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Mon 22 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

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New beginnings

John Moore of the Jash Group discusses the issues he found in setting up a facilities management programme in Saudi Arabia.

New beginnings

Last year, a construction week guest columnist discussed
various definitions of FM (‘What’s in a name?’ 
Alan Millin, director of consultancy, Imdaad February 8, 2009). He
concluded it has multiple interpretations and should be viewed in line with an
individual organisation’s business needs. I agree with that and would like to
further the discussion on FM, specifically where I am based, in Saudi Arabia.

Most people I speak to admit it is in its infancy here with
very little known about it generally or its strategic significance. Originally,
some 20 plus years ago, in more mature markets such as the UK, FM was seen
as just services delivered at the lowest possible costs. To a large extent,
that is where FM is today in Saudi
Arabia, a service delivery culture not a
facility management culture.

In mature markets, FM has moved onto a strategic level and
an output and performance basis, whereas here, I have seen very few examples of anything but
input specifications. Add to this, the
generally weak tender, and contractual documents in evidence, it is obvious the
Saudi market is some way behind.

There are good reasons why this is the case, which include
the speed of growth and employment practices. However, there is strong evidence Saudi Arabia embraces best practice
in all areas of
business, so I am sure FM will develop and mature here.

Statistical research suggests 20% of life costs of a
facility are in design and construction and 80% in FM. Delivering FM
strategically in line with business needs can, therefore, have a significant
effect on the bottom line and this will become a key driver for owners,
executives, managers and officers with a vested interest or responsibility for
finance, property, assets and services as this market becomes
more knowledgeable.

However well a facility is designed and constructed, if it
is not managed and maintained properly then the likelihood is it will have a
shortened life and will cost more in the long run through inefficient use,
premature failures, replacements and repairs, so there is a compelling reason
to do it right. Cutting corners for short term gain is not a sensible option
when it comes to protecting property investments long term. Add to this the
comfort and customer satisfaction of building users and occupiers and I would
suggest the current FM practices in Saudi will struggle to meet a professional
organisation’s business needs.

Facility Management, regardless of its definition, operates
on a number of levels: strategic, professional, management and operational and,
as the previous guest columnist implied, no ‘one size fits all’. The trick is
to understand your business and get your FM strategy in line with that. It’s a
bit like putting in the foundations of a building, get them right and you can
build from there, get them wrong and you are constantly reacting to problems.
Be cautious when seeking strategic advice though and make sure your advisor
understands best practice.

Undoubtedly, the potential for strategic FM and its benefits
here are, as yet, untapped. I expect to see it develop into a key tactic for
government and business in the future because it makes sense and the market
will demand it.

I work for a 100% Saudi owned company with an operations and
maintenance background that recognises the potential but also understands that
a lot of knowledge and experience transfer needs to take place. Publications
like this one and conferences in the region as well as some business leaders
are actively promoting the subject so the future is bright. For our part, we
are teaming up with very experienced Malaysian and European partners who have
already been on the journey in their own parts of the world.

Moore
can be found at the Saudi Facilities and Asset Management (FAAM) Conference on
January 30, 2011.

Bio

Moore moved to the Middle East a year ago. He is a qualified engineer and
has over 20 years experience in facility management.

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