What exactly are we talking about when we discuss facilities management?
For many people who regularly procure and implement FM services for the offices, shopping centres, hospitals and airports who rely on them, it is quite simply what it says on the tin: the fundamentals of keeping a building and a company going.
The industry’s selling pitch to their end-user audience has traditionally never strayed to far from this line. Washrooms, waste, fire safety, computers and compliance all require careful and consistent attention, and a service provider that can operationalise the delivery of FM into a clear and predictable cost. This presents a clear solution to the client, they need FM in order to function, but rarely have they been excited or intellectually engaged by what a service provider can offer.
What the FM industry can often be slow to leverage is how well positioned it is to supply creative solutions that can positively impact the success of the client’s core business. At the London FM Expo this July, it was noticeable how comprehensive the health and wellbeing exhibitors were compared to previous years. A range of products concerning everything from workplace yoga studios to green technology indicate a simple truth; the market is increasingly turning to services that can create a pleasant, and not just a functional, place to work.
This should be an important buying factor for building users for several reasons. But crucially, this evolution of FM is aligned with their own business objectives and KPI’s. Increasingly, companies are prioritising how the quality of their facilities can improve staff retention, talent acquisition, productivity and turnover. Aligning FM more closely with end-user success requires service providers to completely rethink what facilities management is for, and from an operational perspective requires far greater investment in creative industries, disruptive workplace technologies and the wellbeing sector.
End-users are also keen to embrace technology and service integrations as a means of improving operational efficiency and a quality workplace experience. The internet of things, in which technology and smart office appliances are leveraged to consolidate workplace facilities into an easily manageable stream of data.
In almost all respects, this will move the industry on from the realm of “facilities management” to the realm of “workspace management.” Whereas facilities management has traditionally worked like a series of individual musical instruments, Workspace management is like an orchestra, where the main aim of the process is to harmonise all the service streams and deliver a positive experience to the building user in a workplace.
If it’s an old adage that a tidy desk is a tidy mind, then a tidy office support service is a well-functioning company. What service providers need to do now is expand their understanding of what constitutes “tidiness”. If the FM market can learn to make that leap, its clients will go from seeing it merely as a necessary evil and an overhead to keep the building running, to an engaging, intuitive and creative process with real end-value.