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World of Integration

14 April 2008

Breaking down barriers of distance and culture within the organisation have contributed to the development by ISS of its integrated facilities services strategy. Jane Fenwick reports from the new ISS HQ in Woking which has played a key role in this process

Andrew Price

ISS HAS GROWN ITS PRESENCE IN THE UK largely by acquisition of support services companies across the country. Most recently it has added Arena 21, providers of corporate front of house services to some of the world’s most prestigious companies, and security experts, Strata Group. A key acquisition in 2007 was M&E services company, Adviance Technical Solutions.

Any company that grows fast by acquisition has to absorb new people, existing clients and systems, and more property locations, and this can create difficulties in ‘coming together’ as one organisation and one culture. Last year ISS took the step to bring much of its Facility Services division into a single HQ, a move that has been deemed a huge success. For chief executive, Andrew Price (below), bringing the dispersed facilities services operations of ISS together is an important plank of his strategy of the integration of services across the company. Functions, people and skills that formerly rarely or never met, now sit adjacent, eat in the same restaurant, or ‘bump into’ each other on the stairs or at the photocopying and printing points on each floor.

The 39,000 sq ft office in Genesis Business Park in Woking, looks like any other, but once inside a striking, narrow tunnel lit by horizontal coloured bands of light, links the reception to the inner world of ISS beyond.

Employing 42,500 staff, of which 65 per cent are part time, ISS is one of the giants in the UK facilities services scene with a turnover of around £650m. It is Denmark’s second largest company and one of the world’s largest facility services companies. It aspires to lead the global market, with operations already established in 50 countries. Worldwide ISS made 67 acquisitions during 2007 and added the USA to its list of 50 ISS countries. Total global staff numbers are over 400,000 and it claims over 100,000 business to business customers.

The UK operation is a leader in the ISS organization both in terms of its maturity and of its practice in delivering integrated facilities services, but also in its performance. It was awarded the ISS World Cup in 2007 for the best performing country from across ISS World. Additionally, the London Division’s MD for ISS Facility Services, Jim Hays was named best regional director.

The move into the new Woking HQ is a significant advance for the ISS organization in the UK. Its history of frequent acquisitions resulting in the ISS organization growing and evolving across multiple locations and offices, this dispersed and disparate organization was not best placed to deliver its business ambitions.

Price recognized that what happens at the centre of the organization impacts the performance down the line. “We took a hub approach to the location of the new office. This office operates as a national headquarters and an operation office for a large proportion of the facilities services activities. This hub model is to be replicated for regional centres in Birmingham and in the north west of England, Scotland and central London in future.”

Among those based in the Woking HQ are change management specialists, ISS Coflex, landscape experts, Waterers Landscapes, the ISS Mediclean, the local region’s operations team, and the ISS pest control activities. Price recognised how important it was for all of the operations in the new HQ to interface and interact across the spectrum of activities. Much of the interiors concept and layout of the offices is designed to ensure this made to happens - from open plan and wireless working, and shared post and reprographic points on each floor, to the encouragement of walking up and down the stairs between floors.

Price highlights two important points of interaction that have proved to be successful. One is a social event is organized on the last Friday of each month which is well attended and has proved to be a good ‘melting pot’. The other is the decision to have long, bench style tables in the staff restaurant rather than small tables for 2’s and 4’s that can tend to become ‘territorial’ and are not conducive to sharing. Staff and management eat in the same restaurant. The fact that they can sit anywhere maximizes the opportunities to meet informally across the lunch table.

The restaurant is also a test bed for the ISS catering operation with new ideas launched at the HQ to an informed and critical clientele. For example, ISS’s new Hunger and Thirst Deli offer began its life in the Woking HQ. Ideas for increasing biodegradable packaging are tested there, as are locally sourced foods.

The HQ has a key role in driving change the business changes in the ISS Create 2005 programme. This recognized some three years ago that increasingly ISS’ support services business was being won via third parties and FM companies rather than directly from the client. ISS recognised that it needed to retain its direct interface with its business and public sector clients. Since then it has acquired additional skills it lacked and effectively relaunched ISS as an integrated facilities services organization.

Price likens the ISS organisational structure in the UK to a house with a roof and five pillars. The five pillars comprise its key service areas – catering, cleaning, office services, technical services and security – with the roof representing the integrated FM concept.

Key to the success of the ’roof’ of the structure is ISS Coflex. Price acknowledged that the role of Coflex’s change management team in facilitating the process of integration of new and existing companies and activities has been a key factor in ISS’s development. He said, “Coflex changed ISS as a business. Coflex provided the step change in ISS approach to providing services in a self delivery model.”

Coflex takes the lead in ISS for developing new business opportunities from targeting and bidding the contract, through to operating and self delivering the business through ISS staff.

Businesses have been acquired to build skills within the organization, extend geographical spread and client base, and for their cultural fit. The acquisition of Adviance late last year typifies the business strategy ISS has adopted.

As Price observed, “Adviance is a high end M&E company with large national contracts with significant business customers. It brings an expertise in building services project management and behavioral management, as well as a skilled technical workforce. Its maintenance services are highly complementary
to the existing ISS Building Services and Project business.”

Integrating leisure
Earlier this year, ISS launched a new hotel and leisure division. It already cleans over one million hotel bedrooms as well as providing catering services, landscaping and a wide variety of facilities services. The move sees a pooling their knowledge and experience, and integration of the business opportunities in this important hotel and leisure market that covers ISS interests not only hotels but also meeting and convention centres, theatres and museums, health spas resorts, sports stadia and exhibition centres.

A unique venture for the hotel and leisure division is the Sunborn Yacht Hotel moored in London’s Docklands. It is the world’s first custom built Yacht Hotel, offering 112 unique, luxury suites and two further Royal suites. ISS Facility Services which provides porter, concierge, chauffeur and cloakroom services and a full maintenance service, is also responsible for the sales and marketing of the hotel’s accommodation and stylish conference and banqueting facilities, as well as the food and beverage management for the Yacht Club its Fifth Deck Restaurant.

As new opportunities present themselves, ISS is sure to be keen to become a major player in the sector and to integrate it with existing business activities. Earlier this year it announced the acquisition of Caterhouse, a catering business that serves 40,000 school meals at in over 200 schools. The move fitted neatly with ISS Mediclean’s recently announced Building Schools for the Future project in Bristol, a sector that the company plans to develop.

Another new sector is the damage control business driven by the domestic and industrial insurance sector. In a world increasingly prone to extreme weather conditions, ISS formed ISS Damage Control following the acquisitions of Rainbow International for residential losses and Ark & General and Electromec Ltd for industrial losses, and it is now a leader in the UK market. Contracts include Rainbow International’s appointment by Lloyds TSB Insurance as its sole provider of disaster restoration services for domestic insurance claims in the UK, and the provision of a 24-hour disaster restoration service to the Cooperative Insurance Society’s largely domestic policyholders.


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