The future of facilities management reflects the ever-shifting paradigms in the global business community. Some ‘shifts’ we are all too familiar with: the maturation of the profession, results of malpractice in FM, the recognitions of its good value, and importance of certification and education in FM. We live and work in the 21st century; but some of our practices and the people we work for are still rooted in the 19th century. We must begin to think not only “out of the box”, but maybe there will no longer BE boxes. William Cobb, the Senior Vice-President of eBay’s international operations tells us: “Some of the terms you learn in business school –drive, force, commit- doesn’t apply. We are over here listening, adapting, enabling”. Those words could certainly describe the profession of Facility Management today as well. Will they be the same terms for tomorrow’s Facility Executive?
The workforce is increasingly becoming diverse. For facilities management professionals, this would be another challenge. In developed countries, one-fifth of the population is currently 60 years of age or older. In developing countries, the proportion of older population is expected to rise from 8 percent to almost 20 percent by 2050. Accommodating suitable means of ergonomics into the system for a wider range of ages and physical abilities will also become a significant challenge for FM professionals. This is an overview of just a few challenges. A look at issues or forecasts for the facilities management industry would help put things in better perspective.
ISSUE # 1: LINKING THE ROLE OF FACILITIES TO A BUSINESS’S CORE STRATEGY
Physical facilities can have a large role in determining productivity, supporting innovation, efficiency, employee satisfaction and public perception of an organization. Every dollar invested in improving facilities must thus be analyzed for Return On Investment. FM professionals must thus see to it that the facilities provided must support the business culture and the brand. They must help the organization retain quality people, have a clear vision and understanding of long-term corporate business strategy rather than focus on short-term goals. In doing so they may face some obvious challenges in communicating clearly the values of facilities which are constantly changing and ever-evolving. There may also be hindrances in speaking in the same business parlance of C-level executives which may lead to misunderstandings.
ISSUE # 2: MANAGING CHANGE IN CORPORATE STRATEGIES
Change has always remained the most constant yet inevitable force driving a corporate structure. Only the pace of the change process has quickened to great degrees thanks to technical and digital advancements. Operational and regulatory changes in an organization require prompt facility response and support. FM professionals must be able to handle regulatory acts and the changes that come along which continue to add layers and layers of complexity to a business environment. They have to work closely with users to anticipate changes and develop timely and cost-effective responses and options. They must be equally adept in providing proactive analysis and strategies for saving time and money in operations, expansions and relocations. Some challenges that they may face would be in regards to the process of change itself. Since change is itself a moving target, some amount of resistance may be there are the outset in the minds of the facilities professionals
ISSUE # 3: THE QUESTION OF SUSTAINABILITY, RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY
Nowadays every business talks about ‘sustainability’. This forms one of the core business strategies for companies and corporate houses. The rapid pace of development creates a problem of environmental depletion. For FM professionals, energy conservation remains the greatest long-term method of stretching limited resources. Buildings should be made to be high-performance, self-maintaining and energy-efficient. FM professionals would find that adhering to these tenets can be highly rewarding especially in the public domain as anything that promises to be environment efficient is also easily marketable and creates for itself several niche target groups. The challenge however lies in proper education. Since making something environmentally sustainable requires a good deal of scientific study, FM professionals would need to either develop that special knowledge or outsource the task. A second challenge would be to identify what environment trends are for real and which ones just pass off as fads.
ISSUE # 4: BRINGING A DIVERSE WORKFORCE TOGETHER AND PROBLEMS OF GLOBALIZATION
As world markets continue to expand and competitive fields for companies enlarge it is the responsibility of FM professionals to provide a seamless workflow across wider range of environments. Geographical barriers, cultural differences and changing regulatory environments constantly keep put challenges on the paths of FM professionals. This coupled with lack of business cultures in certain remote places in the world would mean that FM professionals would have go that extra mile in first educating themselves in different cultures and then dealing with the challenges.