Jo Sutherland, Communications Director of the IFMA UK Chapter, expands on an astute comparison between dating and procurement.

As one of the biggest disruptors in 2018, Carillion’s collapse has spurred the conversation concerning ethical procurement in the facilities management industry. This year’s RICS Strategic FM Conference saw the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), in collaboration with the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), leading the discourse when it comes to making FM a more socially responsible and economically sustainable discipline.

Now, thanks to the IFMA-RICS collaboration, the talk is turning into action. Following the necessary discussions that the industry has had around low margins and irresponsible procurement practices, RICS has launched its first Procurement Professional Statement. The Statement offers a global set of guidelines that will enable suppliers and clients to work together collaboratively to develop a consistent, ethical, transparent way of procuring FM across the world.

Dan Dickson, Global Head of M&A at Atalian Servest – an international facilities services company with a turnover of €4bn– believes that procurement is not a mere transactional function. “It is a tool that can fuel business growth,” he said. A key part of Atalian Servest’s procurement strategy involves understanding the needs of the customer and creating rewarding partnerships.

At the launch of the professional statement, Crown Commercial Service’s Nick Caton compared this process to dating. “Procurement is the establishment of a relationship,” he said. “It’s your profile, or your chat up line.”

“Value comes with trust and

acknowledgement of both parties’ needs at the earliest stages of a relationship.”

Let’s elaborate on this analogy.

Once you’ve locked eyes across a crowded room, it’s time to get to know each other – that’s the only way you can figure out if you both want the same things. Do your wants and desires? And, before things get too serious, it might be safe to set some boundaries in case there are conflicting expectations. What do you both expect from the relationship? Has one of you been burnt before? Is there really a future in it or are you just flirting with the idea? Oh, and most importantly – can you trust each other?

Big questions before the ultimate big question.

For Caton, procurement is the dating agency between the business and all the people that have the ideas for


the business. The emotional piece can’t be ignored, he argued. It may seem intangible, but it is key to establishing that relationship.

Angela Love, Director of Active, believes everyone involved in the procurement process should be looking to develop long-term relationships. To this end, communication is vital. “You need to get close to each other to build a relationship based on mutual gain,” she said.

“Setting the evaluation criteria at the beginning of the process can prevent subjectivity creeping in later on”

Promulgating a similar tune, Antony Law, MD of Churchill London and Vice President of the IFMA UK Chapter, claims: “Value comes with trust and acknowledgement of both parties’ needs at the earliest stages of a relationship.”

For better, or for worse, there will always be bumps down the road, and various factors can cause a relationship to sour. But certain steps can be taken to smoothen or circumnavigate them – and the RICS Professional Statement is the roadmap.

In addition to having a defined, detailed scope of the services required, clear timelines, objectives, pricing structures and payment mechanisms must be set from the very get-go of the procurement project. What’s more, evaluation shouldn’t be an afterthought; it should be embedded into the brief so that suppliers know what to expect from the contract post-procurement.

Setting the evaluation criteria at the beginning of the process can prevent subjectivity creeping in later on. A wide set of criteria should be agreed and put to paper before the bidding starts, and compliance to data protection should be honoured throughout. There’s no room for ambiguity, nor speculation – and definitely no surprises.

Be clear. Be concise. Be honest. Put your heart into it and commit.

RICS and IFMA have done just that – and the reformation of the IFMA UK Chapter earlier this year further demonstrates their commitment. Underpinning the union is the intention to create a professional platform for facilities management – one that will allow the profession to excel. This is crucial to a long-term sustainable built environment across the world.

Download the RICS Professional Statement for free.

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