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EXCLUSIVE How software helped Iron Mountain FM function

Author : David Strydom

03 June 2013

Wil Boemen, head of FM at Iron Mountain, talks to PFM exclusively about a recent software installation at the company that helped him better manage various FM functions

Wil Boemen has recently tried his hand at cooking Indian curries and, in the process, 'surprised my family, friends and myself'. But while he may not - by his own admission - be eligible for the UK Curry Oscars just yet, he's clearly made a success of cooking up a FM software solution for his company, Iron Mountain.

Boemen is head of FM and Sustainability at Iron Mountain, which stores and manages records and information including paper records, cheques, the wills of Princess Diana, Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin, among others, the 1959 patent of the Red Delicious apple and the recordings of Frank Sinatra. Boemen's responsibility is the implementing and setting up of a management approach defining the strategic FM direction, then operating and managing it. He oversees a team of FM professionals and, in terms of sustainability, looks after the internal buildings across the UK, Ireland and Norway.

Boemen's team has been reduced to four members over the past few years. ''We're in the next generation as far as our FM provision is concerned,'' he says. ''We've outsourced more and our internal team looks after the internal intelligent client function. Each FM now has a more functional role where previously they had a regional outlook. The functional role includes technical services and compliance, asset lifecycle management and service level management. We ensure we get the best from our FM relationships in terms of value for money, quality of service and management risk by understanding how we want to maintain our equipment, and when we want to repair, replace and upgrade it and aligning with our business' needs. The service level manager ensures that expectation is delivered and that it's managed with our contractors. The fourth person - our Planon systems and asset administrator - is responsible for ensuring that works.''

How much of its FM does Iron Mountain outsource? ''We outsourced all FM service delivery using different approaches in the past,'' Boemen says. ''We also previously outsourced to a total FM provider and now we outsource to a bundle supply chain. In the UK we have Integral as our M&E provider, a fire and security provider in Tyco, soft services through ISS and waste management through Veolia. In Europe we're more decentralised and there's a much larger contractor base. Our next step is to look at how we can consolidate that.''

When Iron Mountain's FM team needed new software - or integrated work management solutions (IWMS) - for use across its Europe branches, it held a global tender. ''What I didn't want was one of those packages that look great off-the-shelf but then tend to be restrictive. Planon Software - which features in Gartner's Top 5 ranking - had a system that was customisable and flexible, which convinced me we needed it,'' says Boemen.

''We needed a package to help us implement internal processes as we have a diverse supply chain; we needed to ensure the whole supply chain was funnelled through one system, that it involved one process and that internally all the reporting would be consistent. But we also needed sufficient flexibility to cater to different regions and areas.''

However, the package's biggest strength - its flexibility - created a challenge. ''The flipside of flexibility is the set up process is time-consuming. The other problem was implementing it while running it and changing it. There was frustration, and I said to myself: 'If only I'd bought that off-the-shelf system I would have it up-and-running by now'. But if we did that we wouldn't get the benefits that have resulted since Planon has been implemented.''

Apart from the main FM package, Iron Mountain needed a sustainability package, of which there were many options available. ''There was one off-the-shelf ready system that was the UK leader at the time,'' Boemen says. ''But the disadvantage was it was a standalone that needed to be set up again which meant I had to set up all the buildings, assets and personnel again. I thought 'I'm not going to go through that again'. So we developed together with Planon a Sustainability package that is fully integrated in the main suite. This means we can run sustainability reports on our FM properties without having to duplicate the information.

''That means we have a carbon footprint per cubic foot of storage, which is how we measure our performance. So all of a sudden, instead of saving polar bears we can actually make it relevant for the day-to-day running of our business and our customers.''

Once the software was up-and-running, Planon's philosophy was to make the process as user-customisable as possible. ''Other systems are happy to sell you the services of a consultant for a week but Planon helped us to do that ourselves. They're there if we need them but it's more of a pull than a push. With respect to other packages you'll get regular calls from the sales guys to find out what more needs to be done but not so with Planon. They don't do it because they've forgotten about you, but rather because they don't want to unnecessarily push their services on you.''

Iron Mountain pays annual maintenance and hosting fees but the software license becomes perpetual after three years, at which point the account is settled.


Born in Maastricht, Boemen's family moved around when he was younger. His father worked for NATO and the family spent 10 years in Germany before returning to Holland, then relocating to France, where he achieved his degree in electrical engineering and energy and sustainability. ''My first job was as a maintenance manager in the New York Hotel for Euro Disney,'' he recalls. ''What many people don't know is most of the FM-related work happens at night when about 800 engineers get to work. By morning, everything is spotless and you're back in fantasy land.''

''After working for 'the Mouse' for a few years, it was time to get a real job,'' Boemen laughs. He was employed by the Hilton, Sheraton and Western hotel chains for several years, which gave him a different perspective on the FM role as the emphasis was on customer service and five-star delivery. He moved to Exodus where he managed data centres, giving him yet another perspective on the industry, this time with a more technical flavour. He joined Iron Mountain in 2004 and lives with his wife and daughter in Berkshire. ''My passion lies very much in setting things up and sorting things out through innovation, looking at processes, aligning things properly and implementing new approaches,'' he says.

Boemen is a member of several FM associations including BIFM and ASHRAE. ''Many of the courses offered by these associations are very specific and technical,'' he says. ''What I'm looking for is how to upskill a general FM to become a more professional functional FM without specialising in one particular area.

''FM is an industry you can get into relatively easy but progression can be problematic. When I worked in those hotels I realised you can easily start off washing dishes and doing other chores but to get to general manager level is a different story. Very often the required skills are formed in the industry itself. In that respect, the FM industry isn't well organised.''

Boemen says the most pressing aspects of his job are Compliance, Sustainability and energy management. ''Much of what I do in my job doesn't fall into core competencies and usually gets pushed aside. For me, sustainability should always be seen as important. Energy management is a key factor.''

His main bugbear, he says, is that ''FMs are summoned only when something is broken or too expensive. We don't celebrate our successes loudly enough!''

With respect to challenges in his job, Boemen says: ''Fortunately I don't have too many job-related concerns that keep me awake at night. What worries me most is finding the right balance between an outsourced delivery and an internal function that understands the business requirements. How far should companies go with respect to outsourcing if they want to maintain some level of internal control? Where do they draw that line in order to get the most out of it?''

Then there's health and safety. ''It's part of my job as well but getting it right is a given - there's no other option. If anything, the FM industry has gone over the top with health and safety - and they're not the only sector to have done so. It's a shame because it takes away the credibility of what they're trying to achieve - it's like health and safety gone mad sometimes.

''I like to do things for the right reason. If you take that approach, then look at your health and safety documenting procedure you'll often find you've covered 90% by default. With that in mind, health and safety doesn't keep me awake at night.''

Which is just as well, since Boemen enjoys his off-hours, including spending time with his family, walking the dog and experimenting with Indian curry dishes.

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