A New International Standard Will Help Facilities Management Professionals to Improve Services and Better Support Their Clients.

I am often asked what is facilities management (FM)?  Most people don’t realise that if they are working in an office, visiting a hospital or going to any large building they are interfacing with many of the services, such as cleaning, security and building maintenance, that fall under the discipline of FM.

FM has grown over the last 30 years from being a back of house function that was often managed across multiple departments to a strategically important function within an organisation.  According to Forbes magazine, the global outsourced FM market will be US$1 trillion by 2025.  FM is a discipline that needs to balance the rapidly changing needs and demands of the various stakeholders that it serves with effective, safe and sustainable business needs.  It affects the health and well-being of all those who come in contact with an organisation, and covers a wide range of areas including occupancy costs (the second highest overhead in almost every organisation), health and safety, use of space, maintenance, security, cleanliness, environmental performance, and more.

FM delivers workplace solutions that assist organisations to attract and retain highly skilled employees, and is an essential aspect of organisational success, which is why, in 2018, ISO 41001:2018 was published.  This management system standard, with guidance, provides a framework to help the FM organisation continuously improve services, providing organisations with a structure for FM that can be certified to international best practice.

Why is a Management System  Important for FM?

Management systems are those activities that are used to anticipate, avoid or solve known problems.  As such, an FM management system is nothing more or less than a series of agreements for policies and measures that form the basis for continuous improvement and adaption to the rapidly changing market.  It is therefore not a static document but a systematic approach.  The ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’ or PDCA cycle is an important tool in this regard (see Figure 1, adjacent).

Management systems can be deployed for a variety of reasons, such as quality, environment, health and safety, or work environment.  These are not systems that should operate in isolation from each other, but should be part of an integrated business system.  In many organisations, these systems are ‘controlled’ independently of each other, which leads to fragmentation and inefficiency.

How will ISO 41001 improve FM outcomes?

This standard provides a framework for integrating the various disciplines and services within FM.  The PDCA method is used as a structure to ensure that policies and measures are optimised so that FM can support the objectives of the client (“demand organisation’ in the use of ISO 41001).

An important principle of this standard is that there is regular co-ordination between the senior management (leadership team) of the demand organisation and that of the FM organisation.  Through this “strategic dialogue”, the objectives of the demand organisation become clear and it becomes possible for FM to align its strategy and policy closely with those of its client(s).

Figure 2 (adjacent) is taken directly from the standard.  It indicates the interrelationship between the demand organisation and the FM organisation.

By Implementing ISO 41001, The FM Organisation will be Strategically Aligned with the Demand Organisation and therefore will Provide a Proactive Service rather than a Reactive Service.

It’s important to point out that for an in-house FM department, the demand organisation is the organisation that employs the FM team.  By implementing ISO 41001, the FM organisation will be strategically aligned with the demand organisation and therefore will provide a proactive services rather than a reactive service.  For example, through ISO 41001, the FM organisation would have aligned its strategy to the business needs of the demand organisation, which could include expansion or contraction of the property portfolio.  All too often the FM organisation is not aware of changes in the demand organisation’s requirements that will have a material impact on the service the FM department provides, which results in a reactive response that is inefficient and costly.

So who is behind developing ISO 41001?

Technical Committee TC 267 develops the ISO 41000 suite of standards.  The Committee is chaired by Stanley Mitchell who, when questioned about the standard, said: “Every company, big or small, has some element of facility management.  It is a complex discipline that directly affects everyone, as it is all about the spaces that we occupy and how those spaces meet the needs of the people who use them on a daily basis.  ISO 41001 is the first standard of its kind for facility management and has the potential to make a real difference to organisations by improving workforce health and safety, reducing their impact on the environment, and making considerable cost savings and efficiencies.”

Why not get involved?

In June this year Ireland hosted the Technical Committee in the headquarters of the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) in Santry.  Technical Committee meetings are held twice a year in different participating countries across the globe and this year was Ireland’s turn.

Many people think of standards being developed and written by technocrats who are supported by bureaucrats, which couldn’t be further from the truth in my experience.  Standards are written by industry practitioners/experts for the industry they work in.  Without industry experts becoming involved in the development of standards there wouldn’t be any standards for us to use as international best practice guides for the development of industry-specific management systems.

Becoming involved in standards development is a great way to network with experts from across the globe, to understand the common issues that we have within our industry and to collaborate to develop internationally accepted solutions.

[Article written by David O’Brien, Acacia Managing Director and featured in The Surveyors Journal: Winter 2019]

Categories: Consultancy

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