16 January 2014
2013 was a great year for many - and not just because a Brit finally won Wimbledon.
Figures released by one market research report in March last year predicted that the facilities management industry was set for over 10 per cent growth in the period to 2017, when its value in the UK will total £117 billion.
The same report cited innovations such as integrated service delivery, which have energised and challenged the sector in equal measure. However, with the coming of a new year thoughts inevitably turn to the future and what it holds for FM professionals. Here are my top four predictions for 2014.
Enthusiasm for innovation continues
Innovation will continue to be key - innovation has been a hot topic in 2013 and the industry enthusiasm for invention shows no sign of abating. A recent survey conducted by Sheffield Hallam University found that 90 per cent of respondents believe it is important for suppliers to bring new ideas to the table. The survey simultaneously reveals, however, that fewer than 50 per cent of FMs would say innovation is ongoing within their business, despite there being no outstanding barrier to this. With the dawning realisation of how important innovation is to clients, the development of innovation strategies will be a top priority for FMs in 2014.
Client FM collaboration
In previous decades the real business value of a high-quality, efficient FM service has often gone unrecognised. Over recent years, however, we have seen perceptions start to shift. The cloud that was the economic downturn had one silver lining - it made businesses realise facilities management's value in saving them money. As a consequence the FM's role started to shift from silent service co-ordinator to active business adviser. Now, following a fifth year of tightened belts, FMs are more valued than ever by clients for their holistic view of their businesses and their capacity to offer operational improvements. 2014 may be the year the economy improves, but savvy businesses will continue to look to facilities managers to ensure optimum levels of efficiency.
FM's use of technology
The increasing sophistication and ubiquity of technology has had a big impact on FM over recent years and adoption will increase in 2014. A recent FM Index KPI Survey made particular note of technology's growing role in the management of bookable resources. For a while now it has been common practice for meeting rooms to be booked via internal computer systems, but as modes of smart and part-time working become widespread, booking systems' remits are being widened to include these.
There's no doubting that technology's influence on our approach to space and experience of our built environment will continue to increase in 2014. Nevertheless, FMs need to remember that technology is not the remedy to all ills. Its introduction should be carefully planned and well communicated to ensure that it provides benefits not frustrations.
New ways of working
The workplace is changing. Technology is enabling workers to make more effective use of their time outside the office - using smartphones, tablets, laptops and web-based communication tools to work from home and on the move.
As a result, many businesses are experiencing a decrease in the percentage of their workforce permanently stationed in the office. Although aware of this occupation - or de-occupation - trend, business leaders often do not have the time or expertise to understand how this should affect their office environment. FMs should now be observing working patterns in their building, talking to their clients about how they would like their employees to work, and suggesting spatial configurations in response. Designing flexible meeting spaces may help boost creativity and build team cohesion, while quiet zones can help productivity.
So let me conclude with a thought for all FMs moving forward into 2014 - keep striving. 2013 has been a great year, but we cannot rest on our laurels. Keep improving, keep innovating and, most importantly, keep collaborating with your clients or providers to create an even better business offering.
Steve Davies is managing director at 14forty