facilities

Is Facilities Management Strategic?

by jimware on September 21, 2016

office-buildingIs Facilities Management Strategic? What does it mean to be a strategic business resource?

Those questions are crucial to the future of the Facilities Management (FM) profession.

Please contribute to an important conversation and research project addressing the current state of the FM profession by helping to answer those questions. If you are an FM professional I invite you to participate in a brief global online survey about your FM organization and its current role and relationships, as well as your views about current challenges and opportunities for FM leaders.

The survey includes just 15 questions and will take less than 15 minutes of your time. Click here to complete the survey:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RaisingtheBar-2016

This survey represents an important opportunity for you to contribute to a global conversation about the emerging strategic impact of facilities management. If you complete the survey, we will be happy to send you a summary of our findings once the study is completed.

The survey is part of a study sponsored by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). RICS has commissioned Occupiers Journal to update our 2012 report, “Raising the Bar: Enhancing the Strategic Role of FM,” to provide a 2016 view of the state of FM, and analyze trends and developments over the past four years.

The 2012 report can be downloaded for free at this link.

We are also interviewing selected senior FM executives and professionals as part of this project. If you are an FM practitioner who has tackled a strategic project for your organization, we would like to interview you; please contact me directly at my Occupiers Journal email address:  jim.ware@occupiersjournal.com, to volunteer your story.

One more thing: fellow Occupiers Journal director Paul Carder and I will discuss the project and offer preliminary findings at education session 7.03 at World Workplace in San Diego, California, on Friday morning, 7 October. Hope to see you there!

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by @paulcarder (References at footer)

You are probably quite familiar with the term “evidence-based design” (or EBD) as a corporate real estate, FM or workplace professional. In fact, there is a new EBD Journal. You may not have heard of “evidence-based management”, but it is a logical extension of practice started in healthcare, where ‘evidence’ to support decisions is clearly vital, and must be based on science (not just opinion). I’m sure we have all witnessed management decisions seemingly made on the basis of personal choice, politics, or fad. So, bringing sound evidence in to support management decision-making must be a good thing.

Denise M. Rousseau, Ph.D., is the H.J. Heinz II University Professor of Organizational Behavior Management Collaborative at Carnegie Mellon University, and editor of one of a number of books on the subject, including “The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-based Management”.

Denise Rousseau and Eric Barends (2011) applied the principles to human resource management (HR), and open their paper on ‘becoming an evidence-based HR practitioner’ with a useful definition:

Evidence-based HR (EBHR) is a decision-making process combining critical thinking with use of the best
available scientific evidence and business information.

It seems to me that this practice could (and should) be applied to Facilities Management (FM).

Evidence-based FM

There has been much discussion in recent years about the similarities between HR and FM, and the need for the two disciplines to work more closely together in organisations. This lengthy extract from Rousseau & Barends (2011), I believe, could equally have been written about FM:

Managers have diverse disciplinary backgrounds. HR practitioners have no single credential that authorises their expertise, and the occupation is open to those with no degree and those with several. There are no regulatory requirements regarding the education or knowledge an individual must have to become a manager or an HR professional. The HR industry associations SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) administer examinations to certify member expertise. At present, the SHRM exam is not highly evidence-based, instead supporting industry standard practice. In contrast, CIPD (active in Ireland, Britain and elsewhere in Europe) focuses more on science-based knowledge and aligns with masters’ level university programmes throughout Europe.

If you swapped ‘HR’ for ‘FM’,…’SHRM’ for ‘IFMA’,…and ‘CIPD’ for ‘RICS’ this statement could almost be written about FM. So, what is good for HR could be good for FM.

Example: knowledge-worker productivity

One leading consultancy in the UK, Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) has been digging into this subject, with their research partners, the Center for Evidence-Based Management (CEBMa). Together, using an evidence-based management approach, they have identified what they call “the 6 factors of knowledge worker productivity” (AWA, 2015). This has been a thorny subject for many years, with a lot of opinions being traded, but often without a scientific approach. AWA and CEBMa have put aside opinion, and reviewed 161 papers, after screening for relevance excluding 102, leaving 59 relevant studies.

(nb., you can read the full process in Barends, Plum & Mawson (2015) listed below. This is part of Eric Barends’ published PhD thesis, and therefore detailed and robust).

Having worked with a few consultancies and service providers in the FM sector, this level of robust analysis of scientific evidence is rare, in my opinion. And could mark the start of a movement towards ‘evidence-based FM’, if the approach was copied by others in the sector.

The team set out to answer the following key questions:

1.What is “knowledge work”?

2.Which of the factors that have an impact on the performance of knowledge workers are most widely studied and what is known of their effect?

3.How do these factors enhance the performance of knowledge workers and how can they be measured? In addition, what are the implications of the findings for management practice?

Reviewers from CEBMa conducted a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) of the available scientific literature and AWA used its knowledge and experience to translate the academic findings into practical guidelines.

Results: practical guidelines

Eric Barends (2015) PhD thesis, Chapter 5, Annex 1 lists the practical measures (in the form of a useful questionnaire) derived from the scientific literature: Measuring the 6 factors

(The level of each factor can be scored as follows: Strongly agree = 5; Somewhat agree = 4; Neither agree or disagree = 3; Somewhat disagree = 2; Strongly disagree = 1. When the aggregate team score is low (e.g. below 3.5), this is a strong indication for low team performance)

When reviewing the 6 factors below, an FM/Workplace manager could useful consider how the physical working environment provided, and the facilities and services in the FM provision, may help to raise the score to 4 or 5. 

Factor 1: Social Cohesion

1.Members of our team like to spend time together outside of work hours

2.Members of our team get along with each other

3.Members of our team would rather get together as a team than go out on their own

4.Members of our team defend each other from criticism by outsiders

5.Members of our team help each other on the job

Factor 2: Perceived supervisory support

1.My supervisor is willing to extend him-or herself in order to help me perform my job the best of my ability

2.My supervisor takes pride in my accomplishments at work

3.My supervisor tries to make my job as interesting as possible

4.The organization values my contribution to its well-being

5.The organization strongly considers my goals and values

6.The organization really cares about my well-being

Factor 3: Information sharing and TMS (transactive memory system)

1.Our team members share their work reports and official documents with other team members.

2.Our team members share their experience or know-how with other team members.

3.Information to make key decisions is freely shared among the members of the team

4.Our team members trust that other members’ knowledge is credible.

5.Our team members are confident of relying on the information that other team members bring to the discussion.

Factor 4: Vision and goal clarity

1.This team has clearly defined goals

2.Our team goals are clear to everyone who works here

3.It is easy to explain the goals of this team to outsiders

4.I have specific, clear goals to aim for in my job

5.If I have more than one goal to accomplish, I know which ones are most important and which are least important.

Factor 5: External communication

1.Our team members use information obtained from external teams everyday

2.Our team is contacted by outside teams for knowledge and information

3.Our team scans the external environment for ideas and solutions

Factor 6: Trust

Horizontal trust

1.Our team members withhold information from each other

2.Our team members withhold information from the management

3.Our team members in general trust each other

Vertical trust

1.The management trusts the team to do their work well

2.The team members can trust the information that comes from the management

3.The management withholds important information from the team members

4.The team members are able to express their views and feelings towards management

Application to FM and Workplace/management

It can be readily seen how the evidence from the almost 60 papers reviewed in detail has delivered these ‘6 factors’ as set out above, and how a consultant or in-house change manager could drop these factors into a spreadsheet tool and create a useful survey tool.

It is less easy to see how an FM/Workplace manager could use these ‘6 factors’ directly. But it does provide a sound list of the factors which affect knowledge worker productivity, working in organisations and teams. However directly applicable, the advantage of this evidence-based approach, above the many lists created by knowledgeable consultants and FM practitioners, is that the ‘6 factors’ above can be traced back to scientific evidence from peer-reviewed academic journals.

Academic partnerships to create new knowledge in FM

What is set out above is a great example of a consultancy partnering with academics, to bring robust academic findings into FM and Workplace practice. It would be good for the developing FM profession to see far more of these academic-practitioner partnerships, which would deliver knowledge into FM practice. There is a large amount of peer-reviewed academic knowledge ‘locked away’ in academic journals which, as AWA and CEBMa have shown, can be collated and transferred into practice.

 

References

Advanced Workplace Associates, AWA (2015) “The 6 factors of knowledge worker productivity” available at: http://www.advanced-workplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/6_Factors_Paper.pdf

Barends, E.G.R., Plum, K., & Mawson, A. (2015). “The Added Value of Rapid Evidence Assessments for Managers and Organizations“; in Barends, E (2015) In Search of Evidence Empirical findings and professional perspectives on evidence-based management, PhD Thesis, VU University of Amsterdam, pp. 93-120. available at http://hdl.handle.net/1871/53248.

Rousseau, D. M. and Barends, E. G. R. (2011), Becoming an evidence-based HR practitioner. Human Resource Management Journal, 21: 221–235 available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227792752_Becoming_an_evidence-based_HR_practitioner

Rousseau, D. M. (2012), The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-based Management, Oxford University Press.

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Towards the Corporate Placemaker in 2016

by Paul Carder on December 23, 2015

by @paulcarder

I have been studying and thinking about this concept of the Corporate Placemaker for some time now. I trace it back to our work on Raising The Bar, a global study for the RICS which, after more than 140 years of history, seemed to coincide with their awakening to the importance of Facilities Management (FM). But, take a look at the link path, and it is Home/Property/FacilitiesManagement. So, FM is still a subset of property (real estate, or ‘real property’). But, is it?

I can categorically state (as we are dealing in how to ‘categorize’) that whatever we decide the “corporate placemaker” may be, it is not just property/ real estate or facilities management. Property (real estate) is heavily biased towards ownership (as its very name suggests), and maximizing the benefits of ownership of some physical asset. It can easily be seen how little the real estate market and professions care about the ‘use value’ of property by the comparatively tiny proportion of media dedicated to the subject (a key reason for our launch of Work&Place, our journal, in 2012). And facilities management is such a nebulous term which I sincerely hope can be eventually replaced with something clear and meaningful.

I think we are all searching for what to call real estate and facilities management, working together, are we not? Corporate Real Estate is represented in research, with Corporate Real Estate Journal (Henry Stewart Publications), and Journal of Corporate Real Estate (Emerald). But what is the “subject area”? – Property Management & Built Environment. As is also Facilities and Journal of Facilities Management (both Emerald).

But what of place in the context of organizations, and the people who use spaces and places for some other reason than for the asset? There is a Journal of Place Management and Development (again, by Emerald), supported by the Institute of Place Management, a body that “supports people committed to developing, managing and making places better”. Sounds promising. And the concepts are promising for the future – such as marketing and branding of places (corporate marketing take note!), the consumption of place (yes, that is what occupiers do!), and place competitiveness (again, a subject of interest to HR and corporate executives in deciding how to support their efforts to win the ‘war for talent’). But, before I get you too excited, this whole subject is about cities and town centres generally. Take a look at one of the leading Masters courses in this field and that is immediately apparent. However, this course is positioned in the department of Marketing, Operations and Digital Business at MMU Faculty of Business and Law, which is a good start! It is all about the use of places, not the built environment as an asset.

Still, nothing yet for the use of places by organizations and their people. Research and teaching has yet to make much impact on the ‘supply-side centric’ thinking which abounds in the real estate and built environment disciplines. The world of the occupier, or ‘demand-side’, is under-represented.

This is why I am so focused on the term (and hopefully the emerging discipline of) the “corporate placemaker”. I hope you can see where I am coming from. This is wider than corporate real estate and facilities management. It must pick up some of the social sciences and business administration disciplines covered by “place management” above, but focus on corporate places rather than city public spaces and town centre management.

In fact, my PhD study is grappling with exactly what it is to be a corporate “placemaker”. Leading placemaking for an organization, rather than wider society in urban spaces. The subject areas are diverse, and may include the following:

  • Organizations, Occupations and Work – sociological change, and the future of work;
  • The ‘draw’ of places – perhaps ‘place appeal’?;
  • The psychology of environment and behaviour (org. psych.);
  • Strategy and competition (esp. in competing for talent, a key HR issue)
  • Brand and image – marketing – the impact of place;
  • The consumerization of everything – including ‘the place to be’ on any one day;
  • The experience economy – not just place, but service, and experience;
  • The health & wellness debate: stress, work-life balance and related issues;
  • Workplace economics – cost vs value, taking all the above into account;
  • Corporate places, home, and ‘third places’; coworking; hubs; collaboration; innovation;
  • Home or away? – the only real human options (i.e., everyone choses either to stay at home, or to go somewhere… the default in the future may be to stay put! or work closer to where we live)
  • Management, procurement and delivery of places for corporations, employees, and their networks.
  • Relationships between the ‘placemaker’ team and the rest of the corporation & stakeholders.
  • The future provision of corporate places – new market entrants?;
  • A sustainable, low-carbon, low-stress future; we cannot continue the way we are today!

What would you call the management discipline which encompasses all of the above? The multi-faceted and strategically-minded role in large organizations, which moves between Group HR, operations, marketing, IT infrastructure planning, corporate real estate and facilities management?

(clue: the answer is not Facilities Manager. Though there is nothing to say that a good strategic-thinking FM could not develop into this role! But then, so could a good HR manager….)

 

Happy Christmas all… and our very best wishes for 2016.

 

Paul Carder

Co-Founder, Occupiers Journal Limited

paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com

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I come from the far west of England; the rugby-loving county of Cornwall. Because I was large, I had to play, but was never much good. My second-row buddy went on to play for Scotland and the British Lions, but I took up music lessons 🙂 Anyway, we had a saying when Cornwall reached the County finals, “last one over the Tamar Bridge, turn out the lights”, as busloads of Cornish traveled to support the county side!

If you are wondering what relevance this has to anything you may usually expect to read here, it just reminded me of the current direction of travel for office occupiers. i.e., out of the office – like we sped out of the county.

There was, in fact, far more drawing us back to our beloved county of Cornwall than there is for most daily occupants of offices. Aside from the Googles and Facebooks of our occupier friends, and some of the large employers that spend serious money on great workplaces, for many others the office is a dull place. You only have to see the hoards of people walking from their soulless business park to the local supermarket to buy today’s “Meal Deal” to understand how dull life can be for those unfortunate people.

No wonder, therefore, that cool cafes and co-working hubs are busier than ever. The legions of freelancers and entrepreneurs are being joined by corporate employees who just prefer somewhere better to work. I was talking to Neardesk last week, and they are experiencing ever-rising demand from people wanting to work closer to home. Not at home: that doesn’t work for everyone (many of us just want the separation of work and home life; or have too much home life going on to concentrate). But near to home, with a short commute, good coffee, and interesting people who don’t really care if you sit on the sofa and read the newspaper for a while. Nobody is watching – they’re amongst friends (or total strangers – either way, no bosses hovering).

If you don’t have to be at the office, why would you go? It may be in a great location, and you may want to go for lunch with the girl (or guy) from accounts. But, otherwise, why not wade through your emails at a desk closer to home, and actually get home before the kids are so tired that they just want to go to sleep. Or fit in that round of golf, now that the summer evenings are here? (not for me that one – golf is a good walk spoiled – certainly for my dog!). Or take some time cooking, instead of buying a pizza at 9pm. Or…or…whatever. Take some time back.

There will always be offices. But, we just don’t need to go there every day. And agile working means desk-sharing ratios can rise, so the expanding company does not necessarily need to take on more office space. Some call it space-less growth.

So, every 4th floor you occupy could be released, if more people stayed near home one or two days a week, and let someone else use their desk on those days. Or, every 4th office building – if you occupy a portfolio within a commuting catchment area.

If you manage the 4th office, switch off the lease on your way out….

Paul

@paulcarder

@occupiers

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Development of a teaching ‘case study’: Wallace&Sprocket LLP

(Note: it would be great to receive your feedback – and perhaps, somewhere out there, real-life examples which are similar to this fictional example)

Wallace&Sprocket LLP is a fictional organization in the accountancy and business advisory sector, mainly serving the creative arts, media and film production industries.

Wallace&Sprocket LLP occupied a four-floor office in a CBD, all floors being approximately the same size, and serviced via a reception and lift lobby at one end of the building.

Wallace&Sprocket’s corporate vision for their workplace was to create a high-quality flexible environment which would be attractive to potential employees, and may also retain existing employees. As a professional services firm they had achieved an approximately 50/50 gender balance at most levels of the firm. But, they were finding that more senior women were leaving than men, and the Executive Committee (ExCo) had become almost 80% male.

The Director of Workplace Resources (responsible for property, workplace design and facilities management) had read about how remote working was shown to have increased employee retention. She had reported this to the ExCo and received the go-ahead for a pilot scheme to allow qualified mid-to-senior level staff to work wherever they feel most appropriate on any given day. Junior staff, and those working on professional qualifications, were to be allowed to work remotely when approved by their line manager.

The company’s specific aims were as follows:

  • To improve retention, and attraction of new staff (assessed by HR interview);
  • To improve levels of employee engagement (assessed using a survey tool);
  • To introduce agile working, where space was to be allocated to teams, but not to individuals (except for team co-ordinators, who would have a desk and be focal point for their team);
  • To reduce space used as a result of agile working, but to re-invest savings in the above;

Wallace&Sprocket’s ExCo agreed to follow this 10-step process, as set out below, and to adjust the solution to suit their specific circumstances.

1. Measure:

The first step was to deploy occupancy sensors (see example Sense from Condeco Software) at every existing workstation, and around spaces where people worked such as in meeting rooms. This was done over one weekend, to avoid any disruption to the business. The software was adjusted to measure occupancy at every ‘seat’ at 10 minute intervals (the software does this 24/7, for as long as the sensors are deployed).

A four week period was selected, avoiding national holidays or any events which may affect the analysis.

2. Analyse:

Towards the end of the four week period, analysts began to work with the sensor data, to understand patterns of office space use across the four floors. This analysis showed that average occupancy was 48% across the four week period. This varied by business unit and function across Wallace&Sprocket’s operations.

3. Develop:

Using the analysis, the company’s management were able to develop a workplace strategy and change management process.

The calculations were fairly simple, as an average across all business units (though adjustments were made for some, such as Tax and IT, whose occupancy had been around the 60-70% level).

With 400 people across four floors, on average only 192 desks were being used.

The company therefore decided to re-stack the office space, to move out of the ground floor. The assumption was made that if occupancy levels stayed broadly similar, and 192 desks were being used (average) then the company could cope with 300 desks on three floors (an occupancy rate of around 64%). This could be monitored over time, using the Sense software, to see how well the space coped with any fluctuations in use.

4. Implement:

Over a three month period, the workplace strategy set out above was implemented. The workplace change involved significant training of space users for ‘agile’ working.

This was managed by a third party (workplace consultant) who spent time with each of the business unit Heads, selected a ‘champion’ from each business unit, and held workshops with staff.

All staff were given access to a specially developed website, with a training course module which took them through the stages of moving to an agile working environment. In this way, business unit heads could see how many (and which) employees had completed the course.

5. Realize:

Wallace&Sprocket LLP was able to realize savings, on paper at least. The company was able to reduce space use, by one whole floor (25%), totaling 1200 square metres net internal area (NIA).

At an annual run-rate of approximately £750 per square metre NIA, the saving identified was circa £900,000.

However, at the time that the space was made vacant there appeared to be very limited demand for office space in the local market. So, alternative solutions were required.

6. Dispose:

As far as possible, clearly Wallace&Sprocket aimed to recover the £900k per annum running cost of its ground floor. As the company had taken advice from several real estate agents, and found that demand was almost ‘dead’ for a traditional sub-let, they looked into other options.

The decision was made to keep the ground floor lease until the next lease-break (not for another 5 years), and in the meantime to aim to generate to offset costs.

Wallace&Sprocket approached a leading broker with a brief to look for a serviced office operator prepared to take on the ground floor. Within a month, and still during the re-stack operation, the broker had found a local serviced office operator with two other sites in the area which were almost at capacity.

It was agreed that the serviced office operator would pay £600k per annum, and an additional £200k service charge for shared services provided to the space by Wallace&Sprocket facilities management department.

Wallace&Sprocket was able to therefore recover £800k per annum, to re-invest in its business.

7. Reinvest:

Wallace&Sprocket decided to re-invest 75% of the savings (£600k) into alternative ‘remote’ spaces for its staff to use, closer to where they lived. And also, work with a provider to issue ‘access cards’ to mid-to-senior level staff which they could use to access meeting rooms and workspace on the move.

The serviced office broker was also able to support this programme, through a subsidiary, and manage the card access system for Wallace&Sprocket LLP on behalf of its employees.

8. Train:

Wallace&Sprocket’s Director of Workplace Resources designed and implemented an ongoing training programme, for the following:

  • To train people to use the agile space in the office;
  • To train people to use the alternative remote space (nearer home, or on the move).

This training process is still ongoing (and will be for some time) as people receive regular refresher courses, progress interviews, and training is implemented for new starters.

9. Maintain:

Continuous improvement was always one of the key aims of the Director of Workplace Resources at the start. This involves continuous use of the occupancy sensors and analysis tool, to monitor occupancy (see below), but also ongoing change management.

However, this change management and training is seen as ‘business as usual’ now – the space is continuously ‘tweaked’ to get best value and use from the three remaining floors.

10. Loop back:

Finally, Wallace&Sprocket’s workplace resources team has learned to continuously analyse the occupancy data using the online tools made available by software provider. The company is able to learn, and feedback into further development.

Progress against original project aims

This is ongong, but early signs are that the project has been a success. In the first year after implementation there was significant take-up of the card system for use of alternative remote space. Ad-hoc feedback to senior line managers has been that employees appreciate the trust placed in them to work effectively wherever they deem suitable. Early indications are also that the staff turnover rate has reduced, but this will be monitored over time. The PR impact in the press has also been useful to the HR recruitment team. They have seen a slight increase in applications, and positive comments on interview for jobs at the company, with one reason being the flexible working arrangements.

From a real estate perspective, Wallace&Sprocket LLP now occupy 75% of the space they once did. The organization has re-invested in cards for all employees which allow them to book space remote from the office, often nearer their home. Overall net savings after this investment in remote working have covered the costs of implementation and software licences over a 2 year payback period.

NEXT?

This is a fictional example, based on what we know is starting to happen….have you done it? Do you know of a case study which we might get access to? It would be great to convert this fictional case study into one or more ‘real’ examples.

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By @paulcarderhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/paulcarder

Dear commercial real estate investor, What goes on tour, stays on tour, right? Usually…but I have recently returned from two conferences in the USA, and I feel I have to tell some tales. The first was the Global Workspace Association’s Annual Conference in Florida (@GWAssoc #GWABOCA2014), attended by various sized providers of workspace-as-a-service; mostly hospitality experts and marketers. They are ‘people people’, and I got the feeling that they have their finger firmly on the pulse of what people want from their working day.

The second conference was the International Facility Management Association’s World Workplace 2014 in New Orleans (@IFMA #IFMAWW14), attended by facility / facilities management professionals from around the world. Similarly, I found that many people there really ‘get it’ – that workplaces (offices, especially) are changing. And that change is permanent.

Permanent change…this is the key point really. It is not difficult, in most cities and towns, to drive five minutes from wherever you are, and to find vacant office space. And it will be easy to do so next year…and the year after. And so on. The owners of these vacant office properties may well know something that I do not. If so, I’d love to hear from them. But I just hear occupiers saying they are reducing the size of their office portfolio. And other things are changing too…

One change which was clear to anyone at the GWA conference in Boca Raton – the workspace-as-a-service (WaaS) market is growing. Occupiers (from the sole trader, and small business, through to large global corporations) are experimenting with workplaces leased for short periods of time. Some of the people I spoke with used phrases like “tipping point” and “exponential”. I didn’t take data away with me, but I’m sure it is available and would support these general views.

There are some places, like central London, where you would be forgiven for ignoring these changes. In London, there is a reported shortage of quality available office space. I’m sure that the same is true in other leading global city centres, where corporations will always be looking to attract and retain the best talent. But once you get to the fringes of these cities, or out into the smaller regional cities and towns, the agents (brokers) sign-boards are everywhere.

If I was a commercial property investor, holding tertiary offices, I might be thumbing through the last chapter of my property investment and development textbook. Those diagrams we remember from college, on the ‘property cycle’ – the last stage being redevelopment and/or sale. There just does not seem, to me at least, to be a long-term demand for the soul-less suburban and out-of-town office building. People can (and do) work in so many places today – from home, local ‘hubs’ near home, and many workspaces provided by GWA members. On the days that they do commute to their company office, I’m sure they will prefer a trip into the city HQ – the cool ‘mothership’ where all the money has been spent. But not the boring business park, where the highlight is someone selling sandwiches from the back of a van at 11.30am, and the coffee comes from a jar in the cupboard.

So, my next blog, perhaps “101 uses for a dead office”? All ideas gratefully received (I will quote you, unless you wish to remain anonymous!).

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by Paul Carder@paulcarder

Returning home late in one of my first cars, one of my first girlfriends invited me in for coffee. She filled a huge kettle right to the top, and switched it on. I remember saying, “Are you expecting someone else to join us?” Unaware of my humour (probably our eventual demise), she proceeded to explain how her father had told her that all machines are most efficient when working at full capacity. For once, I kept my mouth shut – there is a time and a place. I think I just smiled and said, “He’s a clever guy, your Dad”, not that I had a clue, and hoping that I would not meet him that evening. Anyway, I doubt that the coffee was important. I discovered it rarely was.

Somewhere, the truth about the efficiency of the kettle had been lost in translation. Like the old World War I story, recounted here by Ben Rooney in the Wall Street Journal:

In the annals of military folklore is the story of the supposed orders being sent by a British unit in World War 1 that was sent as “Send reinforcements, we are going to advance” but received by the headquarters  as “Send Three and Fourpence, we are going to a dance”. And this was in the days before Google Translate.

The real point is, of course, that filling the kettle ‘to the max’ may ensure that the kettle works at maximum efficiency. But, it is not efficient for two cups of coffee. And, if you have little interest in the coffee anyway, it is certainly not effective! Even the sentence is not efficient – “Would you like to come in [stop]” is efficient. “For a coffee” could be replaced….

Is this going somewhere? Maybe. So, coffee is not the biggest issue. When to meet, how to meet, where to meet – we can be more effective. That is a bigger issue.

At the corporate level, imagine the numbers. My friends at Condeco are making inroads into analysis of the efficiency of meeting rooms and related resources. In fact they have been recognized by Gartner for doing so. Some of the world’s largest organisations such as GE, Chevron, Barclays, Unilever and BBC, all use Condeco to book their meeting rooms, desks and resources across the world.

How many very large kettles are there out in the huge corporate world, boiling up for just two cups?

Or, how many very large meeting rooms are there in all those thousands of buildings, being used by two people for a meeting? Any facilities director knows, there are “a lot” (those in the companies listed above, having Condeco reporting tools, will know far more accurately). Worse, “no shows” are the equivalent of boiling the large kettle, then not drinking the coffee anyway! But on a macro and very expensive scale.

As managers of the corporation’s second-largest expense – buildings, space and related resources – we must do more to manage this inefficiency. Much like the question, how often in human interaction does ‘coffee’ mean ‘coffee’? How often does a meeting need a meeting room? Where, and what size? These are decisions with a cost implication.

Coffee often does not mean coffee. Two people boiling a huge kettle is inefficient. And every ‘couple’ meeting in a 20-seat conference room is costing your shareholders.

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By Paul Carder : @paulcarder

I attended a fascinating ‘Mobilities Workshop’ on Friday at University of the West of England (UWE). It was one of a number of research seminars and workshops run by the Department of Geography & Environmental Management (GEM) which is fortunately in the same Faculty as my colleagues in Architecture & Built Environment. This allows, and promotes, some great multi-disciplinary thinking, between Departments across the Faculty.

As Frank Duffy said in his introduction to Rob Harris‘ book, ‘Property and the Office Economy, the study of geography produces people “well formed in that most physical and integrative of all disciplines”. That was certainly the case at the Mobilities Workshop, with attendees from human geography, sociology, planning and architecture backgrounds.

The agenda intrigued me, with the stated aim, “to connect home with mobility and migration, to explore how home is theorized and analysed within the mobile paradigm”. In our market sector of workplace strategy, and perhaps corporate real estate and facilities management, we talk about mobility in a very different way – it is all about agile working. And we talk about working from home, from offices, and from a multitude of thirdplaces continuously springing up in urban environments. But, do we think about the concept of ‘home’ and what it means?

My colleague Edward Wigley framed the discussion:

Home sometimes disappears in the analysis of mobility, where the experience of being on the move is the focus, rather than the places at either end.  Of course, home itself may be nomadic, but the place called ‘home’ still has social resonance and meaning, even if those meanings are contested.  There is an opportunity to explore how the home is positioned in existing academic narratives of mobility and migration, and the potential for new interpretations and approaches.

This made me really think hard! In the world of work, and the places which we create and manage to support that work, to what extent do we consider the concept of ‘home’? Thoughts, feelings and emotions about home. We have all heard the phrase ‘a home from home’, but do we create this concept for people at work? More widely, who thinks, and who leads, on the corporate organisational side?

Who creates ‘home’ for people at work?

That is not to say that we want to re-create some physical resemblance of homes; workplaces are not homes! And we all have different tastes! But perhaps to re-create the feeling that people have for (and of) home – but somewhere else, where they are with other people in a work setting. So they walk into a place and soon feel ‘at home’; comfortable – not distracted, or stressed, or alienated. But able to entirely immerse themselves in whatever it was that they went there to do. To work, in some form, probably with others, or maybe alone in concentration.

Hotels – not for the first time, mentioned in this blog – clearly know how to do this.

What is the difference between an office and an hotel? Many years ago, there was a great deal of difference. But in the best of offices (and in most thirdplaces and co-working hubs especially) the feeling of an hotel exists to varying extent already. An office is simply an hotel without bedrooms for rent. Though even that is not a concrete definition, as I have visited offices in the City of London with visiting executive and VIP guest suites.

The real question is ‘who creates’ this experience of ‘home from home’? It is part of the professional toolkit of the PLACEMAKER. If that person has a hotel management background, and has sufficient seniority and budget to back up their skill-set, you will feel the experience of a hotel, possibly before you even set foot in the place. The signage will be clear and welcoming – not security style. The reception will be attentive, efficient and relaxing. The hospitality will be immediate and consistent throughout your visit.

You’ll feel at home….just, you are not. The PLACEMAKER is at work, even if you don’t feel like you are.

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By Paul Carder; t. @paulcarder

This blog is a bit UK-oriented, for which I apologize in advance, but the key points are fairly universal.

I have just travelled up from Bristol to east Docklands, London – a bit of a schlep. Near London Docklands City airport, but not exactly central for the rest of the UK. The Facilities Show might reconsider this – Birmingham was more central. Inevitably the train was also delayed on the way back. Oh for more video-conferencing! However, it was just-about worth it to catch up with some old friends, most of whom I didn’t expect to be there.

My original reason for the trip was to find out more about The Building Futures Group (@TheBFGrp), a recent merger between trade bodies and training organisations. They are “the only organisation collectively representing the housing, property, cleaning, parking and facilities management sectors in the UK”. That is, as a trade body, representing their member companies in those sectors.

It was interesting (to me anyway) that our friend and supporter Johnny Dunford (@johnnydunford1) had sponsored the seminar, in his role as Global Commercial Director at RICS. I had tweeted before the event that it would be great to see TheBFGrp apprentices work right through to Chartered FM Surveyors…it could be done, and what a great success story that would be.

The panel discussion was as follows:

Building Trust and Professionalising FM

Panel included: Ian Jones (ITV), Guy Stallard (KPMG Facilities) @Guy_Stallard, Johnny Dunford (RICS), Sarah Bentley (@SarahBFGrp), Chris Hoar and a guy from Compass Group (sorry, I didn’t write down his name).

I’m not sure where to start with trying to summarise this discussion. Sarah opened, followed by Chris Hoar; then an uplifting presentation by Ian Jones about his view on being a great FM. Thereafter a slightly rambling discussion ensued, mostly by the panel, with a few questions. The audience were a bit on the quiet side.

Sarah reminded us that the TheBFGrp launched in April 2014. The story of the merger is across all the FM trade press, so we all know who joined, and who withdrew (i.e., BIFM). In fairness, two months is not a long enough time to expect much output yet. But, unlike the BIFM, the purpose of the TheBFGrp is at least clear. It is a trade body, in support of the service providers in our broad industry.

I noted two specific aims, from Sarah’s opening piece:

  1. Training: fit-for-purpose, for the industry – and defined pathways for progress.
  2. Professionalising: bringing the industry up to the levels increasingly expected.

‘Trust’ was the main subject of Chris Hoar’s opening words, and I found myself entirely agreeing with what he said. He talked about “love-in’s” that we all see at conferences; i.e., where client and service provider tell the audience how much they love each other, and that all is going so well.

It’s true – maybe it happens in many industries, I wouldn’t know – but in property and FM we hear a lot of mutual back slapping and limited useful analysis. Chris asked, “Are we afraid to tell the truth?” For sure, and worse – we’re in a culture of ‘good news only’. That’s why we get so much more from the breaks during conferences than we do from many of the ‘sales pitch’ presentations – over coffee you can ask, “OK, so what ‘really’ happened then?” Wry smile from the presenter, and maybe the truth – or occasionally a look of horror that you may dare ask for the real lessons to be shared!

Chris also asked whether there is a difference between public and private sectors, and if so, should there be? And he followed this by asking whether partnerships really happen. Sezgin Kaya (Accenture) made a good point in response – that any relationship with a fixed term (like a contract) cannot be a partnership. And Sezgin also inadvertently kicked off a discussion about ‘economies of scale’ (bundling contracts, looking for cost savings)….and we were off! Down the same route as always…we should not be competing on cost, but rather on service and value-add to users.

I entered the debate with a comment that I could have made (and did) more than a decade ago. That is, FM has driven itself into becoming a commodity, in most cases. And it is not all the service providers’ doing, as many clients have pushed for lowest cost. But, I was working on a “cost versus service level” matrix, for each service line, in 1998 at Johnson Controls. I took it with me to Barclays later that year, and a couple of years in, tried again to get FM companies to create such a matrix. They didn’t get it, or didn’t want to ‘codify’ service and cost in that way – maybe a bit of both.

It was a simple as the car-wash price card at your local petrol filling station. Do you want a quick wash for three quid? Or wheel scrub etc? Or the full wash and wax for five quid?

I’m not naïve enough to think that a matrix of cost versus service level for any FM service would be quite so basic as a car wash! However, with some thought (and the will to do so) this kind of information could be presented to the market: even with lots of caveats.

Without something akin to what I have described above, sadly much of the great advice given by Ian Jones will not get acted upon. Ian talked about the need to “hire character, train skills” (a quote from Peter Shutz). Ian’s talk was really all about investing time in the development of people, through apprenticeships, job rotation every two years, job swaps and mentoring. I’m sure that all the service providers in the room would like to work for Ian! It takes time to do all of this great stuff, and time costs money.

So where do we go from here? Will we be having the same discussion in five years from now?

It does not need to be that way. The BFGrp could lead a programme to bring together service providers to agree a set of common ‘service level’ categories. It would take a bit of time and thought – but over several workshops, it could be achieved. Then, using the standard IPD/en15221 cost code, with a layer of additional granularity added, we could collate and plot FM service cost against service level, for different buildings in different locations, and so on.

Lastly, then anonymize the whole data-set, and publish it, as a ‘rough guide’ to the industry’s clients. They will clearly see, then, the differential between say, a ‘Bronze’ service level and a ‘Gold’ or ‘Platinum’.

Eventually, the whole industry will start to learn how not to answer the question, “how much?” with a number, but rather with a series of questions. What level of service do you actually need? And are you prepared to pay for that level of service?

Professionalizing FM debate:

Well, as I said, it didn’t really happen. Nor did I discover anything new about TheBFGrp plans, which I was hoping to. But hey, they’re only two months old – we need to give them a chance.

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In November, I wrote about Place-as-a-Service (PaaS), based on the now common term SaaS (Software as a Service): http://occupiersjournal.com/place-as-a-service-paas-time-to-join-the-connected-world/

The article was supply-side focused. I was considering the changes, already being seen in a small way, in how workplace accommodation is provided. Regus is the most well-known, globally; but there are many new entrants – in fact, who really knows how many?

Looked at from the user perspective, is this simply the consumerization of workplace accommodation? In a similar way that cloud-based IT and personal devices have been picked up by users? Not provided by the corporation (usually, the employer), but paid for by the consumer?

Where is this going? How far will it go? Of course, we do not know.

Will flexible accommodation, on flexible terms, reach a plateau? That seems unlikely.

Will agile working become universally accepted as simply the most efficient and effective way of working? That seems likely.

When people can truly work almost anywhere, at their choice, will they choose to commute to the corporate workplace? That remains to be seen. There are many ‘push/pull’ factors at play here – the need to belong to the wider ‘group’, recognition, immersion in corporate culture, versus time and cost to the individual.

How will corporations (employers) react? Or, indeed, plan for this eventuality? IT had its BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and that spread rapidly. Will our sector have its own BYOD? Buy-Your-Own-Desk? And charge its use back to the company? A Regus account will do that already; how many others will follow?

So many questions!….what are yours?

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