Great Service Management provides the future for FM

This blog post originally appeared on LinkedIn published by Peter Ankerstjerne on August 6, 2015.

Peter Ankerstjerne ISS Service Futures

Peter Ankerstjerne is the Head of Group Marketing at ISS A/S and is responsible for developing the Integrated Facility Services (IFS) concept. He also serves on the Strategic Advisory Board for the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP).


“Providing better service experiences will become the critical success factor for the future of Facility Management (FM). Today the market is mature and FM has developed into a real management discipline - as opposed to a technical exercise centered around building optimization just 2-3 years ago.

Service should be at the core of any FM service delivery system - and focus should be on optimizing the workplace so "work" can be carried out in the best possible and most efficient way. When I look at the FM industry today, I believe that we have become too “numbers driven”. Not least after the financial crises, far too many discussions are around numbers and about tweaking the last few percentages of efficiency out of a contract to justify a decrease in operating expenditures.

I strongly believe that we, as an industry, need to rethink our approach.

Not in the sense of becoming less effective, don’t get me wrong – FM still needs to stay competitive and there are still many efficiency gains to be achieved. We still have to provide the data, we still need effective planning processes as well as accurate price-points and appropriate benchmarks to stay relevant and document the value we create. But I fear that we have become too focused on optimizing the delivery system in squeezing another 1 or 2 m2 out of our employees – so much so, that we sometimes forget what FM is all about: Helping the organization we serve to stay competitive and focused.

In FM, we are often educated to think in linear terms – input vs. output – continuously optimizing the production system and the resources allocated, sometimes even referring to staff as though they were commodity. However, employees are not commodities, they are not just resources … they are people. And as the economic growth is returning, people will once again become a scarce resource for any FM/Service Management provider, just as is was before the financial crises began back in 2006/07. I have no doubt that getting the right people will be the biggest limitation of growth in the FM sector just a few years from now.

Delivering service excellence through purpose-led leadership

I think over the last decade, especially in light of the financial crisis we have just been through, we have forgotten some of the most important lessons from the “Golden days of Service Management” in the early 80s and no matter how technical we have made the FM profession, it is still predominantly a people business – carried out by people for people occupying/working in the facilities we so diligently maintain and serve. The successful Facility Manager of the future is one who is able to design a service delivery system focused on what is creating value to the core organization and how to engage frontline employees in the delivery process.

The key elements in such a system are:


Leadership and culture play a greater role in effective service organizations today than ever before. Purpose-led leadership is an effective way to make values and vision become meaningful and relevant when communicated and supported by first-line management and frontline employees. In ISS we call this "finding your apple".

Strong people processes should be at the core of any service organization and understanding your purpose is key to unlocking the potential of any employee. Being able to answer the why and what of service is important in any employee/manager relationship; while making sure that all service staff know the value proposition promised to the customer and how to deliver on this promise is essential to success.

Service Management should be seen as a key component of the successful Facility Manager of the future. Every individual, no matter where they are in an organization and no matter what they do, needs to be respected, appreciated and developed in order to be productive and efficient – not necessarily have a career path, although many will. But some front-liners are perfectly happy staying in their job for their entire work life as they have other priorities in life than pursuing a career – and that’s fair; but still, every person still need to know that their work means something, that their efforts doesn’t go unnoticed and that they are in fact appreciated.

If we stick to the "service as a commodity" way of thinking, trying to squeeze an additional 2 to 3 m2 out in making our service staff run faster, there will be a pretty linear relation to how many man-hours are put into a contract, compared to the value it creates.

But when we really get it right;

  • Creating smarter and more innovative working environments,
  • Utilizing new and smarter technologies,
  • Creating better and more attractive jobs for our front-liners,
  • Focusing on what really matters for the end-users as well as the core organization, both culturally and strategically...

What happens is that FM can create a lot more value from the same amount of hours? That’s unleashing the potential and that’s the true point of Service Management version 3.0.”

For more info on Service Management 3.0 see also the ISS Whitepaper on the topic.