FM BLOG: 4 questions to ask when considering outsourcing facilities management

Facilities management, or FM, is a complex function. Depending on the organisation in question, it likely involves a range of different yet complementary disciplines, including waste management, energy services, cleaning and maintenance, physical security and so on. Replacing complexity with simplicity is, of course, often a key driver of business efficiency – and simplifying the multi-faceted property picture often means outsourcing facilities management. Hand over some or all of these disparate FM functions to a third-party supplier, and your managers are freed up to focus on more strategic tasks.

That’s the theory, anyway. But there are plenty of other benefits to be gained from outsourcing some or all of your facilities management disciplines – and some pitfalls to be aware of too. If you’re considering an outsourced FM contract, here are the questions you should be asking to determine whether it’s the right choice for you.

Is there a competitive advantage to delivering FM in-house?

This question often relates to your organisation’s core functions. If facilities management does not directly relate to your key products or services, then it is a support function rather than a core one. That’s not to say that it isn’t essential to the day-to-day running of your business; rather, it isn’t central to your revenue stream, and you are unlikely to have extensive experience in-house to deliver it. In this case, outsourcing can be both cost-effective and strategically sensible.

Can I trust the quality and control of an outsourced facilities management solution?

One potential disadvantage of outsourced FM is the loss of quality control. You are, essentially, trusting people from outside of your business with elements that could have a huge impact on the efficiency and even safety of your organisation. Can you trust those people? On the other hand, going to a third-party provider can mean that you benefit from skills, experience, qualifications and kit that you cannot support in-house, leading to a higher quality end result. The challenge of navigating all this is why it is so important for your outsourced FM provider to come with certifications and testimonials, and for your agreement to contain a strict framework of KPIs. 

Am I looking at temporary or recurring FM needs?

Some facilities management functions, such as cleaning, grounds maintenance and waste management occur on an ongoing basis. Others, such as the repair and maintenance of hardware, may be less frequent but still regularly repeated. Whilst others, such as a project to improve the energy efficiency of a building, or janitorial services around a one-off event, may be temporary. All of these factors have an impact on the kind of facilities management outsourcing that will be most suitable, efficient and cost-effective. Outsourcing might still be the best option for all of the different contexts, but you may need to look at different models and contracts for each.

What savings am I trying to achieve through outsourcing facilities management?

The key driver for many who consider outsourcing facilities management solutions is resource savings. An outsourced solution saves on both the direct costs of hiring additional in-house personnel, and the indirect costs of managing and training them.

However, it is important to remember that outsourcing facilities management still takes up administrative time. In-house staff will still have to spend time briefing and assessing your outsourced provider, and, particularly if you run several separate third-party FM contracts, this can quickly get complex and time-prohibitive. Think carefully about the savings you most want to achieve and shape your outsourcing decisions around those goals. Additionally, Eric Wright FM often finds that to ensure companies are compliant with current regulatory legislation it involves elements that haven’t been considered before – this can sometimes increase costs though substantially lowering risk.

There are plenty of compelling reasons for businesses in a wide range of sectors to outsource some or all of their facilities management. However, it is not a decision you should take in a rush. Think carefully about the benefits you most want to achieve and talk those through with any prospective provider. Outsourcing, above all, means creating an additional team of your business within a third-party provider. You need to make sure that team is truly on board with your business.


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