Monday, October 27, 2008

PM Lessons from the Front – International Projects In Underdeveloped / Emerging Regions

A friend recently completed development of a new office in one of the former Soviet republics. The country is now independent and younger generations are extremely entrepreneurial, and the workers are talented. This particular company was using a firm there to provide programming services and liked the product so well they decided to buy the company. That’s when the fun began. They learned lessons that will be valuable to anyone leading projects in emerging regions. You will find their experiences to be very educational.

“Class A Building” has more than one interpretation: The building the company was located in was billed as “Class A” but seemed to be everything but. It was a Soviet era building that the owner had thrown multiple colors of paint on, and the ‘hood’ wasn’t that great. Employees insisted on leaving the facility before dark, and even during the day had to navigate through a perimeter of intimidating types. Needless to say, building systems were far from dependable. They were finally successful in finding a suitable new building using the following strategies.

  • They focused first on finding a Landlord they were willing to work with, then looked only at those properties
  • They insisted on buildings that housed other multi-national firms on the assumption that those would have better standards and that the firms could band together to leverage the Landlord when needed
  • They didn’t back down in the face of last minute gamesmanship

It’s a dangerous business environment out there: As you would expect, multiple business challenges arose. A complex legal system contributed to confusion and misunderstanding, and several parties engaged on the project tried to use the tenant’s supposed naiveté against them. Business ethics that we take for granted were in short supply. They expected to be tested on deal points, and they were. They did not anticipate the level of opportunism they would find. In one example, the Landlord put forward multiple contracts at the lease signing, some of which were obviously tax dodges. When the tenant refused to sign with any but the approved entity an attempt was made to significantly change deal points. Only when they stood their ground (read, got up and walked out) did the deal come together on acceptable terms.

Cultural differences show up in unexpected ways: This was an office for about a hundred staff members. Before the new project was built they had been working in incubator space that was barely habitable, in a poor building in a dangerous neighborhood. You would think that a design for a modern and well equipped office in a new building would be met with enthusiasm. Not so. In fact, there was a staff revolt. What was the source of all this angst? In the old space, as crummy as it was, each one of them had their back to a wall. No one was left vulnerable by having people sitting behind them or able to walk behind them. Naturally, the project was completely re-designed to satisfy this “unusual” requirement.

Look for creative risk management solutions: In the end, this group decided to transition the entire staff to Independent Contractor status. This strategy saved taxes for both the company and the workers, allowed the workers to maintain their entrepreneurial spirit, and provided a buffer for the company name and reputation.

These are only a few of the tales from the dark side of this PM’s experience on the project. However, even these are enough to make the point. When working off shore the rules are different. Make sure you understand the written ones and the unwritten ones, accommodate culture early rather than late, and stand your ground when needed.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Visionary Leadership Can Do

When a large and historically bureaucratic organization demonstrates visionary thinking and agility it’s worth taking notice. Add to that the fact that it is an education system funded by tax dollars and it is even more impressive. Take note, Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) is energized, acting entrepreneurially, and changing the future of its students.

LACCD operates nine campuses in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, serving 122,000 students. Sixty percent of its students are immigrants or from immigrant families, less than 14% of incoming freshman are proficient in English, and only 6% are proficient in mathematics. These stunning numbers paint the image of an equally stunning challenge. To meet this challenge LACCD has undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at revitalizing the education process while demonstrating leadership in sustainability. These initiatives include building new facilities that support environmental goals and act as learning resources, achieving energy independence, changing the way infrastructure is conceived and deployed, and developing new technology standards and resources for educators and students.

Energy Independence: LACCD began projects this year that will result in all nine campuses being completely off of the power grid by the end of the year. To do this, LACCD partnered with Energy Service Companies (ESCO’s) who are capitalizing, installing, and maintaining a variety of energy technology projects. These include widespread use of photo-voltaic panels, small architectural-scale wind turbines, geo-thermal energy storage, and others. LACCD will then repay the investment using the money it would have paid to utilities, until the projects are paid off in full. After that, the only expense will be maintaining the system leaving the margin available for reinvestment in the educational system.

Infrastructure Upgrades: One example is the deployment of HD video teleconferencing at all nine campuses utilizing latest technology. These systems cost less than $30,000 dollars per room and deliver HD quality images and sound, allowing campus administrators, staff and students to conduct meetings and collaborate virtually. In the LA area that means time saved transitioning between sites, not to mention the reduced carbon footprint that goes with it.

Partnering With Industry: A powerful illustration of LACCD’s entrepreneurial spirit is its engagement with the automobile industry in the development of hydrogen fuel infrastructure. Chalk this one up to serendipity meets preparation and boldness. One of the by-products of the energy processes being deployed is hydrogen. Coincidentally, car manufacturers are gearing up to bring first generation hydrogen fuel cell cars to mass market in 2010. Those two facts present an opportunity that LACCD is taking advantage of in a couple of ways. First, with funding support from industry LACCD plans to build hydrogen fuel stations at each of its campuses, taking advantage of an available resource and market need to create revenue. Secondly, all those new hydrogen fuel cell cars are going to need mechanics, and LACCD is going to train them (again, with funding support from the auto industry). That helps those students and provides economic benefit to the entire region.

Education and Student Resources: New web-based tools help educators plan development pathways and track student progress. Students now have personal sites that include educational records, coursework, and social elements; all within a protected and safe virtual environment. These educator/student tools are being collaboratively designed along with leading institutions including MIT and Harvard, allowing LACCD to gain both from participating in the development process and from early deployment.

I don’t know about you, but I feel very good about the direction the district is taking, its forward posture and intelligent use of technology. I also feel very good about its stewardship of tax dollars. The district has benefitted from $5 Billion in bond approvals over the last several years and has demonstrated it takes its charter seriously. Kudos to LACCD for strategy well conceived and solid implementation, with special recognition to Gary Colombo, Vice Chancellor for Institutional Effectiveness; Deborah Harrington, Dean for Institutional Effectiveness; Larry Eisenberg, Executive Director Facilities and Planning; Jorge Mata, Interim CIO, and Subodh Kumar, President of CFM Group, who is assisting LACCD with their strategic technology initiatives, for charting a successful path to improved educational outcomes while strengthening sustainability.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Interview with Dave Brady, President and CEO of IFMA

The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) is the leading FM organization in the world. With over 19,000 members in chapters and councils around the globe its mission is to further the development of the FM profession, something it excels at. Training and certification programs, outreach and linkages to other organizations, and leadership on the most important issues our industry faces make IFMA a respected and trusted resource and partner.

Recently, Dave Brady, President and CEO of IFMA, joined the Board of the Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE). As noted in a recent post here, OSCRE is bringing together key players from all sectors of the real estate and operations community to develop comprehensive industry standards, common processes, and shared operational language.

FMandBeyond interviewed Mr. Brady to learn his perspective on OSCRE’s efforts and IFMA’s engagement in that effort, as well as to get his view of IFMA’s current health and initiatives.

FM&B: Mr. Brady, first let me say thank you for agreeing to this interview. Welcome to our little corner of the cyber-world.

DB: Ken, it is my pleasure to speak with members like you and to help get the word out on important IFMA initiatives like our work with OSCRE. Coincidentally, IFMA also is working to establish a greater presence in new media outlets, including blogs. We now have an IFMA staff member focusing on new media full time and we now have a presence on sites like You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. Nevertheless, this is my first blog interview.

FM&B: Congratulations are in order. You were recently selected to OSCRE’s Board of Directors. What is OSCRE’s mission, and why is IFMA important to OSCRE and vice versa?

DB: Thank you. OSCRE’s mission is to effectively facilitate the standards development process among key real estate stakeholders—including owners, tenants/occupants, investors, operators, developers, service providers, consulting firms and vendors—to benefit stakeholders and enable the real estate industry to function more efficiently in the digital economy. OSCRE members in the Americas represent an excess of US $2.1 trillion in real estate assets, 12.3 billion square feet of floor space and 1.4 million association members.

FM&B: IFMA has several strategic partnerships both with complementary organizations like AIA and IIDA, and more FM-centric groups such as FMA, EuroFM, and BIFM. Why are these alliances important to IFMA in general and how is the alliance with OSCRE similar or different?

DB: IFMA’s vision is to serve as the resource and representative for facility management. Our mission is to advance the facility management profession. We leverage our capabilities through working with carefully-identified organizations with knowledge or resources that complement our own.

In this past year, we signed three new alliances. First, IFMA and the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) signed a memorandum of understanding to advance the interests of engineering and health care facility professionals. This opens the possibility of doing joint research, educational programs, FM credentials, benchmarking and work on sustainability. Second, IFMA and the U.S. Green Buildings Council (USGBC) signed a memorandum of intent outlining collaborative efforts to promote sustainability, energy efficiency and environmentally-responsible building operations. Third, IFMA joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® program as a partner. This is a fundamental commitment by the association to protect the environment through the promotion of continuous improvement in energy performance on the part of IFMA members and their facilities.

Also in the area of sustainability, IFMA has on ongoing partnership with the Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments and it continues to help the association advance the business case for operating facilities and workplaces in sustainable ways that minimize our footprint on the planet.

At World Workplace 2008 we also will be signing a memorandum of understanding with the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (ASHRAE) that has been in development for well over a year and we will be renewing a three-way Partners in FM Excellence agreement between IFMA, the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) and the Facility Management Association of Australia (FMA). In essence, this renewal is an expansion of this evolving tripartite relationship based on new opportunities discovered in working together these past few years.

As for the IFMA/OSCRE relationship, their CEO, Andy Fuhrman is a long-time IFMA member with many years working the facilities end of the technology sector. He also was active in the Silicon Valley Chapter of IFMA and in IFMA’s IT Council. Andy was integral in helping IFMA unbundle technology from its eight other separate competency areas to give it a deserved and unique standing. IFMA also was not one of the first formal members of OSCRE because as a global organization, it was necessary for it to stay connected with the various standard-setting organizations that had facility management within their perimeters. Earlier in the process, we were not sure which of the organizations would take the lead or reach a critical mass. When it became clear to the IFMA board of directors that OSCRE became both the lead organization and one that had international connections, IFMA joined as an executive-level member. We have been working with Andy hand-in-glove since.

FM&B: For those who do not know, would you briefly explain OSCRE’s focus?

DB: Technology is the newest FM competency and it is revolutionizing how real property assets are managed and how fast critical information can be shared. Previous to OSCRE’s initiatives, FM software used different platforms and there were no information exchange standards. Custom interfaces were necessary or time was wasted by manually re-keying information. Data standards enable facility professionals to readily share information with architects, designers, contractors, government officials and other stakeholders. OSCRE works both upfront and behind-the-scenes to tie it all together, both in North America and through its ties with similar organizations in other parts of the world. The bottom line is OSCRE saves time, money and effort.

FM&B: How can professional FM’s participate?

DB: Joining IFMA’s IT Council is a great starting point. This concentration of members within the association undoubtedly is more focused on OSCRE’s work than any other segment or combination. Additionally, as previously mentioned, OSCRE workgroups provide opportunities to contribute. These groups are listed on the OSCRE Web site and include: Commercial Information Exchange, Commercial Property Information Exchange, Lease Abstracting, Real Property Appraisal Reporting, Real Property Unique Identifier, Space Classification Standard Code List and Work Request and Work Order Fulfillment. IFMA members who would like to contribute something or participate in any of these groups need only contact IFMA Director of Research Shari Epstein.

FM&B: What do you see as potential benefits of IFMA’s engagement with OSCRE, both for the FM profession at large and for the individual practitioner?

DB: Facility management as a profession has been getting progressively closer to certain other disciplines such as IT, finance and human resources. There are many more overlapping areas of responsibility. OSCRE’s work adds credence to FM’s argument that excellent strategic facility planning has huge bottom line implications. Finance and IT also are C-suite functions. For the individual FM practitioner, embracing OSCRE standardization initiatives can place him or her closer to top management.

FM&B: Let’s turn our attention to IFMA in a more general sense. As I post this to the blog IFMA is in the midst of World Workplace 2008 in Dallas. What would you like to say to our readers about IFMA’s health, opportunities, and aspirations?

DB: IFMA is in excellent financial health, both from a cash flow perspective and long-term investments. Through the implementation of strategies outlined in the association’s balanced scorecard we also continue making significant investments to improve the quality of programs and services. Right now we are about a third of the way into the 2008-2009 fiscal year and these investments in people, resources and technology have positioned us well. As an example, membership is the lifeblood of associations and IFMA’s membership grew by 662 over the previous year.

FM&B: Looking at the near horizon, where does IFMA leadership see the greatest opportunity to influence and why is this particular area of interest important?

DB: Through IFMA’s involvement with Global FM, a consortium of national and international FM-related organizations, there is great potential for FM to contribute to the emergence of various nations— whether largely service-based or industry-based. There is special emphasis on the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. Strengthening connections between North and South America also is important. The first user of IFMA’s online education was an FM professional in Croatia. The world indeed is getting much flatter.

FM&B: Turn that coin over now. What are the biggest issues IFMA needs to deal with organizationally and what strategies/actions are you using in response?

DB: Organizationally, IFMA responded by integrating globalization as one of three overlying themes in our balanced scorecard and strategy map. We have added staff dedicated to international development, are strengthening ties with IFMA’s international chapters, forging or strengthening global alliances, offering more products and services beyond North America, hiring bilingual or bicultural staff, working with partners in emerging markets like China and thinking less like Americans in our approach to the business of the association. IFMA Chair John McGee, a former chief operating officer with a major global company, also brings a new level of strategic thinking to the association. He is Irish and has worked in Europe and the United States. Right now he is leading a new strategic initiative called “Vision 2015,” working with the board, staff, members and thought leaders to define what IFMA wants to look like in the next several years. Once defined, the vision will set the course for all our planning efforts.

FM&B: Building relationships is certainly an important objective and beneficial inside the profession, but how are these relationships paying off? Are there instances of IFMA’s engagement with new organizations or governments resulting in changed policies?

DB: Nearly eight years ago IFMA established a formal presence in Washington, D.C., primarily for the purposes of monitoring workplace-related issues, educating policy makers and advocating positions in support of, or in opposition to, legislative initiatives affecting FM. However, that presence also helped IFMA get closer to its members who worked in the federal government and to heads of facilities in all the various agencies and service areas. IFMA has especially strong ties with the Federal Facilities Council, U.S. General Services Administration, U.S. Department of State and the Society of American Military Engineers.

FM&B: Sustainability and energy are likely the two dominant strategic issues our profession faces, and they go hand in hand with each other. Tell us how IFMA is leading the dialogue on these concerns.

DB: Sustainability and energy indeed are large and important issues for the profession and for IFMA. Right now, we are working on various initiatives with organizations like the U.S. Green Buildings Council, Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments and others. To better understand the challenges, opportunities, current initiatives and future potential, we engaged one of our IFMA Fellows on a project to survey and map the sustainability landscape. We will be analyzing the findings shortly in order to integrate what we hope will be unique approaches from the facility management perspective.

FM&B: Do you see movement here? Are we making progress, stalemated, or losing ground?

DB: We admittedly are behind, but running full speed to catch up. Early on, many in the FM profession did not fully understand the sustainable movement or the course set toward triple bottom line reporting. In those days, during the genesis period, facility managers tended to focus on the cost side of the balance sheet. They were expert cost cutters and budget managers, working only on one side of the balance sheet. They didn’t see the full picture and how it all came together. No one anticipated the speed to which governments, companies and other organizations began adopting sustainable principles. They did not see how sustainable workplaces can attract and retain talent, save money, increase productivity, lessen the footprint and enhance the brand. Now there is a collective understanding and the evidence is irrefutable. FMs, however, largely were not in the board rooms when the business cases for sustainable initiatives were being made, likely by people closer to the CFO or the design or architectural firms they hired. IFMA is working to get the FM to the table to outline the strategic reasons behind what should be good business decisions.

FM&B: What do you see as the next big policy thrust or practical emphasis in sustainability, and how is that expected to benefit?

DB: The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 was signed by President George W. Bush in December and it has far-reaching implications. Though it focuses on federal facilities and is directed at agencies, its mandates very well could be replicated in other legislation that would reach commercial enterprises. EISA requires the reduction of fossil fuel-based energy consumption by new and renovated buildings to zero by 2030. In the interim, a 30 percent reduction in usage is required by existing buildings prior to 2015 and a 55 percent reduction in usage by new buildings also prior to 2015. Everyone in the FM community knows that reductions can be made, but there is uncertainty that new and appropriate technology and know-how will come online in time to meet the mandated ultimate goal of zero. Companies that develop products and systems to meet these goals will make billions. We believe the engagement of the facility management profession, beginning right now, can expedite development of these critical solutions.

FM&B: Dave, as this is posted you are in Dallas and WorldWorkplace 2008 is underway. It is a hectic time for you and staff. Thank you for taking the time in the run up to that event to answer these questions. As a long time IFMA member I am pleased to see and hear the direction IFMA is taking.

DB: Our membership is the heart of our association. It is always a great pleasure for me to speak with one of them. This is truly the time of year I look forward to—it gives the association a chance to regroup with everyone that makes the facility management profession successful. I look forward to seeing FM’s from around the globe in Dallas. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to reach out to your readers as well, and to share IFMA’s vision with them.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Best Practice – Business Continuity Planning

Like many firms we have recently been focused on tuning up our Disaster Response / Business Continuity Plan (BCP). We are now better organized, trained and provisioned to deal with disruption, regardless of the cause. While not perfect we are far better off than we were just a few short months ago.

Incidents that might disrupt business operations come in all forms and sizes. Long term power outages, natural disasters, workplace violence, extreme weather, terrorist actions, pandemics, concerted cyber attacks and a host of others have the potential to cause disruption and economic harm and displacement.

Naturally there is no “one size fits all” plan to protect against the ill effects of any of these. Corporate goals, culture and client demands are just some of the factors that influence and contribute to a good BCP. When developing a BCP it is best that it be done as a collaborative effort with all business units working as a team. Plans that are developed independently by separate business units will tend to have gaps, overlaps, poor coordination, different assumptions, and even different languages.

Once the cross functional team has been formed they need to be given particulars about planning assumptions and expectations, and it is best if they have a reporting relationship direct to the C-Suite. This helps moderate organizational rivalries. Executive sponsorship and oversight is therefore critical. CEO’s and CFO’s must establish parameters they can both support (such as cost of plan development, provisioning, and training) and be intimately familiar with the resulting plan so they can lead the corporation in an emergency.

Remember, even the best planning is useless if the plan is not well communicated, understood, and followed. The best way to ingrain the plan into the culture is to exercise it. In fact, exercises can be used to inform plan development. Tabletop exercises are especially valuable because they bring the full leadership team together for the purpose of experiencing the dynamics of an event. First exercises may be little more than a walk through of the plan outline. Later exercises should introduce conditions that stress plan assumptions, incident command team leadership, and the decision making system. This has the significant advantage of exposing gaps and incorrect assumptions in the plan, and in “normalizing” emotions, stress and speed of action.

One issue that every organization must deal with is how to equip staff. Using the assumption that the normal office space is uninhabitable or unreachable, alternate plans must be in place to accommodate staff. How this is done will vary greatly depending upon the type of business, product, and employee demographics. Recently I heard of one company which has established a model that I think could work well for many. Basically, each staff member is evaluated on the basis of a number of criteria, including home location, job function, etc. They are then assigned a category number. The organization has a plan to provide office space during a major event using this category system. For example, Category 1 staff are provided fully functional office space in an alternate location. Category 2 staff are provided a fully equipped home office, and Category 3 staff are provided mobile technology only. Obviously, this model does not work for all, but it can work for many. Companies that utilize Alternative Workplace strategies will be able to leverage their strategies as a BCP asset.

Regardless of what the “right” BCP model is for your organization, what is most critical is that it be current, exercised, and that there is a corporate commitment to keeping it that way. Let’s face it, this is one of those things we all hope we never need. That is no reason not to do the work to have it in place and ready if needed. You certainly don’t want to be heard muttering “I shoulda have” on this one.