Over recent decades, facility management (FM) has become a global profession as companies such as Sodexo, Compass Group, Aramark, ISS/A/S and CBRE have established operations across multiple countries.

As well, the profession is changing as technologies such as the internet of things transform building asset management.

This has been accompanied by challenges as different practices, terminology and understanding of FM concepts became evident across different countries.

Now, however, a new series of international standards is transforming FM practice around the world. Known as the ISO 41000 – Standards in Facilities Management series, these draw together a common understanding of terminology and best-practice operations.

This raises questions about what the standards do and contain, why these are needed and how they will help to transform FM practice. For answers, Sourceable spoke with Facility Management Association of Australia (FMA) Chief Executive Officer Nicholas Burt.

Four standards have been adopted thus far.

First, standard ISO 41011 sets out common terms and definitions across the industry.

This, Burt says, enables consistency around the terms used across different continents. Where an Australian facilities management company is dealing with a global client, for example, the standard will enable them to use the same terminology to which that client is accustomed elsewhere. Likewise, it will enable Australian FM companies and professionals to speak in consistent language with prospective clients and employers across multiple locations internationally.

Next, ISO 41012 establishes a process which client organisations and service providers/delivery agents can follow to deliver optimal outcomes when establishing a contract or service agreement. Such an agreement could be between the client and an external service provider. Alternatively, it can cover in-source agreements. The latter could occur where, say, a bank or financial institution maintains an internal facilities management company or arm within the broader organisation. In such a case, the standard guides how the FM part of the organisation should connect with the wider entity.

The third standard (ISO 41013) sets out the scope of facility management services. Initially slated to be incorporated into the vocabulary standard, it was moved to its own standard as ISO rules would not allow the content of the scope to be set inside a vocabulary standard. This standard is relatively short.

Finally, there is the management systems standard (ISO 41001). This sits as an overarching standard to guide how facility management should operate. It covers the context of facility management, the establishment of the FM strategy and the preparation of FM policies and plans.

ISO 41001 also looks at the context of the core business strategy and how this is enabled through FM leadership, planning, support and performance evaluation. This it does through a quality management process known as the plan-do-check-act cycle. This involves recognising opportunities and planning change; trying out the proposed change through a small-scale study; checking, reviewing and analysing the results; and finally, acting on a fuller scale.

Whilst the standards are not compulsory, Burt says understanding and applying them will be critical for those wishing to market themselves as FM professionals. In coming years, he says the FMA will establish an accreditation regime through which organisations will have to demonstrate that they have the systems in place to deliver upon the standards and that their people have the skill and expertise required to facilitate this.

He says the standard series will deliver several benefits.

First, it will drive greater consistency in FM language and practice across countries. This will help both individuals who work internationally or facilities management companies which operate across borders.

Beyond that, it will establish minimum requirements and expectations for FM practice. This will help raise not only level of practice and performance across the industry but also the profile of the sector within the marketplace.

“No longer will you just be able to call yourself a facilities manager and meet the standards,” Burt said.

“You will actually have to go through the detail and work out what level of understanding you have to meet the requirements of the standard.

“It will drive an increase in competency. It will involve people professionalising across the industry.”

Burt says the standards will deliver change in practices.

The standards will require demand organisations (clients) to think strategically about what they want to achieve with their property. No longer, he says, will they be able to go to market, hire a company to manage their facilities and be done with it. Instead, the standard will take them beyond that and toward thinking about opportunities for the facilities management function to drive value for their organisation.

This, Burt says, will see organisations look beyond FM as a ‘cost’ and toward how it can contribute toward their objectives.

Similarly, facility managers themselves will need to think about the services they provide and whether these deliver maximum alignment with their client’s broader business objectives.

As an example, several clients are looking to improve safety for their cleaners, who work after hours. In such cases, facilities managers will need to think about how the standard series can be used to adopt new ways of working. This could entail, for instance, the alteration of cleaning contracts.

Worldwide, facilities management has a new series of standards.

This will drive better practices and raise the profile of the profession.