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Surveyors Step Up

15 November 2005

Plans to raise the profile of FM to support RICS members in FM roles will improve professionalism in the sector, as Jane Fenwick found when speaking to Alan White and Mike Cant about the in their developing strategy for the RICS FM Faculty

THE MOVEMENT OF QUALIFIED SURVEYORS into facilities management roles is not a new phenomenon – in fact it has been a feature of the FM sector throughout its history. Qualified surveyors have the technical expertise to take on a range of roles in the built environment, and many have ‘ended up’ in FM at some time in their careers. Now rather than haphazardly falling into an FM career, the RICS FM Faculty is aiming to make the process for qualified surveyors more seamless, supportive and professionally accredited.

Of particular importance is to raise the profile of facilities management. It is not just a service delivery business, although the quality of service is clearly a vital part of it. Much more value can be added to a client’s business and to a supplier’s bottom line by taking a more strategic approach which looks at the whole of business infrastructure, and the match between businesses requirement for accommodation, the property portfolio and the finance, organisation, management and servicing of this space. Raising the awareness of everyone in the sector to the opportunities and the contribution which FM can make to the way businesses operate is what the ongoing strategy of the RICS FM Faculty is all about.

Surprisingly, facilities and support services management was only formally regarded as a key skill set for surveying professionals in 2001 when the RICS established the FM Faculty. With 12,000 members (out of a total 110,000 institute membership) now registered with the FM Faculty, the potential for sourcing qualified, technically competent FM professionals at a time when management skills are in short supply is vast. This has been recognised and under the leadership of the FM Faculty Board chairman, Alan White and vice chairman, Mike Cant, the FM Faculty Board has been reviewing the Faculty’s role, value and what it should be offering its members. As a result, plans are in preparation that will maximise the potential for RICS members to seamlessly move into careers within the FM sector, building on their existing, skills within a competency framework.

Like many large membership organisations, member activity has been relatively low and White and Cant are keen to see this situation change. Their review highlights the need for the FM Faculty to add value for its members particularly to support them in their career aspirations and, by using the weight of the RICS, influence the future of the sector – nationally and internationally.

Cant stresses that “Our strategy for the FM Faculty is not to establish a competitive membership body within the FM community, but rather to utilise its large pool of skilled professionals together with the capabilities and expertise of the RICS, to enhance the professionalism of the FM sector”. This in turn will help to inform government and industry at the highest levels, add value to organisations and bring a more ‘joined up’ approach to the professional management of property assets and FM.

Career paths
Their first step is launching a career path advisory service to help aspiring professionals to develop an interest in becoming members of RICS and to encourage the quality, expertise and experience of existing RICS members. White, of Lenborough Consultants, cannot foresee a day where the RICS would provide FM training or CPD themselves. Instead, it will direct those interested in building FM skills towards the most appropriate sources of ‘best of breed’ training available in the market, including that provided by the BIFM. Guidance will be free from market and parochial pressures and set within a technical competency framework. White and Cant agree that it is the RICS’ unique reputation as the pre-eminent position in property and property-related advice that differentiates FM Faculty members from other associations operating in the facilities sector.

Additionally and uniquely in the FM community, the FM Faculty will be establishing a mentoring and coaching framework to support career development among surveying professionals who are gravitating into the FM sector. Suitable mentors are currently being identified. This recognises that many surveying professions who may have the experience, aspirations, technical capacity and enthusiasm, actually need guidance and focus within a support structure to build a career path into FM.

Profile raising
The other approach is to utilise the established reputation and strength of the RICS to influence government policy and to enhance the reputation of FM and infrastructure management. The RICS already has its own established agenda of policy issues, and White and Cant aim to develop a parallel strand that identifies the facilities management focus on these as well as other issues specific to the sector.

White believes that the RICS is uniquely able to give an FM perspective in government and corporates because of its longer history and high professional stature recognised by the fact that many of its members hold executive board level appointments as Property Directors, for example. Established in 1868, the RICS has an established role in both advising and lobbying at all levels of government across the UK. It also has the advantage of a truly global reach with a membership that spans the world.

The potential for raising the profile of FM and bringing an FM agenda to the attention of decision-makers and opinion formers through the auspices of the RICS has huge potential. The timing is right too. Organisations are increasingly embracing business potential of their property assets. This is bringing together property professionals across a broad spectrum of interests together with those in the facilities and support services sector and placing many RICS members in a central role. Similarly, in the public sector government policy is looking to improve the performance of its infrastructure and estates including ICT and FM procurement. Heavy investment in ICT systems has not provided the improvements to service delivery that many had hoped and this presents a political and practical challenge that has to be addressed by the FM sector together with other built environment professionals.

Cant, as Director Larch Consulting, is clear as to the profile and responsibilities all of this brings to the FM sector. “For many board-level managers, FM is too far down the food-chain, yet properly integrated in property and infrastructure management, it can have an immense and positive impact on overall business performance”. Raising the profile of FM at national and international levels will, White and Cant believe, provide a boost for the whole sector as well engage the FM Faculty members.

In addition to the career path advisory service and the competence framework, a series of miniconferences have been planned for 2006 on issues related to government-led agenda on the built environment.

This can only be good news. For members of the RICS, this represents a new career path to be actively pursued. For the FM community generally, the RICS embracing FM marks a significant step in the emergence of FM as a profession of choice in the property and infrastructure sector.


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