especially the UAE.

This includes clients’ familiarity with contract models and requirements, DFM’s general manager asserts: “I can see how well the current FM market serves its customers, especially those that are aware of service level agreements (SLAs) and key performance indicators (KPIs). But if a client knows their rights and responsibilities, then they can work with the service provider to make the latter accountable for the right factors, leading to the creation of a better operating model.

“That happens [in the UAE], but rarely so, and depends on how strong the customer’s awareness is. For instance, when I’m working with Deyaar Development, I must complement the company’s property and homeowner association management teams to ensure I’m meeting my SLAs.”

DFM’s contract models thus offer flexibility that ensures customer requirements are catered to in a precise fashion. The company relies on three divisions to drive income – maintenance, total FM (TFM), and fit-out.

Khamis says the maintenance division attends customer calls on a reactive basis, whereas TFM works – including hard, soft, and specialised FM services – are implemented as per contract needs.

“This diversification means that if a client needs a [maintenance] service within an apartment, then we can handle that, and we can also carry out TFM works in a broader way,” he continues.

“If clients need refurbishment carried out at an office, for instance, then we’re there too. We’re a one-stop solution for our clients, and that lends flexibility to our services.”

Furthermore, the company offers project management services for FM operations, such as refurbishment.

Khamis says he believes this approach will boost DFM’s credibility in a market where the scope of FM is often misinterpreted to comprise only cleaning or minor maintenance works. In fact, he lists limited FM perception as another hurdle to delivering comprehensive services in the region.

Nevertheless, DFM’s chief is optimistic that this can change considering market factors are ideally aligned: “We need regulations that can outline the role and guidelines of FM. This will help us chart out a map of FM services, which we need in the region right now.”

Regulation is even more necessary considering lack of client awareness about the full scope of FM services. A large service provider, for instance, can recognise the right firm to outsource select operations, such as maintenance or cleaning. However, as Khamis points out, the label of being an FM company should be reserved for multi-competency companies.

“The definition of FM by International Facility Management Association (IFMA) includes numerous components,” Khamis continues, invoking the global professional organisation’s list of 11 core competencies that fall under the umbrella of FM.

“Aspects like air quality and waste management are often [missed by] some clients here, and are considered to be an addition to the technology that the company implements. However, incorporating the holistic elements of FM can show your difference in the market.”

FM perception can evolve if service providers are roped in at a project’s design stage, Khamis continues.

“We don’t have a regulator to drive that yet, but if regulations are created, then early FM engagement will be driven in the market. This is how we can make better and greener buildings.”

DFM was established as a separate company this August following an announcement to the effect by parent company Deyaar Development, which will retain full ownership of the firm.

Khamis says DFM currently provides integrated FM (IFM) services for residential, commercial, and retail developments across a $5.4m (AED20m) portfolio of close to 1,000 properties – including Deyaar’s and those of external clients – consisting 20,000 units in the UAE.

The growth of local FM spurred the establishment of DFM as a separate entity, he adds: “Due to the rapid growth of the market and increased demand for FM services in the UAE and globally, Deyaar’s senior management made the call to recognise DFM as a standalone company managing in-house properties as well as external clients.

“For now, we’re focusing on the government sector and also work with Red Crescent UAE as their primary service provider. We also manage properties that are financed by Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) – our property management division handles these and thereon, we drive FM engagement.”

DFM’s activities in the residential sector – as well as its market differentiator – are best reviewed through the two sub-markets it operates in, Khamis says: “The leasehold market is very competitive, where you have single owners that are [accustomed] to consulting retail and small shops to get their O&M budgets.

“If the property is financed by DIB, then it is ours to manage, and whenever we share our quotes with them, they compare it to the smaller outfit’s estimate – but that doesn’t always make for a fair comparison.

“In such situations, we try to maintain our expenses with a certain percentage from the total income. At the end of the year, we take the total income of the property and subtract our expenses from it, after which we [quote] a reasonable rate that is also [acceptable] for us.

“Meanwhile within the freehold sector, we – and our competitors – are aware of market rates, so what differentiates us from other service providers in the pool is the level of flexibility we offer to clients, as well as the measure of services we provide.”

Here, Khamis reiterates DFM’s multi-competency service offering, adding the three divisions – maintenance, TFM, and fit-out – also help the company model better client agreements: “The three divisions work across our leasehold and freehold properties, and the contract model depends on the sector we’re operating in.

“In the freehold sector, contracts tend to be more SLA-driven and it is normally what we work with as well.

“The leasehold sector has more client requirement-driven contracts.”

In conversation with Construction Week this January, Iyad Charchar, vice president for project and engineering at Deyaar Development said the company intends to operate five hospitality projects by 2018. DFM appears to be charting a similar trajectory, and while the service provider is already busy in the UAE’s residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, a foray into the local hospitality FM industry is also on the cards, Khamis says.

“We are keen to enter the hospitality market given Deyaar’s pipeline of developments and plans for 2017 and 2018,” he continues, adding an ideal start would be to work on the parent company’s hospitality projects, and go on to expand market-wide.

Khamis is also distinctly clued into local hospitality trends, and is particularly interested in the evolution of two- and three-star hospitality facilities in the region. However, he adds, DFM’s service delivery in the hospitality sector will remain consistent across all ratings: “The vision we have at DFM is to redefine the benchmarks of the FM industry.

“Hospitality is one of the sectors we’re considering so as to meet the requirements of the business and due to Dubai Expo 2020 and UAE Vision 2021, there’s [potential for growth] too.

“I think FM opportunities are easily available in the market, but it’s about maintaining and sustaining existing chances as well. You need better FM services as you develop big properties, and there’s great potential in the local market for growth.”

Referring to a November 2014 report by Global Industry Analysts, Khamis concludes: “The global value of the FM industry could be $400bn by 2017, so we definitely have the intention to grow internationally as well.

“The first step is to grow in the Middle East – DFM is well established in the UAE and has business from Fujairah to Abu Dhabi here, so the next step is to go regional.”

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