Webinar explores gaps between facilities management and procurement

facilities managementA webinar exploring the gap between the facilities management and procurement sectors concluded with a straw poll of thirty delegates which found that there was a half and half split  between those who feel that the relationship between the two disciplines is only ‘average’ while 43 per cent consider it close and that they worked together collaboratively when required. The webinar hosted last week by supplier information management firm Trade Interchange, saw senior speakers from the facilities management and procurement sectors discuss the reason for this disconnect. “There has been historic friction and frustration,” stated Jeremy Waud, chairman of service provider Incentive FM. “The two sides have often had conflicting corporate objectives which has meant they behaved very differently.”

Consultant Dave Wilson argued that this was only exacerbated when facilities management teams delivered over multiple geographies and cultures.“Procurement’s inherent desire to cut supplier numbers to reduce administration is directly contradictory to FM who wants to increase the numbers to improve service and reduce risk.”

Les Stratford, chairman of the BIFM’s Procurement Special Interest Group, acknowledged that there was a perception that while FM had learnt to distinguish between economical procurement (purchasing units at the lowest price), efficient resource use (using the minimum quantity of an item for a given outcome) and effective operations (creating the best outcome for the least cost), which requires combining economic buying, efficient utilisation and desired outcomes, their procurement counterparts have not recognised this change and remain focussed on unit cost, often at the expense of effective operations and desired outcomes.

 However, the panel acknowledged that FM had much to learn from the procurement function – if only FM would be open to the opportunities a good relationship good bring. The audience agreed that there were skills held by the procurement team which were valued by the organisation. Asked which of procurement’s competences were most important to FM, the audience reported support to articulate the service required (50 per cent); probity and auditability of process (50 per cent); in-depth experience of the procurement process (38 per cent); in-depth experience of contract management (25 per cent); and negotiation skills (13 per cent).

One solution to bring the two parties close together is to literally co-locate them, said Ian Jones, director of facilities and estates at ITV, who had a procurement director who sat next to the FM team for a year. “The relationship improved immeasurably as a result,” he reported.

Technology is also a key enabler, added Mike Edmunds, chief technical officer at Trade Interchange who suggested that automating processes allowed some of the pinch points between FM and procurement to be resolved. And this seemed to be backed up by the audience. Half said they used both contract management technology and supplier information management technology to solve the disconnect between the two sides, while 17 per cent used performance management technology. Just over a third saw the issues could only be solved by improved relationships.

The topics discussed are also examined in Trade Interchange’s latest white paper Aligning Supplier Management with FM Objectives. Download your complimentary copy at: www.tradeinterchange.com/fmwhitepaperdownload.aspx To listen to a recording of the webinar, visit www.tradeinterchange.com/procurement_v_FM.aspx