FSI and The Asset Factor have developed Asset OnCall, a tailored knowledge and information management system designed to support improved performance enabling FMs to take fully informed decision making. PFM magazine investigates.
Even before the advent of the current economic crisis, managing the performance of a complex and diverse array of service contracts is probably one of the biggest challenges faced by FM professionals in the UK today. But the difficult financial climate has had a dramatic impact on the outsourcing and support services market for property operators during the last 12 months.
As boards demand optimum efficiency from their service providers and in-house teams, there is now an intense focus on the integrity of the information they deliver and the knowledge they generate.
Knowledge - about the way the buildings are used, about the service providers' working practices and about how and why problems arise - is not only central to the quality of service delivery and, ultimately, to realising customer satisfaction. It also enables the accurate establishment of facts - as distinguished from hearsay or misperception - that determine the efficiency of the operation.
This can be a crucial factor in stressed business environments where the temptation is often to make a knee-jerk decision, to cut costs, for example - in response to poorly informed or panicked demands. It is quite natural for clients to use cost and efficiency as a 'brickbat' with their service providers, and for those providers to do the same with their suppliers. And in an intensely competitive field, the operator's only defence against those pressures is to provide the best possible data analysis.
This link between high quality data and high quality decision-making has never been more vital, and many outsourcing and support service companies are turning increasingly to performance management tools and services that will give them and their clients an accurate picture of the situation across their portfolios and contracts.
Ten years ago, the outsourcing market in particular was driven by big-picture decisions that would eventually penetrate down through the portfolio. Today, it's all about developing a granular understanding of what is actually taking place within each building, and understanding and capturing the differences between how individual buildings are operated.
Some within the corporate property sector have developed sophisticated help desk strategies to support service delivery, others have tended to lag behind when it comes to investment in effective call tracking and trouble-shooting, not to mention data gathering methods with the potential to build a complete working picture of cross-property portfolio contract performance.
In many respects, service providers and facilities management customers face the same challenge: they are finding it increasingly difficult to compete in a dynamic market without access to the best quality of information. It is a scenario that cries out for solutions that enable customers to generate innovative service delivery methods and derive greater value from their FM service provision.
But if you are responsible for FM across a diverse estate or complex building, just how do you begin to pull together the data streams of such a complex infrastructure without committing a daunting level of financial and development resources to create and run an in-house help desk, let alone develop performance management strategies for multiple contracts and services?
And if you are one of the myriad of small and medium-sized service providers who can't expect to generate the necessary investment for a performance management technology platform from your core activities, how can you secure your future in this rapidly maturing market?
One answer is to link up with a partner who has the technical resources and specialist insight to provide a customised, managed platform that is adaptable for every type of portfolio, from single buildings to those comprised of several hundred properties.
Asset OnCall offers such a proposition. A new decision-making and knowledge service devised specifically for the property and estates management sectors, it has been designed from the ground up to meet the increasingly urgent requirement for a solution capable of managing multiple services in small, medium and large buildings throughout the UK.
Asset OnCall is the brainchild of asset management specialist The Asset Factor and leading CAFM software supplier FSI, whose Concept™ system forms the technology foundation for the service.
Effectively, Asset OnCall takes on the role of an external knowledge partner, providing tailored information management services in the fields of property management and FM that allow clients to generate the best value from their FM services infrastructure.
By giving partners access to its fully staffed support service centre and tailoring the solution to the needs of each one, it opens up the prospect of innovative service delivery, helping to establish appropriate performance management benchmarks, identify post-implementation benefits and create a viable framework for the rapid development of new works management, customer request bookings and associated financial accounting.
Asset OnCall was conceived when The Asset Factor started working with NB Real Estate to re-engineer a complex FM delivery infrastructure through its subsidiary company, NB Entrust, for its portfolio of more than 650 buildings covering some 30m sq ft of commercial and industrial space and including more than 30 shopping centres. The company was spending £70m a year on FM services and minor works, and there were some 3,000 contractors charged with delivering these services across the portfolio, but there was no call handling facility to support the processing and tracking of calls.
Beyond simply building a customer support services and help desk platform, it was recognised that this was a chance to develop a partnership-based model for the delivery of vital management information to decision makers at NB Entrust, reducing the administrative burden on FMs and providing the foundation for ongoing business expansion.
Recognising an opportunity to build a tailored solution around a proven software platform that would reflect the history and capabilities of the developer and combine them with a management model focused on a complete understanding of contracts delivery in the property management sector, The Asset Factor and FSI came up with a hosted proposition with the potential to add real value to an FM operation that was servicing more than 8,000 tenants.
Since then, NB Entrust has increased its property portfolio by 40% and Asset OnCall has played a major role in extending FM services to tenants who include household names such as one of the major high street supermarkets and Centrica, as well as providing a value-added service for the landlords themselves.
With its strong focus on performance management, Asset OnCall is enabling FMs across the portfolio to make more effective and informed decisions, as well as helping them to identify and access the facts that influence the way their suppliers work. Persistent problems are readily identified and associated data is collected and analysed to arrive at a solution, leading to increased customer satisfaction and the creation of an environment in which customers are reassured that action will be taken quickly as a result of their requests.
Having achieved this, it was clear that the partnership model could be used to supply a turnkey service for other clients across the property management sector who are looking for ways to support and enhance their in-house operations - and make better decisions about service innovation - without necessarily outsourcing the whole solution.
With its customer support centre located in Regent Street in the heart of London, Asset OnCall is now poised to add value for customers who are looking at service delivery and performance management throughout their property portfolios and facing a comprehensive range of circumstances: cost-cutting, relocation or business realignment, consolidation after merger or acquisition, initiatives to manage vacant or surplus space, contract retention and in-house value demonstration initiatives, and life cycle risk or capital expenditure management strategies.
Asset OnCall is eminently adaptable at a low cost for any client who wants to learn more about the buildings in their portfolio and make more informed decisions about the way they are run, as well as managing their service contracts and supply chains in more effective ways. Because of its flexible cost structure - the service can be provided for a fixed cost per building or the entire portfolio, or on a pay-as-you-go basis - it is also adaptable to the business model of clients of every size and type.
And thanks to its partnership approach, Asset OnCall also delivers considerable economic benefits: customers avoid the upfront and ongoing costs of buying and operating their own help desk system, with its associated issues of staff recruitment and training; and the cost incurred in capturing high quality, decision-enabling information is more than recouped by being able to manage the investment of significant sums of money in FM services for more effectively.