15 May 2017 | Martin Read and Jamie Harris
For more than a decade the Middle East has been a land of opportunity for FM. But while the architecture and landscape continues to evolve, full appreciation of the FM function remains slow.
The hotel and entertainment sector continues to drive a high-end service delivery requirement which, while historically delivered an in-house, is increasingly a single-source service as part of an IFM bundle, driving the market in general as far as an output and general customer service feel is concerned.
Says Goddard: "The market in general across the Middle East is at a point where 50 per cent of firms are moving from single source into bundled services. Traditional corporates are at the top end from an integrated FM perspective, but the drivers are just not there for local organisations to get into that IFM space yet, mainly because of the commodity purchase of labour which is still relatively cheap."
"You still have owners and occupiers who don't see the total worth, don't train and so don't see the output associated with good quality staff," continues Goddard. "So I see a real opportunity through BIFM to offer training to get people up to a qualified state. Talking to my counterparts, I think we all see that there is a need to make the market much more professional by making sure we have trained and qualified staff.
Government entities are driving the training of security services, ensuring that security staff are trained as first responders, in first aid, and in evacuation skills. Security is increasingly driven by health and safety legislation, the region having made international news in recent years for a number of building fires.
The security market has become important because of the obvious political tensions in the region. Says Goddard: "Security is now the arms and legs of the police force in much the same way it is in mainland Europe and America. Previously security was just about traffic, control. crowd control, reception services.
"In the MENA region the UAE is leading the way, there's no doubt about that," says Goddard. "And you can then name a number of countries within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) who are following suit.
Saudi Arabia is seen as a huge growth market learning from what the UAE has done, while the Qatari market needs everything the UAE has got and is being driven by the World Cup to get there.
International service providers continue to invest in the Middle-East on the back of client wins elsewhere in the world, and a number of mid-sized European FM providers have moved into the market, eyeing its growth potential. Local providers, however, continue to see churn. Says Goddard: "We see a cycle of local firms with their own in-sourced self-performed service that then becomes an offshoot business winning a number of contracts that bolt on to their own portfolio."
Energy management remains relatively immature, although high impact developments such as the Masdar green city in Dubai and new taxes may gradually change that picture.
"I've been here for nine years now and it feels like a city I can live in now," says Goddard. "Nine years ago it was indeed a construction site, but the last five years in particular has seen Dubai focus on becoming a more sustainable living place to be through investment in cycling paths, walkways and arts and crafts. Masterplanning is being dealt with in a different way now. Construction is much more controlled and zoned.
"What I see is a market that's ready to be driven to standards and governance," says Goddard. "RICS, BIFM, CIPS are all now represented in this region. It's clear to see that governments are interested in what these organisations can bring."
The profile of FM is higher than it was ten years ago, driven largely by greater consumer interaction with FM services through the firms contracted to run residential developments and the people they employ, such as plumbers. ("FM here is a known profession because it touches people in and outside of work," says Goddard.)
There are fewer opportunities for ex-pat FMs come up these days, but the situation differs by country.
In Saudi Arabia, for example, the policy of Saudisation (replacing foreign workers with Saudi nationals in the private sector) has led to a stonger local workforce keen to get in to the profession.
Goddard thinks the key to FM success in Dubai can be summed up in one word: adaptability.
"This isn't a market in which things happen the way you'd expect them to in the UK or North America. Cultural adaptation and market adapation are on a very quick cycle here."
We're broadcasting live at 12 noon BST on World FM Day, Wednesday 17 May. You'll be able to hear audio interviews with some of the international correspondents mentioned above, as we capture a snapshot of FM across the globe in 2017, as well as live discussion on the issues and themes that have arisen. Tune in here.