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Chomping at the bit (1 comment)

20 November 2012

Tim Fryer

It has been an interesting week in which a few of the sector’s recurring themes have risen back to the top of the agenda, and several of these are covered in this week’s FM Report.

One of these is the pending decision by DECC about the level of support for solar power installations through feed-in-tariffs. As I understand it the government created a level of uncertainty about the viability of solar schemes when it made a rapid and unilateral decision to slash the feed-in-tariffs (FITs). Given the lengthy ROI on solar schemes, whether domestic or commercial, long term financial guarantees are crucial – and confidence in the Government’s commitment to them was shaken. Their decision was deemed illegal and so the existing tariffs were guaranteed for 25 years for existing projects, although the Government unsuccessfully appealed the decision once and has threatened to appeal to the Supreme Court for a second time. As a tangential point – I wonder how the Prime Minister’s announcement this week that he intends to limit planning appeals sits with the his Governments record of appealing on this issue?

However, the main issue is what happens to the projects with mid-range generating capacity – principally commercial and industrial premises. There is no doubt that the costs of PV systems have come down since rates for the first FITs were set, and also the systems themselves have become increasingly efficient, so these combined effects mean that a reduction in FITs for new projects is logical. What the sector needs, and the Solar Trade Association is calling for (Sieze the solar opportunity) is both the framework and the long-term commitment to the industry, to give facility managers the confidence to properly explore the options of renewable energy. Given the generally upward trend of fossil fuel costs and the enthusiasm for the energy companies to pass these on, I would have thought that many FMs will now be of the mindset of needing good reasons NOT to look at renewables, rather than the traditional viewpoint of having to have good reasons to start looking at them. A DECC announcement is due within a week.

Another issue I came across last week was at the Worktech12 conference in London. In an action-packed programme, most sessions both entertained as well as provoked thought - although in some cases I felt the thoughts that would have been provoked in some people’s minds might be problems rather than solutions. One particular problem, or issue at least, was how to cater for the young people. This was a recurring theme. Apparently we all have to have age appropriate labels, from us baby boomers down to the striplings who are millennials or Generation Y, and we then need to design the modern office so that these Millennials can use Facebook wherever they want in it.

Now, I completely buy into the notion that a happy workplace is a more productive one, that office design is fundamental in creating a good working environment, and also that young people are our future and need to be nurtured and encouraged. However, recently the FMA did a survey which had the majority of people working in the FM sector as over 45. Added to which, a workplace is what it says on the tin – it is a place for people to work. Put these two together and I wonder if the fashion for designing offices for school leavers can be counter-productive if those of us who are longer in the tooth feel it undermines the work ethic of the majority of the employees.

Chomping at the bit?
And while I am happily playing the part of the grumpy old man, I was at a presentation, also last week, that gave the impression that the age of the business-to-business magazine was over. 75% of companies were now using Twitter for marketing and over half were on facebook, while revenues for advertising in traditional print media had slumped massively in recent years. The last point is true, I can’t deny, but does the reason for that rest with a new breed of marketeers (Millennials no doubt) looking for thrusting new ways of tackling their craft? So they develop a marketing strategy that allows them to play with Twitter and Facebook all day, but is it reaching the right audience? People still get printed magazines because they ask for them – it is the preferred method of consuming information for some. Others read this magazine (and others) in digital format, again by choice.

Magazines are edited and written to provide a specific audience with information they wouldn’t have got elsewhere, which is why people register to receive them. The format survives because the readers want it. But if marketeers believe the route forward is Twitter then will magazines become unsustainable? It’s a danger but I doubt it. It may be that 75% of companies are using Twitter, but hiding behind this statistic is that very few are probably doing any useful marketing with Twitter. There is just too much of it – it becomes noise. To get any useful information you need to devote a lot of time to it, which most of us with a job don’t have, or you need to be selective about who you follow and whose tweets you read – which then defeats the marketeers purpose of reaching new customers.

There is always a chance that you were alerted to this column this week by my tweet (@PFM_Magazine), which you could regard as a self-defeating argument. I do try and limit my tweets to what I believe is new, original and/or interesting. I do believe that the media needs to move forward to meet the needs of both Generations X and Y, and Twitter may prove to be part of that mix when it settles down, but facilities managers, like every other professional, are looking for that original and relevant information that is such a scarce commodity online.

You may well disagree. You may well want more Twitter and less magazines. More video and less newsletters. Or you may think my analysis of Twitter’s virtues is disingenuous. Feel free to let me know your thoughts. By email. Or Twitter I suppose!

Comment from Wilson MacDonald

I have just read your Leader in the above magazine and, at the risk of giving a big hint as to my age, I agree with your comments about “Spare the aged”. It is my experience that young people today expect to behave in the workplace exactly the same as they did at school or whilst working for an employer who did not have the will or the commitment to remind them that they were now working for a living. The work ethic of the younger generation (and I appreciate I generalise) is that the workplace is an extension of their private life and that it ought to be so, it is almost as if work is of secondary importance. A happy workplace is one where people want to be and have enough work to keep them busy, I cannot imagine what the alternative must be like!

I do not agree that you are a “grumpy old man” rather you see things as they are, a rare thing these days. I do not want to read Twitter or Facebook to find out what is happening in the world I work in, I prefer the good old printed matter which I can file and retrieve whenever I want to. There is a place for Twitter and Facebook but not in the FM world in which I exist.

I may have gone on a bit but your article touched a nerve which Twitter and Facebook do not reach.  



Wilson Macdonald  Services  Manager – UK North and Ireland

ACE European Group

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