Every facilities manager using outsourced suppliers should want to know whether they are getting the best possible service and value, says John Brownless
Facilities management service providers can play a decisive and positive role by suggesting, implementing and encouraging clients to adopt best practices, technological improvements and alternative ways of working.
However, it is difficult for some FMs to understand if they are receiving value for money with their current providers. Even top-performing establishments can benefit from new savings and performance opportunities.
Through the normal supplier life cycle there comes a point when a decision is made between re-tendering and benchmarking services. Which route is the best to take? If the relationship between the FM and service provider is weak then re-tendering may well be the right way to go.
But increasingly – and certainly in cases where there is a good relationship in place –benchmarking offers a tried-and-true approach to homing in on the effectiveness, cost and quality of FM services.
As we emerge from the pandemic, it is likely that there will be an even higher value placed on relationships and loyalty. For service providers who have helped steer an organisation through this difficult period, rewarding them by jumping ship is not going to be what many decide to do.
Cultivating lasting relationships with service providers brings far greater rewards than switching to a new provider. Every time a re-tender takes place, FMs start afresh and have to wait for the new service provider to get to grips with the operation, systems and ways of working. This does not happen overnight and can disrupt the workflow.
An approach in which both parties work collaboratively over the long term is likely to bring richer results.
Traditionally, the way FMs understood if they were receiving good value from service providers was to re-tender. But this knowledge doesn’t only come from market testing. If FMs work with the right consultancy, then benchmarking will also ascertain if value is being delivered.
We are not just talking about cost; benchmarking goes far deeper. Detailed benchmark analysis is proving to be critical to the successful management of broader transformational change, including cost management initiatives, re-engineering of business processes and implementing quality control measures.
Going through a re-tender has a raft of implications for employees and, at best, will lead to the workforce being distracted with the upheaval rather than remaining focused on their roles. In other cases it could mean staff who are now insourced move to outsourced or even lose their jobs.
Going out to tender doesn’t guarantee that a better job will be done. In a re-tender, it could be that roles are streamlined and staff members are subsequently made redundant. This might need to be revisited if the new structure doesn’t work as expected or if business demands fluctuate. All of this upheaval distracts from the day-to-day overarching focus on meeting business objectives.
It is not enough to introduce and implement new working methods alone. To ensure that new ways of working are successful and right for an organisation it is essential to understand what others are doing in the sector. Benchmarking allows for that to happen.
It is also essential that once benchmarking is complete and operations are streamlined they continue to be measured and monitored on a continuing basis so there is confidence that they are delivering. The mantra when benchmarking should be: benchmark, negotiate, measure and monitor.
John Brownless is partner at catering and facilities management consultancy LitmusFM