FM Service Provider Alliances ‘versus’ Total FM? … you decide

Austerity, budget efficiencies, cost cutting, added value – yada… yada… yada

We’ve heard it all before and the reasons for it. Consider that part well and truly saved. So …

How do we in FM turn this need and strategy into delivery and realisation; whilst increasing service levels?

Total FM, where the vast majority of service delivery is procured through one service provider, may well be one way for organisations to attack this challenge. FM service provider alliances and partnering is another method.

If the late Sir John Harvey Jones is to be believed, there is a lot to be said for sticking to the knitting; in other words sticking to what you know and doing it well! Whilst the large FM service providers of this world are in some cases excellent at what they do / provide, they can’t be all things to all people. For example, Security/Reception services are a vast departure from Catering provision.

A Total FM approach may be a finance manager’s dream come true for obvious reasons, however operationally the benefits of Total FM are dwarfed by the negatives…

… “If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no-one.”

Why can’t they be all things to all people? Well simple, the FM industry has developed exponentially over the past 25 – 30 years or so, leading to an incredibly complex beast being created. In practice FM demands better, and in theory it demands vast knowledge and experience to provide a bespoke service. (inevitably each company will require a slightly different / bespoke solution)

Too many variables…

So as I said in an earlier post, [** Enter stage Right**] Innovation and doing things differently – what gives?

Whilst driving some time ago I saw (as I see quite often) a van with the strap-line … “GSH – Partners in Facilities Management,” An approach which they clearly are trying to push and make work. But what does this mean and how does it relate to the question which this blog poses?

For partnering, read FM Alliance…

Partnering is where the contractors continue to provide the expert knowledge and service to the organisation whilst working closely with the client (and here’s the key) other service providers. If implemented well, the engineers on the ground almost turn native in their approach and attitude to their roles and begin to exhibit the values of the organisation, thereby adopting the organisational culture. The only difference being the uniforms they wear. This isn’t a process which can be demanded or which happens over night as it is a massive shift in the way, ‘things have worked in the past.’ It is a slow burner in which relationships are built and trust is developed over time – up to such a point where I guess the Alliance personnel are acting as the eyes and ears of the FM / client and cutting things off at the pass. In short they are operating as a completely native and proactive service provider, preventing potential issues from developing and extending the life cycles of plant and the buildings they serve. ( #successlookslike ) It is worth mentioning at this point that this matrix approach requires the correct caliber personnel to make it work. Let’s not beat around the bush, Matrix management is not easy; split loyalties, confusions over culture, difference in systems, policies and processes all make this a complex environment to be operating in.

NB: It is therefore key to keep the contractor staff engaged and for this reason it lends itself excellently to a sustainable approach where turnover (in theory) should be low. Or at least needs to be low.

The benefits from a collaborative approach however can be seen in competitiveness and performance improvements in cost, time, resource and risk management, not forgetting incremental business value and innovation.

So as always, complex strategies require simple approaches. BS 11000 provides such an approach and adds the meat to the bones by providing a framework in which clients and providers work within, whilst not being too prescriptive. It sets the scene perfectly for a benchmarking and continuous improvement approach; paramount in modern business. Moreover it encourages communication – again critical in today’s arm length business world.

Partners working with 
BS 11000 share knowledge, skills and resources that will help them meet mutually defined objectives and provide new levels of value creation. This team work approach will undoubtedly yield success. But it is not a given, it needs formalising due to the resource investment it demands and time it takes to build trust, develop and foster. That said, the sooner the link can be made to the sustainability agenda the better.

The sum of the parts is greater than the whole…

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