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Facility Professionals – the future

The future holds a lot of challenges and opportunities for facility professionals. They will need to constantly update their skills, remain current with latest technologies and consistently perform in an effective manner to survive in a competitive environment. The evolution of facility management will result in the facility managers having;

a. More authority and responsibility.

b. Well established policies and procedures.

c. A greater role in strategic decision making and more opportunities for professional growth.

d. Increased emphasis on quality service.

e. More emphasis on outsourcing and consultants.

f. Increased awareness and expertise in strategic business planning, asset management, safety, security, air quality, ergonomics and sustainability.

g. More automation tools for reviewing alternatives and making quicker decisions.

The customers’ business will continue to evolve and change. This will directly impact their requirements of space and furnishings. Each business unit will need to look at its financial capabilities to match its future requirements of land, space, equipment and labor. Expansions may come about through acquisitions or direct expansion. These requirements will have to be built into the facilities annual and strategic business facility plans. These acquisitions will provide opportunities to improve operational profitability, reduce annual expenses and capital costs.

The future facility professionals will need to be;

h. Leaders who understand and are supportive participants in the goals and objectives of their companies and customers.

i. Educated professionals who are prepared to educate and sell their product and benefits of their value added services to the customers.

Facility managers will need to develop a business orientation and view themselves as business managers capable of justifying their requirements and initiatives in business terms. They will need to use life cycle concept of costing and make go/no- go decisions and prioritize using net present value analysis. They will need to prepare a facility business plan for every company business plan. Facility managers will need to change their orientation and begin to see themselves as business persons and not as technicians.

The facility professionals will require support for telecommuting, hoteling, virtual office and all other new work forms which are just beginning to find favor with the corporate houses. They will find themselves closely involved in support, legal and risk management related issues raised by the new work forms and styles.

Outsourcing will increasingly become the norm for facility services. The contracts will be based on clearly enunciated Service Level Agreements (SLAs). The emphasis will shift from vendor employer mindset to the partnership model. Successful outsourcing happens when the right contract documents and mindset are in place and the contracted employees have a feeling of ownership.

Another shift which is taking place in the corporate world relates to the need for improved response times. The work methods will have to be engineered to ensure minimal delays in responding to requests and complaints.

With the oil prices skyrocketing, the emphasis on energy conservation will be enormous. New heating, cooling equipment and lighting devices with lower energy consumption ratings will need to be designed and installed. Facility management companies will need to become experts in energy conservation methods.

Facility managers of the future will have to take on additional responsibility. They may seek to become the company’s environmentalists, or may take on the responsibility for the emergency planning effort, or can be catalysts in developing the risk management plan. Facility management companies will accordingly need to impart necessary background training to these individuals for these value additions.

At present there is an acute shortage of formal training for facility professionals. This is a serious drawback which will get addressed when more formal courses are offered by various training institutions. Research in facility management related subjects is also in a nascent stage. Limited availability of data makes it difficult to establish trends and benchmarks for various related activities.

Successful facility managers are aware that their customers expect to be a part of all decisions that affect them and want to share all pertinent information. The expectations of customers in future are going to be still higher. One of the major challenges for the facility managers will be to gather these expectations and communicate with the customers in real-time through multimedia. The facility managers will need to use internet extensively to transform their job. They will be able to access nearly any fact, refresh themselves on any procedure before actually performing it, train themselves at their workstation, get advice from experts in a chat room, sample customer perceptions and reply to customer inquiries. They will be able to do this from a location and at a time convenient to them.

With the availability of better tools, facility managers will soon have a facility management information system which will be able to meet all the management’s needs. This will allow them to choose best fit among available buildings based on the profile of their company’s operational needs. Predictive maintenance tools will allow them to undertake repair of critical equipment before it breaks down. New assessment methods will allow them to develop funding and maintenance profiles for facilities.

In an economy where uncertainty reigns supreme, the one source of lasting competitive advantage is knowledge. Successful enterprises are those, who continuously create new knowledge, quickly disseminate it throughout the organization and incorporate it in their product and services. The concept of learning organizations is equally applicable to facility services. Facility professionals would need to manage the facilities and provide an environment which is conducive to creative thinking and innovation. This will involve imaginative use of space, creation of acoustic comfort and a degree of privacy.

In view of the foregoing, it is reasonable to conclude that the facility managers of future will need to be;

j. Leaders.

k. Decision makers.

l. Agents of change.

m. Entrepreneurs.

n. People’s persons whom others can trust.

o. Internet, technology and multimedia savvy.

Naushad Panjwani
Executive Director, Projects & FM, Knight Frank, Mumbai

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