Why FM providers and Owners Association should collaborate?
FM providers and Owners Associations ought to work towards a common goal, says Garry Murray, CEO, Place Community Managers
Often times there is a disconnect between the roles played by facilities managers and owners association (OA). The disconnect is mostly in terms of communication and collaboration, according to Garry Murray, CEO of Place Community Managers – a full-service owners association management company. Murray says: “FM providers do not understand our role and we don’t understand their role, and that’s a problem because we ultimately represent them to the client as we’re the ones who do the tenders and present reports. There is a sort of disconnect. We both need each other to develop our service with the same common goal, which is maintaining the asset.”
Murray joined Place Community Managers in 2011 and his role involves formulating the company strategy, supporting his leadership teams, liaising with shareholders, generating new business and, most importantly, developing every staff member from office persons to C-level executives.
Prior to Place, Murray worked in facility management, leasing and sales for a large mix-use golf project in Bahrain. His experience has taught him that currently, “people are in business for themselves”. He adds: “FM people are caught up in doing their own operations, which is understandable. We get caught up in our own operations. But we need to understand that actually we’re one big team, even though we might be three or four different companies. We need to collaborate and be open with each other.” Murray laments that none of the information, barring financial details, is being shared. “FM companies spend a lot of money on computer-aided facility management (CAFM) systems or in developing their back-end, help desk, and training centers for their stuff. There’s a good chance we might not find out any of that,” he adds.
Murray says that the FM community and OA need to find ways of sharing resources and developing better operational practices and processes. He says: “Why is this company doing 10 steps, when it can do it in 5 steps? It saves time and energy.” He says that at the moment people are only focusing on driving down prices. As we all know the concept of a price war is when two or more firms in an industry lower their prices in the battle for business. When this happens, it strains the market.
The other reason why FM companies need to work with with OAs is if the former would want to win FM contracts through the latter. Murray explains how this can be done: “We see a lot of FM companies re-inventing and using Internet of Things (IoTs), which is great, but how does that benefit my project because what we found is that the FM providers are only implementing smart strategies only on key projects. They need to implement that across their entire operations, on all projects irrespective of how big or small it is. What they actually bring to the table should benefit the client, OA and ultimately themselves because you won’t lose work if you do a good job. They need to be consistent. When something happens at 3 am in the morning, the OA manager isn’t there. It’s the security guards and the technicians.”
“Our job as an owners association manager is more administrative. Making sure we have the experts in place to do certain things and to monitor them. There is a difference between monitoring the FM service provider and being a service provider and it’s trying to understand how that works. The OA manager does not just issue tenders out to FM companies. We know the buildings and the pain points. We know what the owners care about and that’s what FM companies need to deliver. FM isn’t just electricians and plumbers. It’s concierge, cleaners, and customer services.”
Technology and FM
Talking about how mature is the FM industry in adopting technology, Murray feels there is still scope for improvement. He says: “It’s great having technology, but it is important to know what we are actually getting from it and why it is being done? People shouldn’t be using technology just for the sake of it.”
He gave an example where one of the complaints they receive is the security firm not doing its job. People complain that the on-duty guard is unavailable during work hours. He adds: “It’s difficult to prove such a thing. One solution we gave was to invest in a monitoring technology like a chip that will be tagged at strategic locations and as the security guard walks in, it will tag the phone. That report will comes to us. So we know exactly which location they’ve been in, at exactly what time.
“Now such a technology can also be used to manage manpower because you can actually see, instead of five guards you only need four. Then you are saving fifty to sixty thousand dirhams a year.”
Murray says that such a technology can be further extended to monitoring leaks in buildings through water sensors. “The biggest thing to be able to do in a skyscraper when there’s water leak is protecting the elevators. It’s the most expensive part of the building. We should connect that to the BMS system to
Performance-based or input-based
The other issue that Murray covered was why he preferred performance-based contracts over input-based contracts. He says: “I personally feel output-based contracts are ideal, and this is because they can be adjusted. You can make savings. You don’t need to have several HVAC guys sitting in the building 24/7. You can get them in and out once a week or once a month, which means that those overheads can be shared. However, the problem with that is we need to submit budgets in advance to the land department which means we need to submit the contract and set the price. All needs to be listed in the contract.” He feels that if the same services can be delivered with half the manpower, then it means that the people are well trained and know what to do. Despite the inherent advantages, when such less-labour proposals are put forth to the management or client, they might compare with others and see that more manpower was used for the same price and be swayed in that direction, thinking it is better. “So it’s not always a win-win situation. The market though is opening up and being more flexible with output-based contracts,” he admits.
The current trend in the GCC sector, according to Murray, is that the market is evolving. “What worked last year may not work this year. If there are 10 steps, can I make it can I reduce it to seven? This is something we should all be thinking.”
Murray feel that the FM industry is not well respected. He says: “I don’t think people respect FM enough, including the FM companies. They don’t respect themselves enough. I don’t think they sell themselves because they are seen by everybody as manpower.”
The best FM companies are the ones where you can walk into a building or plant room and you notice that it is spotless clean and well-maintained, Murray believes.
Listing the top three challenges in the FM industry, Murray reiterates that price wars is the primary concern. He says: “FM companies are in a price war with each other. They are in a constant tendering loop, particularly when the tender is for owners association. An FM company will easily get 200-300 tenders in the space of two to three weeks. Everybody’s just fighting for contracts. ”
The second challenge facing the FM industry is showing its value to clients, the OA and the end user. He says: “FM companies need to understand that if their security guard is sleeping while on duty and he gets caught, then it needs to be documented. At the same time, when things are going right, even those need to be documented. If you think about owners association and FM, they only interact with people when there’s a problem. What about every other minute of the day when things go right. People don’t bother acknowledging when everything is working fine.”
He feels that FM companies need to invest in client relations to show people the good work they are doing.
The third challenge Murray points out is a mix of the first two challenges. He says: “There are a lot of small FM players entering the market. Not every FM company has to be large with 10,000 employees. So it is fine to have smaller companies entering the market. But we also can’t have companies that find spare parts from unauthorised places and undercutting the market. That’s an issue.”
He concluded by saying that FM companies should essentially have a proof of their worth.