The place of the FM in Qatar's boom years
EFS' Sami Abu Kishk on how the FM profile needs to be raised in Qatar
Over the past 50 years, we’ve witnessed numerous industries develop into large, complex systems, with the ability to manage serving the demands of both the people it interacts with and corporations alike.
Regionally, industries such as construction, hospitality, and manufacturing have experienced significant growth. Facilities management is one of the industries that entered both the stage in the cycle, and the game overall, much later, penetrating the real estate environments during the regional boom.
Residing in Qatar for a significant period of time now, I have personally witnessed the phenomenal growth of real estate development, with particular emphasis over the last 15 years. Construction, as mentioned earlier, enjoyed rapid growth, brought on by both international and well-developed local companies.
In contrast, facility management is still to catch on. When attending real-estate related gatherings in Qatar, it is commonly found that there is little awareness among the client of what FM actually is or entails. The term ‘maintenance’ then becomes an easy icebreaker to begin the technical conversation that can lead the discussion to integrated FM.
Earlier in the Middle East, maintenance services and professional upkeep of assets was not an area of key importance, resulting in the rapid depreciation of the value of properties in the region. Sub-standard construction specifications also gave properties a very short life-span in comparison to similar buildings in more developed countries at that time.
Thankfully, Qatar, and the region as a whole, has broken free of the existing inferior construction techniques and adopted internationally-certified quality and safety standards. Naturally, development of one sector inspires another to follow the trend and keep up with the pace of technological advancements.
As a result, FM is going through this: the next step in the process of ‘post-construction’ and aims to maintain the property to the same standard, if not better, than it was the day it was officially completed.
But until now, this process of recognising the short and long-term benefits of introducing an integrated facility management operation within a property has been a slow one to grasp and implement in the region.
Having said that, we see that Qatar is now leading the way in the establishment of international-quality standards; not only at the construction phase, but also during the post-construction phase of properties. This is evident in the vast number of tenders and expressions of interest from different clientele that includes a range of mixed-use projects, both in the private and public sectors.
But, the value in paying for such a service once in place, tends to falter at the price negotiation stage. As the saying goes “you get what you pay for”. Unfortunately, while many companies are realising the long-term value of FM, hesitation in investing often becomes the deal breaker.
The ability to offer high quality results at competitive prices has never been more crucial for FM companies. It is predicted that the construction industry in Qatar will grow some 46% in the next five years and there is $700bn worth of new investment projects predicted by 2020.
The country’s FM sector is expected to exceed the regional annual growth estimates of 18%. With the positive outlook of the FIFA 2022 boom coming in the coming years along with the Qatar 2030 vision, Emcor Facilities Services (EFS) Qatar is looking to play a critical role in the development of the country as a whole.
Currently we manage three residential towers with the Pearl Qatar and we look forward to managing more of such properties within the country in years to come.
But one thing that has to be recognised is that at this stage, both the client and, most importantly, the FM company, need to understand is that now is the time to adapt or to perish.
The market is not easy, and is still in infancy stages. However, with the correct strategy in finding a middle ground between profitability, and the client’s expectations, the long-term relationship will prove fruitful for both parties. In my experience, if there is one thing all FM companies want from the client, it is that clear decisions regarding FM are taken within a reasonable timeframe. Delays do not serve either party well but most importantly, while we wait, the party facing the biggest disadvantage is the property, which unfortunately, is left to maintain itself.
Sami Abu Kishk is head of business development and strategy at EFS