Owners and their managers need to pay as much attention to the definition and optimisation of their FM process as they do to their core business processes. Experience of current practice suggests the situation to be otherwise, with an underdeveloped appreciation of process-thinking leading to a reduction in the effectiveness and efficiency of FM service provision. The implications of these shortcomings are highlighted in a number of areas critical to success, namely stakeholders, outsourcing and performance measurement.
Importance of process
Successful owners and managers are those that, amongst other things, have defined and optimised their business processes to deliver the goods or services that their customers demand. As the support service for an organisation’s business, FM must similarly be defined and optimised. Core business processes and non-core support processes go hand-in-hand to provide a complete business infrastructure – an efficient and effective base for competing in the marketplace or in satisfying a social need. A process is ‘joined-up thinking and actions’, which should be formalised so it can be presented to, and understood by, those who are accountable for the performance of tasks controlled by it and the deliverables defined within it. Business managers have long recognised the importance of process-thinking as have facility managers. However, the former normally rely upon enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to make light work of the management of operations and finance: the latter generally do not.
The term ‘FM process’ is used to convey the sense of an ‘integrated approach to providing all the support services of an organisation’. With the right stress, it is not difficult to give the impression of efficiency and effectiveness in this support function as well as in the core business. The truth may come as a shock when the goals of the business are missed, because this all-important support was lacking in some way. Too often, the FM process appears as a loose collection of prescriptive functions – for example, service scope definition, budgeting, tendering and contract management – linked at a high-level through block diagrams or another abstract concept. It is simply not possible to create a single, coordinated set of functions out of an ad hoc collection of procedures, some of which may have been borrowed from another organisation (for which key underlying assumptions may be unknown). A procedure describes a set of functions contained within a process in a way that operational personnel can then implement. The process maintains the inner logic and consistency, whilst the procedure is its outer expression. Models or maps of the process contain the functions, information flows and other deliverables, along with the resources and controls that are required to maintain them. The FM process must be defined together with its requirements in human and financial terms – others too – if appropriate and measured use is to be made of scarce resources. Since FM is a continuous operation it can be adjusted and improved by close monitoring, benchmarking with other organisations and re-alignment with evolving business goals. The process should be supported by IT and be capable of interfacing with the organisation’s business systems.
A stakeholder is any individual or group with an interest in the organisation. Stakeholders are not the same. Each has the potential to impact differently on the organisation. An important step in managing stakeholders is engaging them. Stakeholder engagement is not a one-off exercise, but a continual activity of involvement based on an information and communication system. Managing stakeholder interests is fundamental to the organisation’s success and has to be fully integrated into the FM process. A plan or ‘roadmap’ of how stakeholders are to be engaged is paramount – we need to see who is to be involved, when and how, and be able to share that view.
A reasonable assumption is that a rational person or organisation would attempt to understand needs and options before evaluating the procurement route likely to provide the best value outcome and best end-user experience (end-user satisfaction) for the organisation. On the other hand, if outsourcing drives the process, it could end with any result – and perhaps more a case of justifying the decision – instead of pointing clearly to the optimal outcome. Outsourcing is the outcome of a decision, not the input to it. Working back from a defined goal – for example, best value FM – is a simple-enough strategy and a process merely formalises the thinking and actions. Another benefit of process-thinking is that it provides transparency in decision-making and overall accountability, i.e. whether or not there has been appropriate use of budgets and achievement of best value.
A reliable, consistent basis for measuring progress that is tied directly to the organisation’s business goals allows critical success factors to be set. For each business goal, there will be typically two or more critical success factors. The goal of market leadership, for instance, could be attained by high levels of customer satisfaction, repeat business/orders and a target for market penetration. The next step is to be sure that each contributing factor is met. Performance indicators (PIs) provide that means, by measuring progress in achieving each critical success factor. PIs are used across industries to measure progress and, hence, performance. Sometimes many 10s of performance indicators are gathered yet few are significant, i.e. key. In order words, key performance indicators (KPIs) are the relatively few measures that show where the organisation stands at a given time. Managers keen on amassing a large number of performance indicators need to be sure that they are measuring something of value. PIs and KPIs can sometimes be borrowed or reused from elsewhere, such as a respected competitor; however, utilising perceived best practice in this way is misguided. The implied hierarchy above of business goals yielding critical success factors and in turn ceding KPIs is purely and simply top-down and specific to the organisation.
Processes are ‘joined-up thinking and actions’ designed to deliver best value and end-user satisfaction. Models or maps of the process make the whole picture more transparent and capable of improvement, by adjusting or re-aligning functions to deliver the specified outputs. Partial processes or standalone functions are almost as bad as not having any. The top-down approach is implicit in process modelling and saves on resources, whereas the bottom-up approach wastes manpower on activities that might serve little useful purpose. KPIs are invaluable, but can only be derived from critical success factors, which themselves can only be derived from business goals (and how FM will support them). Starting with ‘ready-made’ KPIs is dangerous – they need to be tailored to the organisation. Finally, outsourcing (or retaining services in-house for that matter) is the outcome of a defined process driven by the organisation’s business goals and is clearly not an input to that process. In the end, there are few differences between the organisation’s core business process model and that of its FM processes – they must be integrated in order to function as one.