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What are GCC FM's new year resolutions for 2017?

FM in the Middle East is due for a facelift

Neha Bhatia is the deputy editor of facilities management Middle East.
Neha Bhatia is the deputy editor of facilities management Middle East.

The last six months of 2016 saw more than one FM expert calling on their peers through this publication to drive a revamp of their profession’s identity in the Middle East. Managing director of Agents4RM, Lionel Prodgers, told fmME in November that his “greatest frustration” in the regional FM landscape has to do with the definition of the term ‘facilities management’, which is often “implied to mean property maintenance, cleaning services or even outsourcing”.

Meanwhile, Nahla Nana, instructor at DREI of Dubai Land Department, in her comment piece for fmME’s 10th Anniversary issue last October, said the FM profession, “despite fundamental growth in the industry… still faces a severe identity crisis”. Prodgers’s and Nana’s are only two of the many voices encouraging an overhaul of how FM is marketed – and therefore, perceived – in the Middle East; and theirs is an opinion I agree with.

Despite its obvious significance, the FM discipline remains among the region’s least understood sciences. Of course, there are various macroeconomic factors at play here. FM evolves in tandem with its surrounding construction and real estate markets, which in the Middle East, peaked relatively later than their international counterparts. Corresponding components that have boosted the profession globally – such as FM-specific university courses or industry associations – were resultantly slower to find their way into the region too.

However, it is only accurate to say that FM has rapidly established its presence in the Middle East over the last two decades. Key property markets such as Dubai, Doha, and Riyadh have, over the years, been fertile growth areas for both international and homegrown outfits in the region. Given the pace of planned and actual development underway in the Middle East, I have no doubt that FM companies will only strengthen their roots here in the years to come.

This, perhaps, is all the more reason for well-established and reputed regional firms to start a conversation about how the value of FM can be augmented in the Middle East.

It would do well to review whether the regional industry should look to absorb and deliver disciplines such as ergonomics and pre-construction consultancy, as is common practice in global markets such as the US. Another question worth pursuing is how waste-to-energy programmes could be implemented in collaboration with government entities.

Indeed, these ideas will require meticulous introspection by key industry leaders, but the result of such an exercise – I’m sure we can all agree – will be worth the effort.

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