Staying focused on the core essentials

The Prague Post

Facility management conference offers new ideas on running a more efficient business

It’s a bit like trying to describe an artichoke to a blind person. At first glance, it seems obvious: You know how it looks, tastes and feels. But when you start pulling off the leaves, you discover a heart and blossom that wasn’t apparent from the surface.

The same is true for facility management.

“People think they understand facility management by saying it’s the operation of the building,” says Ondrej Štrup, managing partner at Hein Consulting, a worldwide consulting and strategic management firm. “But it’s a mistake to say operating and facilitating a building is the same thing. Facility management is much wider.”

How, then, does one define facility management? Most people understand it to include the maintenance, cleaning service, security, groundskeeping and other items essential to the upkeep of a building. It certainly is all those things, but modern facility management goes much deeper.

“Facility management takes care of everything you don’t want to manage,” says Štrup, offering the head of a typical company as an example of who could benefit.

“As the decision-maker, you want to concentrate on certain aspects of your business — production, marketing, whatever,” he explains. “You are also responsible for your employees, the workplace environment, etc. But it’s not what you want to do.”

Štrup divides such responsibilities into two basic categories: core business and noncore business. And he recommends handing over the noncore business essentials to someone else.

“Facility management is a profession that says we are here to take your noncore business as our core business,” he says.

Štrup and other facility management professionals will be discussing the concept, as well as delving into the specifics of how good facility management can help improve businesses, at a conference in Prague next month.

“This conference will target the topics, case studies and trends of facility management, as well as the progress, perspectives and new opportunities for the industry,” says Hana Smejcová, senior conference producer for the Institute for International Research, the company organizing the event. “Attendees will meet facility managers, developers and facility consulting companies.”

This is the second such conference. Smejcová says encouraging responses from the first one prompted her firm to hold a second.

“We received positive feedback on the organization, the information provided and the possibility of live discussions,” she says.

Štrup came into the field by accident. He has an education and background in construction engineering, and was working in the IT field when he noticed his company had something called facility management. When he asked about it, a colleague suggested he attend a meeting of the International Facility Management Association. Štrup subsequently founded the first Czech chapter of the IFMA.

Part of the message Štrup has for conference attendees is that facility management can mean different things to different companies, and each has to decide what exactly it would like someone else to take care of.

“[Facility management] all depends on what the decision-maker wants it to be,” he explains. “The border of facility management and core business varies from company to company.”

As an example, Štrup mentions a Moravian company that outsourced the maintenance of all its production equipment. Other businesses might want to keep that function in-house. But for that company, which wanted to focus its energies elsewhere, it was not part of the core business.

No matter who handles specific responsibilities, Štrup says it’s important to maintain oversight of facility management.

“Some people think outsourcing and facility management are the same thing, because they outsource their cleaning service,” he says. “But if you want to do it right, you have to manage it. It’s important to keep control. You need a facility manager in the company who is responsible for the strategic management of the facility.”

Making a facility manager part of the management team, Štrup believes, will help ensure that the company is receiving added value from his services.

Other topics at the conference, which will be held Sept. 12 and 13 at Hotel Mövenpick, include the fundamentals of facility management, how to evaluate facility management systems and their effectiveness, goals and expectations and making use of external advisers and suppliers for facility management needs.

A separate all-day workshop will be held Sept. 14. “The workshop will allow attendees to find out what processes are core and noncore at their companies,” says Štrup, who will be conducting the workshop as well as lecturing at the conference. “Then they can decide which aspects of facility management would be better to out- or in-source.”

Štrup offers some final words of advice for anyone still unsure about the benefits of professional facility management.

“Facility management is like an iceberg,” he says. “The basic services it takes care of are above water, but there is more below it. Everyone wants to cut costs, but true facility management is about more than that. It’s about increasing employee effectiveness.”