Any outsourcing arrangement involves a range of complex issues related to personnel, management sponsorship and strategic fit & alignment. Information Services Group (ISG), a US based technology insights and advisory services company examines key functions in facilities management outsourcing identifying critical activities and activities that may merit less consideration, thereby freeing up management to focus on what really matters.
Services delivered by a facilities provider impact all of a client’s employees on a daily basis, and involve multiple points of potential failure. Consider: If someone spills something in a lobby, if offices are too hot or too cold, if restrooms are dirty, the facilities management service provider is accountable. Ensuring collaboration and communication between the client and service provider, defining meaningful incentives and building organizational support for the initiative are essential to FM outsourcing success.
Because of the range of scope involved, service levels are usually more tightly defined for an external provider. This “by-the-book” approach can result in customers feeling that an FM provider is delivering inadequate service. Moreover, after outsourcing, many customers tend to have unrealistically high expectations of their new provider relative to the levels of service they had previously received internally. Finally, potential problems can occur during transition, since every activity performed by a previous technician is seldom recorded.
The contract manager on the client side sets and maintains the tone for the relationship, work completion and contract management. The focus should be on outcomes (as measured by key performance indicators) rather than tasks performed. The manager needs to proactively discourage the growth of a shadow organization, where client managers watch over the shoulder of the supplier to identify deficiencies. A smaller retained organization is often more effective than a large retained organization.
The service provider’s team outnumbers the client’s and is closer to where the work is performed. An effective provider is proactive and will take the initiative to minimize recurring customer-generated work orders by implementing routine and preventative maintenance. Regular communication of work order status can increase customer satisfaction and avoid second-guessing and duplication of effort.
No one tends to notice FM until something goes wrong. Given the ubiquity of services delivered within a business facility – HVAC, sanitation, security, landscaping and all the potential points of failure on any given day, an FM provider and client team face a formidable “devil in the details” task.
One key task for the client-side contract manager is to manage executive-level expectations around the initiative. Specifically, the contract manager needs to communicate to the executive team that, in order to realize anticipated benefits, the business may experience an increase in staff complaints as well as see some service levels lowered (e.g., trash removal changed to every three days instead of daily, daytime office cleaning instead of at night). Obtaining buy-in from the executive’s direct reports and/or peers can facilitate senior-level support, as can developing and presenting a proactive communication plan around the initiative.