Talking FM in Brussels

Wednesday 10th November 2010 may go down as an historic day for the development of the facilities management profession and industry. All credit must go to EuroFM and particularly to vice-chair Fred Kloet for securing a “public” meeting at the European Parliament to discuss ‘Facility management and its benefits for Europe’ – see news item http://www.bifm.org.uk/bifm/news/6396.

True it wasn’t actually a “hearing”; we wanted to tell the policymakers about FM, rather than them wanting to hear from us but it was certainly a good start.

The debate that followed the presentations in Brussels reminded everyone that facilities management is not a pure management or technical discipline, there are always commercial and political (with a small and large ‘p’) dimensions. The latter emerged quite quickly as discussion focused on the internal market, sustainability, standards  and regulation.

There was clearly some feeling in the room that standards must not be foisted on an industry that hasn’t asked for them. At the same time, CEN representatives made the case that service standards can help cross-border recognition of professions.

This may be true and CEN set out a number of other benefits flowing from service standards. But there could be good reasons why they lag far behind product standards in number.

Put simply, the way a service is delivered is what gives most providers their competitive edge. So yes, we need standards for electrical safety and testing to ensure photocopiers don’t spontaneously combust but do we need one for the delivery of reprographic services or equipment leasing?

When does a standard become too prescriptive to allow innovation and flexibility in FM?