WF 2007

Workplace Futures 2007: The Convergence of Property and FM

Property and facilities services providers are drifting out of sync with the expectations of the marketplace. Corporate clients are increasingly looking at the big picture; we're still looking at the details.?

Delegates at the first Workplace Futures conference, organised by i-FM, were told that fundamental change is already well underway at many large organisations. Mike Cant, Consultancy Director at Larch Consulting, Deputy Chair of the RICS FM Faculty and Chair of Action FM, argued that clients are less and less interested in the elements of estates and facilities management and more and more interested in finding appropriate support for their business or their brands. ??

Paul Carder, Head of Business Development at IPD Occupiers, made a similar argument. The challenge for corporates, and for their providers, is to find ways to effectively capture and understand management information on the factors that lie at the heart of business – space, the work environment, productivity, for example. "Cost reduction is reaching the bottom of the curve," Carder said. "The time has come to think bigger - and harder about how we can increase the value we add." ??

Delegates also heard Gareth Hollyman, Head of FM Operations at Jones Lang LaSalle and Chairman of the FMA, propose that managing – and reducing – risk was a key area where the sector can add value to client organisations.??

The event opened with Howard Morgan, Managing Director of Kinsgley Lipsey Morgan, setting the scene for the introduction of REITs and the implications of that for service providers. John Robinson, EMEA Operations Leader at Trammell Crow also explained how integrated services are already being provided to their client EDS.??

The second half of the event opened with a question: the past decade has seen considerable social, economic and technological change - but there have been no big innovations in FM. Why not?

That was the challenge posed by Oliver Jones, CEO of the Asset Factor, when he took the floor at Workplace Futures??

Jones was following up on a theme first introduced by Rick Bertasi, VP Real Estate and Facilities Management EMEA at Johnson Controls. Bertasi had argued that with all the 'low-hanging fruit' of first and second generation outsourcing virtually gone, the question now for service providers is - what next? He highlighted opportunities in 'workplace strategy', a common ground that links the silos of the traditional property and FM service structure. But, Bertasi warned, moving into this area successfully involves rising to the challenge of new client needs which, in turn, means more emphasis on strong business skills in addition to existing technical skills.??

Clients are increasingly taking it for granted that service providers will have all the necessary skills, systems and procedures in place, said David Fettes, Corporate Real Estate Director at Carillion FM. They are less interested in the operational aspects of estates and facilities, and more interested in strategies and outcomes, he said.??

Steve Hutton, Intelligent Property Group Business Development Director, outlined an effective approach to ensuring that outcomes align with strategy, highlighting the importance of bringing people and process together with the 'glue' of technology to deliver critical real-time management information. Charles Shaw, MD of Arlington Business Services, added more flesh to the bones of implementation with a strong argument in favour of perceiving building occupants as customers - and treating them as such.??

Oliver Jones rounded off the conference presentations by noting that the optimisation of space, people and workplace infrastructure is a challenge that remains largely unaddressed by FM. What we need, he argued, are new, innovative solutions that will work for a range of client organisations.??

The focus of the conference was the growing trend towards the convergence of property services and facilities management. Confirmation that there is a demand for integrated delivery came in the form of an impassioned plea from one client-side representative in the audience, who urged providers to 'just get on and do it'.