Open-access content Wednesday 4th September 2013
ITV's head of facilities Ian Jones is providing a bespoke FM service to accommodate the needs of three differing working cultures. Martin Read reports.
4 September 2013
The ITV of today is both broadcaster of television programmes and maker of them.
A product of a series of mergers over the past twenty years, the current company is the product of the coming together of independent television companies Carlton and Granada in 2004.
The company makes approximately 60 per cent of the programmes it shows on its channels, but it is also an independent programme maker in its own right, responsible for programmes such as University Challenge for the BBC and Come Dine With Me for Channel 4.
It has three main production centres across the country, situated in London, Leeds (modernised and refurbished recently) and Salford's Media City (where its former central Manchester offices and studios were recently relocated). A further ten news production sites are situated in major cities around the country, connected to which are a number of news-gathering sites in other towns and cities within those regions.
ITV's central London headquarters and studios, recently renamed ITV Towers, is to be found on London's South Bank, close to the Royal National Theatre and Waterloo station. While these are ITV's main production studios, the BBC and Channel 4 are among other major broadcasters to make use of the studios' ideal central London location.
The variety of daytime and light entertainment shows recorded here is wide indeed, from Daybreak (ITV's main live breakfast news and magazine show) to British television's two principal entertainment interview shows, The Graham Norton Show and the Jonathan Ross Show.
The freehold of the 2.5 acre site, built in the early 1970s for London Weekend Television and comprising a 22-storey tower and studio complex, was acquired for £56 million earlier this year.
All told, ITV's total property portfolio comprises around 40 buildings. Facilities management is delivered through a mixture of in-house staff and outsourced service providers, managed by an ITV FM team led by director of facilities Ian Jones. The FM team looks after around one million square feet of space, including studios, and up to 5,000 staff and freelancers on an average day. Supporting a core team of nine facilities managers are 30 other in-house staff providing services and a further 150 service providers' staff working alongside the team. These are provided by five companies, most of whom wear the ITV livery.
As part of his internal team, Jones has an IT specialist and two full-time procurement people assigned to Workplace Services. ("I know exactly how to use them," says Jones. "They are part of my team and not adversaries.") He also has an internal head of facilities south and head of workplace services north.
Jones himself has been at ITV now for three busy years. With experience at Bywaters, HSBC and Reuters, he brough with him expertise at all levels of the FM function, from security officer to project manager.
Jones is keen to highlight the different 'cultures' he has to serve.
"There's the corporate culture that you would find in any head office; the 'creative' culture, which is one of thought and contemplation; and the production culture, which is much more a case of 'we want it now and want it cheaply'. Each brings its own challenges and conflicts and thus a set of fairly unique challenges for the FM team.
"In addition, not only do we have the three cultures mentioned above but we have public audiences almost every day that come and see programmes being made."
This, explains Jones, is complicated further by the fact that ITV hires out its studio and post-production facilities to third-party production companies, which, he says, "move in wholesale while they make their programme, and then may themselves decide that they want audiences.
"We are always working within a very fluid building and the days are never dull for our team. On an average day, we have about 2,000 people in the Southbank building, but that can flex up to 2,500 people when the studios are operating - so that gives our teams a challenge."
GMTV started live daytime television broadcasting from the building in 1984. Today's ITV produces around 10 hours of live television a day, seven days a week with Workplace Services backing it all up. The daily This Morning show means Workplace Services chefs being on site from 4.00am to provide a 5.00am breakfast service.
Some of the guests involved bring with them some fairly unique challenges for the facilities team. Jones is perhaps naturally reticent to name names - although happy to record some of their demands.
"We have to cater for some amazingly exotic foods eaten by celebrities, some of whom bring huge entourages, all of which have to be accommodated," says Jones. "One of our more interesting guests brought with them 60 people in 15 vehicles and wanted an oxyacetylene kit so that they could make some 'alterations' to some props."
ITV manages by objective and the FM team have objectives that are all aligned to the companies objectives (of which there are four). "The objective that we work under is 'Get Fit'," says Jones. "This objective is all about making the company's systems, processes and procedures, IT and services fit for purpose. The two specific objectives that my group have that cascade from this objective are 'give colleagues a place they are proud to work in' and 'make it easy to work here'.
Jones puts his subsequent success in meeting these objectives down to, in the main, his reporting line. Using Leesman Index figures, Jones has established that he is one of only eight per cent of FMs that report to an HR director, in his case the group HR director who sits on the main ITV board.
"This is what attracted me to this job," says Jones. "I have always maintained that FM is about people and not assets, the built environment, contract management, and so on - it is simply people. FM is seen as a commodity in far too many companies, but it can be a powerful engagement tool. I've always known this, but thankfully with this job I didn't need to persuade anyone - the HR director had worked it out for himself."
When Jones first joined ITV in 2010, the FM group was fairly anonymous and known as a very 1970s-sounding 'site services'. According to Jones: "No-one in the business really knew what we did and we used to provide just the basic services. I spent all my time in the business, meeting all of the directors, managers and their staff to get an understanding of how the company really worked and their frustrations and concerns. Nothing beats being out on the ground and watching how things actually happen."
Armed with this information, Jones changed the name of the division to 'Workplace Services' and embarked on a programme of "mopping up all areas of the company with services that weren't working properly, irrespective of who 'owned' them".
Jones is on record as having strong views about the way FM services are typically procured and subsequently delivered (see FM World, 4th July). In particular, he's "not a big fan" of TFM, and anyway "it wouldn't be the right model for ITV. What we have is specialist providers in their own disciplines providing services in our buildings across the country."
ITV Workplace Services now provides a range of services not normally associated with FM, as well as a host of new services that were previously administered by individuals but are now also looked after by the Workplace Services team. This realignment of responsibilities has taken 10,000 purchase orders out of the system.
In terms of projects, says Jones, "we do what many FM groups do in that we have a projects team responsible for everything from whole floor refurbishment down to simple moves and changes. We have just moved 500 staff out of our Granada offices into a new office in Salford's Media City alongside the BBC and we're involved in the relocation of several of our regional news rooms across the country."
In London, the studios present a variety of maintenance problems, not least a need for the floors to be scrubbed and re-paint the floors black every single day. (The scuff-lines from moving heavy equipment about can affect lighting and the water-based paint used takes about an hour to dry.)
As an example of maintenance in the studios, LEDs are also being trialled in place of better-established tungsten lights, as well as a combination of the two.
The regular changes of scenery and set-up require Jones' London team to maintain good relations with the many local residents who live just outside of the studio gates.
ITV does not have an official smart or flexible working policy, but staff are just 'doing it for themselves'. Only in the past 18 months has the facilities department and company had the tools to allow colleagues to become more mobile. However, the very nature of the work means that many staff need to be in the office to collaborate when they are making programmes.
Production teams like to be together, says Jones, and they also have to be in the building to use the different facilities associated with making TV, including the craft edit and finishing suites, grading and dubbing facilities, galleries and studios. TV production is, says Jones, "pretty fixed in nature!"
Nevertheless, around 80 per cent of ITV employees now have the tools needed to allow more flexible working and the FM team is installing the kind of office environment that aids collaboration, evaluating how far it might push flexible working at ITV.
According to Jones, "recent desk surveys show that we are no different to many companies who find that the shared services groups and the sales teams are only using 60 per cent of their desks. But in our production teams, you might find a floor almost empty for several hours and then everyone suddenly turns up when the programme comes off air (This Morning, for instance).
And when we are making programmes like Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, 90 per cent of the desks are being used in the run up to the programme before almost everyone disappears to the studio. So it's not a typical company when it comes to the flexible style of working, as understood in many companies.
The Workplace Services team operates a logistics hub on the tower's ground floor, dealing with tonnes of letters, including the 5,000 a month from people seeking to take part in the extraordinarily successful Come Dine With Me, which ITV produces.
One of Jones' service changes was to introduce centralised stationery cupboards and a 'to-desk' stationery courier service. A team member armed with an iPad visits whomever puts in a stationery request, providing a surprisingly powerful tool for dampening the enthusiasm of staff putting in any over-the-stop stationery claims. "In once case someone was determined to order a batch of pink folders, so my man with his iPad was able to stand next to her and point out the cost difference against standard black folders. He soon changed her mind. I saved his salary in the first six months - and the people think the to-desk service is brilliant! I've saved money just by using some very good people."
Television production is invariably interesting and the FM team gets plenty of variety in their day jobs. "For instance," says Jones, "we look after both the Coronation Street and Emmerdale production teams in our studios in the North, helping to maintain the famous Coronation Street set and the village of Emmerdale. Recently, we helped to organise a stunt, broadcast live on ITV, which saw Ant and Dec climbing a horizontal scaffolding tower, 250 feet above the ground on the South Bank.
When Jones is asked about the oddest thing he and his team have had to do, the answer is near at hand: "Hang a 31-metre B-cup pink bra from our building to publicise breast cancer awareness". This giant-sized item of lingerie was in fact confirmed as the largest bra in the world, by the Guinness Book of Records.
Just another day in TV, then.