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Sat 28 Feb 2009 04:00 AM

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What’s in a name?

Alan Millin, director of consultancy, Imdaad, defines facilities management. Why? Read on to find out...

Alan Millin, director of consultancy, Imdaad, defines facilities management. Why? Read on to find out...

How many times have you sat with clients or potential clients and thought: ‘They really do not understand what facilities management is...'?

That said, what have you done to improve the client's awareness of the discipline and its importance?

For consumers of FM services, are you sure that what you are buying is the best-fit for your business? Does your FM strategy support your business requirements?

How can both the FM provider and consumer ensure that the FM strategy supports the client's business needs?

Defining FM

Asking people what FM actually is will usually produce many different interpretations, but why? It should be easy to define FM shouldn't it? Not so...

The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) offers the following clarification: "Facility management is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology."

This tells us what FM is but little more.

The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) provides this definition:

"Facilities management is the integration of processes within an organisation to maintain and develop the agreed services which support and improve the effectiveness of its primary activities."

In 2008 the BIFM adopted a new mission statement, confirmation, if we needed it, of the dynamic nature of facilities management.

This definition goes further than IFMA by introducing a reason for FM. It describes FM as a function to improve the effectiveness of an organisation. While this is a step closer to achieving a commercially driven FM process, we know only too well that organisations can be very effective without being very efficient.

Barrett & Baldry offer the following: "Facilities management is an integrated approach to maintaining, improving and adapting the buildings of an organisation in order to create an environment that strongly supports the primary objectives of that organisation."

With this definition we are still integrating but now we are going to maintain, improve and adapt the buildings of an organisation to strongly support its primary objectives. Our definition of FM is now more focused on the business requirements of the client.

As we have progressed through the above definitions we have seen a theme of improvement. The BIFM seeks to improve the effectiveness of the primary activities of an organisation, while Barrett & Baldry seek to strongly support a client's primary objectives by improving the buildings. There is, however, considerably more to strategic FM than buildings alone.

Commercially driven FM

So what is needed to move closer to a commercially driven FM strategy?

First we need an informed client, one who is knowledgeable in the role and value of strategic FM. For those of us in the profession, we have a responsibility to ensure that our clients are fully informed. If we do not fulfil this responsibility we are failing the client, something that will surely come back to bite us hard. When the industry cannot agree and adopt a common definition, is it surprising that potential clients are unsure of what FM really is?

Even with an informed client we still need to clarify exactly what the client can expect from an FM consultancy. We will certainly need to agree on what FM is and how it will support the client's business. At the risk of creating an even longer definition, I suggest we start by targeting effectiveness, efficiency and a process of continuous improvement. Drawing on the foundations of the above three definitions I offer the following as a starting point:

Facilities management is: "A process that integrates people, processes and places in a manner that strongly supports the primary objectives of an organisation by providing the means to continuously improve efficiency and effectiveness."

This definition makes continuous improvement explicit rather than implicit as in the earlier definitions. All encompassing

Why adopt this approach? If a client engages a FM provider on the understanding that an improvement will be achieved, an incremental improvement will show that the contractor has performed adequately. A requirement for continuous improvement, however, requires the contractor to perform in the client's interest.

Is this proposed definition the final, all encompassing, universally accepted one? I very much doubt it...

The point is that a FM service provider and client should agree on what FM is. Maybe in order to have fully informed clients we will need to redefine FM with each new client.

You may disagree with the definition put forward. Indeed I hope you do. But don't just tear up this article and do nothing. If you can define FM better please let everyone know.

Most importantly, think carefully before you put forward a definition of FM to a client. Does what you are proposing meet the client's business needs? Do you know what the client's business needs really are?

References:

International Facility Management Association http://www.ifma.org/what_is_fm/fm_definitions.cfm

British Institute of Facilities Management http://www.bifm.org.uk/bifm/about/facilities

Barrett, P. and Baldy.

BackgroundAlan Millin is a UK registered Chartered Engineer (CEng) holding LEED accreditation (LEED AP). Millin specialises in HVAC, building energy simulation and cost modelling. He also holds an MSc in Software Development.

He is a Fellow of the Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Estate Management (FIHEEM) and also of the Institute of Refrigeration (FInstR) and is a member of several other UK engineering and management institutions including the British Institute of Facilities Management and the British Computer Society.

Millin has more than 20 years' international experience, most of which has been in the Middle East with over 10 years' in the UAE.

As director of consultancy, Imdaad, the facilities management division of Dubai World, Millin leads the provision of facilities management consultancy services to group and non-group clients.

He regularly provides training on behalf of the UAE Society of Engineers on technical and soft-skills topics, supporting the professional development of consulting engineers from many of the UAE's leading engineering consultancy companies, while continuing to raise the bar on professional engineering standards.

E: alan.millin@imdaad.ae

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