ISO 41000 – game changer or white elephant?

by Tiffany Paczek
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The recent publication of ISO 41001 represents a significant milestone towards FM industry maturity, but will the industry embrace it or view it as another costly level of compliance? By MARTIN LEITCH.

In April this year I had the pleasure of facilitating a discussion around the new international facilities management standards at Total Facilities in Melbourne. Two key conclusions resulted from the discussion around various aspects of the new Standards.

The first of these was that the Standards are likely to represent a game-changer for the industry by establishing industry-wide benchmarks of quality and performance.For service providers this means that they will be able to establish systems and procedures that are measurable against defined targets and for demand organisations there is now a framework against which they can specify and measure service provision.

The second conclusion that the panel arrived at was that engagement with the Standards is likely to increase exponentially to the number of organisations adopting the Standards that will ultimately become compliant and certified.

The reasoning behind these conclusions is best described with reference to the benefits listed in the Standards, as discussed below. However, in order to provide context to this discussion, the ISO 41000 series currently comprises:

  • ISO 41011: Facility management – Vocabulary
  • ISO 41012: Facility management – Guidance on strategic sourcing and the development of agreements, and
  • ISO 41001: Facility management – Management systems – Requirements with guidance for use.

These are supported by a Technical Report:

  • ISO 41013: 2017 Facility management – Scope, key concepts and benefits.

PURPOSE

As stated in ISO 41001, the Standard establishes a common interpretation and understanding of FM and provides a common basis upon which FM can be assessed and measured. This acknowledges the recognition that, until now, global FM principles and practices have been lacking, resulting in discrepancies in service quality, demand organisation expectations and unnecessary levels of contractual conflict.

Significantly, ISO 41001 confirms that this is a certifiable Standard, stating that it is applicable to organisations wishing to seek accreditation by a third party certification body.

THE STANDARDS

Although the most recent Standard to be published, ISO 41001 establishes an overall framework within which a facilities management system can be established, supported by the other Standards in the series. It comprises seven primary criteria structured around the ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’ methodology:

  • context of the organisation
  • leadership
  • planning
  • support
  • operations
  • performance evaluation, and
  • improvement.

In line with many Standards, ISO 41001 does not set out to be prescriptive, but provides for maximum flexibility in its interpretation through the guidance notes provided.

On the other hand, ISO 41012 is a bit more specific about the processes for strategic sourcing of support services and structuring FM agreements, with a section on measuring service provision performance. The key features of this Standard are the annexes – they include, for example, templates for service level agreements and descriptions of general agreement clauses.

THE BENEFITS

ISO 41001 identifies five benefits of an integrated system standard for FM, listed and described as follows:

1. Improved workforce productivity, safety and health and well-being

Throughout my career, I have dealt with both demand organisations and service providers and through these interactions regularly have come across unproductive time consumed with ‘reinventing the wheel’. This has not been the fault of these organisations, but rather the lack of industry endorsed systems and processes. The Standards specifically address this and give all organisations the opportunity to take an ‘off the shelf’ solution and tailor it to meet individual requirements. In doing so, the Standards give organisations the confidence that their FM system is not missing something, particularly when it comes to safety, health and well-being.

2. Improved communication of requirements and methodologies among and between private and public sector organisations

One of the critical elements of communication is the language we use. For too long there has been confusion in the industry around certain terminologies. This leads to, at best, misunderstandings and, at worst, contractual conflict. The Standards, and in particular 41011, will play an essential role in resolving potential confusion and misinterpretation.

3. Improved efficiency and effectiveness, thus improving cost benefits to organisations

In the absence of standard systems and processes, there is a high risk of using unnecessary and/or inappropriate resources. This creates waste and redundancy, both factors that reduce efficiency and effectiveness. Adoption of the Standards will contribute significantly to minimising this risk and have a direct positive impact on financial performance.

4. Improved service consistency

Customer satisfaction is impacted by, among other criteria, the consistency in all aspects of service delivery. By establishing, and continually improving, tried and tested processes and procedures, organisations will improve consistency without too much effort. The Standards provide comprehensive checklists for the broad range of activities that support the successful implementation of a new FM system.

5. Providing a common platform for all types of organisations

This is basically saying that the Standards will create a level playing field at an internationally acceptable level of performance for all organisations in the FM space. However, this should not be viewed as stifling differentiation and/or innovation, in fact quite the reverse. Compliance with the Standards means that organisations do not have to be focused on what should be ‘business as usual’ processes and, as a consequence, be able to divert more energy and resources to becoming more creative and innovative. This will not only set these organisations apart from the rest, but will also result in improved performance across the whole industry.

MOVING FORWARD

Now that the much anticipated Standards have been published, it is time for organisations to start considering their position with regard to their adoption and future certification. The current status in Australia, at the time of writing, is that the Standards are still to be formally adopted by Standards.

Australia and the overall certification process is yet to be established. Fundamental to this latter activity is a further International Standard currently under development, ISO 17021-11 – the Technical Specification to deliver competence requirements for auditing and certification of ISO 41001. It is not expected that this will be published until early 2019.

In conclusion, there are still a number of questions to be answered, including:

  • How many organisations will seek certification?
  • How many demand organisations will specify certified compliance for their service providers?
  • Will this really be an industry game-changer?

The answers to these will only become evident over time – the critical milestone, in my opinion, being the formalisation of the certification process. But, if the industry is serious about improving quality and performance, it is not too early for organisations to start preparing and developing a compliance action plan.

Martin Leitch FBIFM APP is a workplace management consultant with more than 30 years’ experience in delivering a wide range of facilities management consultancy and education services in the UK and Australia.

This article also appears in the August/September issue of Facility Management magazine.

Image: 123RF’s Bram Janssens © 123RF.com

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