Ground-breaking facility management conference crosses international borders

A ground-breaking conference on facility management.

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In “Built to Last,” authors Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras determined that one factor distinguishing a great company from a good one was what they called having “Big Hairy Audacious Ideas.” Companies that set almost inconceivable, outlandish goals tended to outperform those companies that toed the line and acted conservatively. CWorks Systems, an eight-year-old company that develops computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) with headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, believes in and is following this “big idea” road to success.

In 2008, the founders of CWorks came up with their own big hairy idea: Holding an international conference to honor the facility management profession and to expose their clients to best practices of facility management as told by some of the top experts in the world. The thought of holding an international conference initially seemed daunting. Plans had to be made as to whom to invite, who would attend, conference length, topics, and what speakers would come. Even though attendees would consist of both executives as well as mid-level managers, these weren’t necessarily potential clients for the speakers and most experts would have to agree to fly halfway around the world to speak.

Despite these obstacles, the idea received an enthusiastic response from facility managers from around the world and from international experts. A group of consultants and experts from five continents agreed to come to Malaysia to give their message on best practices in facilities management and management of assets.

The list of speakers read like a “Who’s Who” in manufacturing and facility management:

  • David Berger, P.Eng., MBA, Director/Partner of Western Management Consultants in Toronto, expert in CMMS and contributing columnist to Plant Services magazine and other publications
  • Teena Shouse, CFM, Senior Consultant of FEA and former chair of IFMA
  • Stan Mitchell, Chair of Key Facilities Management International Ltd, who was recently recognized as one of the top 20 Pioneers of Facility Management
  • George Selestine, Director of Facility Management at Sodexo Greater China
  • Jagath Gunawardena, Manager — Projects & Building Development, Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry
  • Michael Doolan, FM Asia, Johnson Controls, Inc. Australia
  • Dave Griffiths, Senior Management Consultant, CWorks, North America

Behind every architectural marvel, there is a facility manager. This manager is truly the unsung hero.

– Abdul Rani Achmed, CEO of CWorks

In June, 2009, more than 200 facility managers from Asia Pacific braved Kuala Lumpur’s heat and humidity to attend this inaugural international conference on facility management to learn how they could improve their processes and increase their facility’s efficiency. The conference produced some striking observations:

  • Global experts stressed similar business management tenets regardless of country of origin, language, or cultural differences.
  • Facility Management (FM) can provide significant value when planning and design a building. For example, in the area of energy management, a key component of FM, facility managers should be consulted to prevent unsustainable/inefficient design flaws.
  • When curtailing energy cost, facility managers should think strategically. Look for ways to reduce energy consumption such as through elevator energy consumption and CMMS.
  • Facility management has become a highly technical profession through promulgated standards, smart asset management tools, and the growing integration of technical services across other departments.

Internationally speaking

Although most of the speakers had never met until the June conference, they preached similar business tenets despite their geographical and cultural differences. These universal best practices are applicable to most people working in all areas of business, and bear repeating here.

Speak the language of the C-Suite: First of all, who is the C-Suite? The C-Suite, also known as C-level executives, are those whose titles begin with the word ‘Chief,’ including Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Information Officer (CIO), and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Managers and vendors working with members of the C-Suite must be able to talk their language and speak on their terms.

David Berger advised "Know the terms that top management uses such as ROI, profit margin, return on capital employed, return on assets, etc. To get funding and resources for the projects that matter to you as a Facility Manager, you need to get the attention of senior management. What is your business case? How is your project more attractive than the many others competing for the same dollars?" Top executives look strategically over their company from the top floor, and knowing the factors upon which they base their decisions is imperative to you and the success of your department.

Link FM goals and objectives to the overall corporate strategy: All of the facility management consultants who spoke at the conference emphasized the importance of individuals and their departments - whether in facility management, manufacturing, security, etc. — aligning their goals with that of long-term corporate strategy. Understand the company’s overall goals and then formulate your division’s goals in a way that will support those long term corporate objectives.

How do you determine your company’s long-term strategy? Teena Shouse provided some useful advice: “Ask. Talk to senior management. Review your company’s annual report, news clippings, and interviews of senior management. It’s more than just a poster on the wall. More importantly, what do others think about your strategy. Google your company and see what others are saying about it.”

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