Organisations are impacted when they embrace facilities management experts to reconcile business objectives with the operation needs and physical set up of their premises.
As IFMA’s Hong Kong Chapter celebrates its 25th anniversary, Samson Lee, President of the Hong Kong Chapter of International Facility Management Association (IFMA) talks to May Chan Rhodes of FocusCore Recruit about why facilities management is the cornerstone to a business’s success.
1) What exactly is facilities management? How is it different from property management?
Facilities management is a relatively new concept. The International Facility Management Association was set up in 1980 in Houston, US, while the Hong Kong chapter was launched 25 years ago. IFMA now supports over 24,000 members in 104 countries.
We believe that, when you construct and manage a building, you need to take a holistic view concept of its physical set up, its function and users. You also need to consider the role it plays for the organisation, the industry, and the community. Only then do you come up with strategy to operate and maintain the building in such a way that prolongs its longevity while also benefiting the wellbeing of the occupants.
There is a fine line between property management and facilities management. Property management is more passive, as it focuses on the physical assets, and rarely goes beyond that to consider the activities of the tenants. On the other hand, facilities management takes a tailor-made, dynamic approach for each organisation: we look into its business goals, its day to day operation, and how the physical set up of the office can enable them to achieve what they want. We then audit and implement changes throughout the organisation from time to time, adjusting the support model as we anaylze and respond to real-time needs.
2) What does International Facility Management Association (IFMA) do? What is its role in promoting the industry in Hong Kong?
IFMA Hong Kong Chapter is a non-profitable professional organisation. Its biggest purpose is to provide a platform for people related to the industry to congregate, creating business opportunities, sharing market insight and exchanging information. It is also a platform for professional development and training.
The Hong Kong chapter of IFMA has been voted the Chapter of the Year by the international board. In 2016, we have organised 28 events in total, averaging more than two events per month. These include networking events, seminars, and conferences. We also offer scholarship to students, and help with the accreditation of facilities management -related courses in tertiary institutions.
We are excited to host the annual regional IFMA conference in early May: the one-and-a-half-day conference will feature 20 sessions, including four keynote speeches, three discussion panels and 13 education sessions. These involve corporate representatives, professionals and academics from Hong Kong and the Asia region.
3) Why does facilities management matter?
We help create value for the organisation and the community by looking at how to use the physical premise well. This has a huge implication on the building’s longevity, and cost-effectiveness. For example, the Sydney Opera House is designed, built and operated well. Not only is it an iconic building of the city, it is also held by the public with affection because of its success as a public space. It is in stark comparison with the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, a stunning piece of architecture built for the Olympics, but which has yet to find a meaningful connection to the public community it is situated in. It is an example of how the lack of holistic consideration of the role of a physical asset in the community can negatively affect its value and longevity.
4) What is unique about the facilities management industry in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is a unique place – it is fast-paced, dynamic, and highly efficient, and the facilities management industry is no exception.
Hong Kong is home to a great number of multinational companies. Like London and New York, it is always the choice for setting up a regional hub for global operations. That is why the facilities management industry in Hong Kong has a far wider horizon that most of its Asian peers, and it is in tune with the best practices world-wide.
On the other hand, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008, the economic focus has moved from the West to the East. It is not uncommon for Hong Kong, as the Asia hub, to be the major source of revenue for global organisations as economy in Europe and the U.S. continued to be lacklustre. That could result in more frequent demands for change in office space management – the facilities management team will need to be very nimble to scale up or down an office based on the ebbs and flows in a highly volatile business environment, or even remodel the office because of specific operational needs, or preferences. For example, some high-billing, ambitious senior executives in the Hong Kong office could be making more specific demands about office arrangements instead of following the global standard procedures: some senior executives may request for a more sophisticated, spacious private office room that can accommodate a big table and a sofa for them to meet with their clients. It is an interesting example where the facilities manager will have to balance between responding to the demands from senior management, and the practical needs of the organisation.
5) What is the way forward for the industry in Hong Kong?
It is getting more and more professional recognition as organisations are aware of the need to optimise the performance of their buildings and achieve sustainability. In the past, facilities management tends to be an in-house function under the administration or human resources department, but now more and more organisations are seeking input from facilities management consultancy because they recognise the professional knowledge it requires. It is a very positive trend.
Industry experts from all over Asia will be sharing their perspectives on industry trends in the upcoming IFMA conference. It is a wonderful opportunity to get in touch with the latest happenings in the region and form meaningful business connections.