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Facility Management and the Human Factor

FM was, is and most likely will be a people business. Underestimating the human factor, social aspects, fear and uncertainties have the potential to slow down or even stop the most promising FM transformation. Early awareness, considerations and communication might certainly be a good advice.

Facility Management and the Budget Challenges

Facility Management is rather seldom the core business and therefore budget is very often limited. Why is this such a challenge. 5 points to consider.

1.     FM is not visible in the organization and has a lower reputation

2.     FM is not the core business and not adequately represented and presented

3.     FM is not contributing to revenue but seen a pure cost factor

4.     FM spend is not fully understood

5.     FM potentials and benefits are not visible

What are our options? Bring in visibility and transparency and help your organization and most of all your leadership team to understand the Facility Management impact on productivity, people well-being, interaction and connection, company reputation and attractivity, financial impact and opportunities.

Once full understanding on all hierarchical level is reached Facility Management will certainly move to a higher priority level and fitted with better budgets. Well, maybe also with higher expectations, but this is a good thing as well. It will drive changes and improvements, more visibility and provide value to the company. Mission completed; FM awareness is reached.

Let’s go for it!

Facility Management and the Catch & Collecting Bin

These days transformations, reorganizations, restructuring or whatever you like to call it are on the agendas of many companies. Reflecting the status quo, adjustments and corrections are sensible but should have a sustainable element as well. What we see is that companies are shifting colleagues from other areas, outside of Facility Management into FM business to allow them to stay in the company, be it temporarily or permanent. Taking care of our employees and colleagues and a sense of social responsibility should always on our mind. But, considering quality, productivity motivation and qualification should not be left outside and ignored. What is the real value of bringing or forcing none FM colleagues into roles where they have no or only limited experience? What is the benefit for the company and the FM business itself? Personally, I think that neither motivation nor qualification of this colleagues are supporting such moves. Worst of all the already mostly ignored FM business is filled with people who cannot bring FM forward, improve and drive innovations. Nor will such moves improve you FM image in your company. People will remain thinking FM can be done by everyone. As a result, FM is a “catch & collecting bin” for resources not really needed and not generating any value for your FM business. Very often doing exactly the opposite for the FM business and the individuals moved there. In my opinion and it might look hard is, don’t do it and especially not without carefully checking qualification and motivation. If it has to be done make sure proper qualification, training and coaching is provided. Make sure complexity and impact on productivity, quality and well-being is understood and FM has equal rights to select and hire qualified people.

Facility Management and the Value Generators

Keep you inhouse team close, those are the people who know your business best, have the strongest identification with your company, those are the ones who get up early or run the late-night shift to keep your business up and running. The fundamental element to create value for the company.

It’s anyhow a people business or let’s say THE people business which create value for the overall company.

By the way, did your senior management know about Facility Management? The value for the company, the productivity, well-being and the environment? Is there enough awareness in the company to recognize the value delivered through FM?

If not or if you are uncertain… “FM colleagues out there, get up and get vocal to share all the good thinks we are doing, the value we deliver, the risks we manage and mitigate, the contribution to economic strength and competitiveness. Make yourself visible and demand the recognition and with that the respect, resources and influence you deserve.”

But first of all, get visibility in your company, the rest will follow once the value generated by the Facility Management is fully understood. As a first step and a foundation, why don’t you create a kind of easy to understand “FM value proposition” and share with the senior management team?

Good luck and don’t stay behind the curtains, get visible!

Facility Management, an animal with numerous tentacles

For those outside this wonderful, exiting, complex and challenging FM world Facility Management is the “pimped” expression or synonym for housekeeping, cleaning, maintenance and repair. What most “outsiders” do not see is the complexity, the interaction, the interfaces and implications and effects of Facility Management. Have a closer look at FM and its tentacles, touching numerous areas within a company and its organizations. Think about it for a minute…

FM starts already with your parking lot, the gate house, fences, landscaping security organization, access control, CCTV, reception, sanitary areas, catering, meeting rooms, HVAC, firefighting, equipment and installations, asset management, contract management, sustainability and sourcing. FM runs into production lines, employee’s well-being up to operational compliance. Once you realize this you can easily understand why Facility Management has a significant impact on your productivity and economy, employee motivation and well-being. Facility Management will be seen once your employees, colleagues and visitors enter your premises and send a first impression. It will be your Facility Management (team) who is responsible for maintaining a “feels good” work environment and eventually for your company attractivity as well, which might bring you in a position to hire the most promising candidates, to bring them on bord because they like what they see or leave you with the average ones. OK, some other aspects might also be important when it comes to hiring top performers ;-).

Therefore, pay attention to your Facility Management organization and teams, the interfaces and listen and understand what they are telling you, they are more important for your business then you might think. If one tentacle is not performing this might have a deeper impact than expected. Because it is not only housekeeping!

And what about FM cost, efficiency, performance …? Well, this is something to talk about in the next posts.  

Facility Management and basic market knowledge

Know your local market prior to kick off any FM initiative with trumpets and a big bang. You might realize that what looks like a promising opportunity concept in some areas will definitely not work in your area. Local maturity deviations of a e.g. super strong global partner can materialize out of the blue into a weak service delivery organization with deficits in qualification, resources, awareness and know-how and turn your project into a nightmare. Prior to any kick off you might want to have a closer look or should I better say an in-depth market analysis at the FM market close to you. Identify your expectation factors (e.g. cultural mindset, ethics, innovations, global/local presence, references, existing business, financial stability, sustainability, management concepts & systems, qualifications, your position in the suppliers customer portfolio…). Also make sure you have a predefined selection process at hand to evaluate the market, potential partners and to document your selection journey. I certainly would also involve not only FM specialist into the selection process but also e.g. finance, operations, procurement, quality etc. to allow different views in the selection process and as well broad acceptance. The documentation of the selection process is important to back you up in case of major challenges which might develop during the service delivery. This might sound a bit negative but over 20 years in FM told me it’s better to be prepared then surprised.

The big players are certainly promising and coming with great power and resources but local heroes are sometimes more flexible, easier to negotiate and more suitable for your individual demands and expectations. Keep in mind, it only works when it works for you as well and when you feel comfortable and your expectations are met.  

Understand your FM Position and Maturity Level

Where are you today, what are your pain points, where would you like to be, where are your industry peers? What is the market willing or capable to deliver? This and certainly some more points should be in your knowledge bag. Otherwise, you are just drifting down the FM river, neglecting all the promising opportunities, which are passing by, to bring your own FM business forward. Sad to see that you are most likely in good company, since FM is still behind his possibilities and far beyond a maturity-level where it could/should be. Knowledge and awareness are your foundation for a successful FM optimization project. Continuously evaluate your as-is situation and individual optimization opportunities, stay alert to the market capabilities. Do not hesitate to challenge and benchmark your status quo day by day. Neglected optimization opportunities is a P&L loss which should not happen.  

Facility Management and Asset Management

We are surrounded by active and passive assets, installations and equipment. We know them, we see them, we touch and feel them. We know how to deal with them because we are grown up with them, we share a history with them, we have control. Really? How do we know? We’ve conducted a in depth analysis? Or is it simply our experience, knowledge and a good portion of gut feeling? The fact that all has run smoothly so far might be based simply on big portions of luck and less on a holistic evaluation of the asset portfolio followed and guided by detailed management strategy.

For me asset management it is a question each company and FM team has to answer individually, depending on the asset portfolio, risk evaluations, productivity requirements and as always economic consideration.  

Some questions (not exhausted) we might want to ask ourselves to start with…

·      What do we need to consider?

·      What are our priorities

·      What are risk factors & potential impact

·      How to best cluster assets

·      What data are essential

·      How to measure performance

·      How to measure cost

·      Which benchmarks are useful

·      What are the legal requirements

·      Who should be involved in an asset evaluation and strategy preperation

·      What would be an appropriate maintenance concept

·      What is the environmental impact

·      What about life cycle evaluation


Asset management is an endless playground and full of pitfalls and opportunities. This is not a “let’s get it done and move to the next challenge task”. It requires ongoing investment in time, resources, capabilities and competence to manage our assets.

Maintenance concept could go from a reactive/corrective run to failure (yes, this could also be an option) approach, to condition based up to prescriptive maintenance, depending on our asset portfolio evaluation.

But how to get there, how to best decide which way to go? Well, ISO 5500X is a good starting point to understand how to integrate company goals, asset management targets, asset management systems and operational lifecycle asset management. Hmmm, guess this will be way too much to discuss here in detail, but a simple starting point could be to form a small task force to first look into…

1.    As-is evaluation

2.    Asset clustering

3.    Legal aspects – operational compliance

4.    Asset condition

5.    Risk & implications

6.    Asset strategy, road map & target setting

Eventually, it depends in which environment we operate, what our asset portfolio looks like, what we and our business want, needs, expects and what risk level we are willing to accept. For sure at the beginning, as always, a detailed analysis is required, some standards to be consider will definitely help (and avoid to reinvent the wheel) and knowing the as-is is certainly a good starting point as well.

Let’s get started and have a closer look to discover all the great asset management opportunities.

Facility Management and Outsourcing

The trend is still there but companies are more careful in selecting potential outsourcing services and delivery partners. Also, market turned into a supplier market whereby FM provider as well are more selective and more often reject invitations for tenders based on likelihood of success. There are some factors which are important for both sides but more often used by the provider side to decide whether to invest in a tender or politely reject a participation.

·      Readiness for change

·      FM maturity level of customer

·      Resources and capabilities

·      Senior management support

·      Outsourcing goals (only financials?)

·      Existing business relation ships

·      Reputation and references

Finding capable partners which meet our expectations require a market deep dive to identify those one’s which maybe do not have the best sales team and colorful presentations but the best implementation and operational team, mindset, corporate culture, resources and references. Always double check this information prior to invest big dollars in a tender process.

But there is much more to consider when evaluating outsourcing opportunities. See also “Facility Management and the Human Factor “.

When I was exploring outsourcing opportunities, I refused to call it outsourcing, IFM or something like this. These are buzzwords which can easily trigger fear and uncertainties and bring in emotions which can lead to a biased opportunity evaluation which neglects a straight forward analysis and holistic view of FM service delivery opportunities. We shall not underestimate the fear of loosing responsibilities, team members or even a job itself. Sometimes it is enough to bring in some transparency and benchmarks to trigger emotional discussions. Even if we are aware, such emotions might nevertheless unconsciously impact a decision-making process and neglect optimization opportunities in order to protect status quo. Instead of showing all opportunities and allowing an informed decision-making process a promising initiative might end up immediately because benefits vanished, are downgraded or wrongly interpreted.

Be aware of this human factor and personal insecurities before you introduce an optimization initiative. A little bit of pre-selling might help to get colleagues on board and allow them to participate and contribute to the overall process rather than confront them with a solution secretly develop behind a curtain. This would certainly raise eyebrows if not significant trouble once introduced. Always be open and transparent in your communications and allow the respective teams to be part of the process and decision-making process. This will prepare the ground for a much smoother evaluation and potential implementation.      

Facility Management and the investment decisions

Asset management and maintenance concepts can significantly impact our performance, lifecycle cost, energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Depending on the industry we are in and the assets and infrastructure we are working with our influencing options may differentiate. But our responsibility to protect our environment is mandatory. Just as important is to look into or even better be part of the CAPEX planning process. With each investment in assets and infrastructure we establish and trigger a cost scenario which we sometimes call “The Iceberg Effect”. Which means that often the CAPEX part is about 20% of the overall lifecycle cost of a certain investment. This 20% might then drive the decision-making process. The likelihood that we are captured with bigger investments is high and with that the lifecycle cost burden. Which means, we are facing the challenge to optimize operational cost (80%), when the only thing we should have done is selecting an adequate and efficient design which would have done the majority of cost optimization already. Don’t get me wrong, we can make a decision to invest in incredible fancy design buildings, impressive and exclusive materials, build extra capacity in machinery and equipment just to be prepared, if all off this are informed decisions and we are aware of the lifecycle consequences.

As from my point of view, I would always recommend to have operational Facility Management specialist on board to analyze and comment on building structure and design, materials but also for major asset and infrastructure investments prior to any decisions. We will get valuable insights about practicability, running cost, dimensioning, spare part management (and availability), housekeeping etc. In addition, the operational situation after the invest will be much clearer and should be considered in the decision-making process. We shall not only rely architects, designers, external planning teams or consultancies and their financial and performance forecasts, since they will not be burdened with the performance and lifecycle running cost at all.

In a perfect world we would keep the architects, designers, planning specialists, consultancies accountable for the promised operational performance and running cost, for the asset lifetime and reliability. If this accountability could be integrated in a contract that would certainly change some designs, material selection and financial forecasts.

Maybe something, if not already done, to consider and insist in the upcoming investment and budgeting process.

Facility Management, Cost, Accounting Principles and Opportunities

Have you ever looked holistically at your FM costs? If you take your overall cost for FM services, which might differentiate based on your own definition of FM cost, you will find out that closely behind your overall HR cost, which are most likely the biggest one in the company, you find your FM cost. Therefore, it is certainly an interesting area to look at.

But what are FM cost, where to find them and what to do with them?

As from my humble point of view the following should be taken into account as FM cost.

·      Soft Service - Driven by labor cost of FM service delivery and contributing to the well-being of the occupants e.g., cleaning, catering, security, housekeeping, landscaping, pest control…

·      Hard Service – Related to technical equipment. Things you can touch and feel like installations, equipment, plumbing, HVAC systems, lighting, electrical and mechanical stuff, fire safety systems, building maintenance work…

·      Utilities – Provision and management of e.g., fuel oil, gas, electricity, steam, waste management, water and wastewater…

·      Real Estate – Related to provision of space like rent, flex space but not necessarily the CAPEX element like building construction and design.

·      FM Management – Related to the organization and management of the above from operational and strategic point of view including FM sourcing.

Depending on your location you will find suitable FM cost definition under e.g. ISO 15686-5 „Buildings and constructed assets – Service life planning Part 5: life cycle costing“ or e.g. DIN 276 in Germany. Though your financial and/or FM team might have a different view. Maybe you should have a look at your financial account chart and start highlighting those accounts where you expect some FM related cost. Depending on your FM accounting principles you will be surprised where some (hidden) FM cost are booked. Finding all the FM cost is a challenge itself, interpreting them is another thing. Regardless of this it should not hinder you to start collecting and analyzing them. Maybe this is something to share in a “Facility Management and the Data Quality Mystery” post.

By now you probably would like to know where you are with your spend compared with the industry, best in class or simply your competitors. Well, as sad as it is but benchmarks have a weak point. Benchmarks are built on various sources, interpretations, definitions etc. and in our case different service levels. Those service levels might not reflect your own ones and therefore benchmarks could only be seen as an indication or might give you a hint where to have a closer look. Never do benchmark if you are not absolutely sure you are comparing apples with apples. Building a project based on “weak” benchmarks will bring you into trouble.

So, if you have done your deep dive and gained a good understanding of the numbers you do the math and add them all together. You will soon realize this is an exciting playground for analysis and opportunity definition. Personally, I would recommend to first have a full picture of all the cost and only then start cutting out those ones where you think they are better looked at separately. Nevertheless, always start from the big picture to tell the whole story, it is much more attractive.

In a next step you best find your definition of relevant and most promising FM services, then collecting all the information you can around external spend, service partners, contracts, inhouse team, departments involved and overall FM organization. This is important because you want to know your internal and external partners/players, their goals and ambitions and the potentials behind.

With that you have a solid foundation what you are doing with your money and who is involved. From here you dig into the details and build clusters to understand with which cluster you would like to start work with to find optimization opportunities.

With all the money involved in the game you will easily find stakeholders and sponsors for such an initiative and “lucky you” also some quick wins and low hanging fruits to demonstrate success and prove your initiative to be a value generator.

Good Luck!

Facility Management and the Lecturing and Educational Gap

First of all, we do have highly skilled, experienced, impressing, inspiring and throughout professional FM leader in the industry. The numbers are growing and FM in general is moving up in priority. So far so good, but looking into the background of our FM professionals only few of them had the opportunity to be trained already as young professionals, or studied in university courses focusing on Facility Management. I would assume, that the vast majority of us is trained and formed by daily learning, practicing and years of experience in the industry.

Back to the universities and to be fair, we do see more and more universities are offering FM courses as main or at least additional “free to choose” lessons. Nevertheless, I think there is still an educational gap and more training and qualification could be offered/provided to the young professionals in universities. There is a high and constantly growing demand in the market for FM professionals and since the FM image and reputation is rising steadily the universities should consider this.

I had the opportunity to give a lesson to architectural and construction engineer students and we shared some thoughts around Facility Management. What we understood is, that it is important to have a holistic understanding of architectural design, materials, assets and infrastructure to understand the impact of a building design and materials over the overall lifecycle and lifecycle cost. We used the “iceberg effect” as an example whereby only 20% of the overall lifecycle cost is related to design and construction, 80% is related to lifecycle cost. Making a decision only based on building and construction cost would be fatal and could lead into a financial disaster.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the next generation of graduates would have comprehensive Facility Management skills already in their backpack? Using those skills already in an early design stage when planning our new (real estate) environment. And even better, when the environmental impact would already be considered within a sustainability concept? What a wonderful world… and most likely supporting the companies overarching goals of carbon neutrality, efficiency and cost optimization.

As from my humble point of view I would recommend to include Facility Management courses as a management practice training into university curriculum and subject areas to assure our next generations have a good insight into the operational and strategic FM complexity. To understand the connections between e.g. architecture, design, engineering, construction, economics but also environmental and social impact of Facility Management.  

To all the great architects and engineers out there, you are great people with impressing ideas and solutions and if some thoughts are circling around FM topics feel free to let them in, we as FM professionals would certainly welcome this.  

Facility Management and the Intelligence Data Concept

When we manage our Facility Management portfolio we need, collect and manage data. Data sources are different, formats are different, definitions and interpretations are different. In addition, data are separated in various clusters from spend & budget data, supplier data, asset data, condition data, compliance data, benchmark and performance data, occupancy data, inventory data etc. In a perfect world all these relevant data are captured and managed in a single master database or better a dedicated Facility Management software tool (CAFM). There, data source, definitions, formats, evaluation periods and data processing concepts are defined. We will find numerous providers of such, mostly useful tools with different focus and background in the market. Some more into operational FM, some more into architecture, construction, some into asset management, some into Real Estate. Feel free to search the constantly growing market based on your own individual focus, priority areas and budget.

Back to us and our data at hand or should we better say the data we are familiar, used to consider and work with? During our daily business and FM operations we are perfectly prepared to make decision and assure our FM business is up and running and serving our company, overarching management goals and core business well. But do we really make decisions based on solid/validated data? Based on facts and figures or rather on routine, gut feeling or simply because industry standards are suggesting what to do? Have we ever thought about all the data we are generating during our operations and all the interesting thinks they are (or might) telling us? Very often the answer is no or not to the extent we could/should. Our FM operations, performance, asset conditions, cost but also operational compliance level could be easily improved significantly if we would analyze (or at least have the opportunity to analyze) all available date systematically and draw conclusion based on those data. Unfortunately, as per today majority of FM organizations do not (yet) have this data focus nor appropriate tools to manage and learn from all this available intelligent data around us. The good thing is, the world is changing, Facility Management is developing and learning. Awareness and interest in FM but also the understanding of the value FM is providing is rapidly growing. FM professionals drawn closer to the senior management and with that additional expectations are on the table. Therefore, exploring new ways of working, developing new FM concepts, adapting new technologies and actively benefitting from the digital data world is vital for us.

Imagine, our digital data world is telling us when and how to do maintenance and repair based on e.g. temperature control, oil quality, vibrations, operational hours etc., when to best clean a certain area based on occupancy rates, when to heat or cool down offices based on traffic and traffic forecasts, when to do legal inspections based on constantly changing legal requirements, when to best recharge batteries based on peak load evaluations etc. This would certainly ease our life and work as a Facility Management professional.

Is this fiction?  No, certainly not and most of such intelligent information are already available. Some of them are more sensitive than others when it comes to e.g. personal rights, workers council and such, but nevertheless, with some agreements usable. The challenge is to first detect, collect and harmonize all this information and bring them all together in a sensible way. It doesn’t matter which application is currently providing individual data, most of the CAFM systems available on the market are already providing interfaces for the most common data sources to allow easy and automated data entries.

Well to be realistic, “easy & automated” is probably the case after all the formatting, definitions and data cleaning is done. Which in most cases will be a manual work, which takes time and money but certainly and investment to be considered. Since this data cleaning involves not only traditional FM business but also e.g. IT, HR, finance, production etc. it might make sense to set up a small but capable task force team to have a closer look, maybe with some free brain storming sessions to see whether this is something to follow up and to which extend.

As for me, I would recommend to paint the strategic big picture of the final “to be” intelligent data management concept, to create some senior management and operational appetite first but to start with small steps (e.g. pilots). Adding information within a aligned road map plan to slice the workload and increase acceptance for the roll out. Acceptance, because the more data we collect and manage centrally the more transparency we create, the more opportunities might surface, the more benchmarks are possible and weak points are visible. But the new transparency coming with intelligent data management concept might not be welcomed everywhere, be aware!

Have fun and never stop exploring.