10 Top Tips for Contract Mobilization in Developing Countries

A poor Facilities Management (FM) contract mobilization is a failure from which an organisation might never recover.  In emerging markets, where concepts and knowledge of FM are immature or non-existent, the risk is all the greater.

Earlier this month, KEY convened a roundtable of its international FM team to share learnings.  The conversation gave rise to 10 Top Tips on how to get things right first time:

 

1. Go there (and be prepared!)

Throwing yourself in at the deep end is the best way of gaining the requisite understanding of your new market and potential partners.  Be warned though: the initial visit can be a culture shock, particularly in regions which are unstable or rife with corruption.  Our FMs spoke of situations where they were met by armed guards at the airport, who remained their escorts throughout their travels.

 

2. Gain understanding of the local culture

From tribal and religious associations through to the finer detail of etiquette and body language, our FMs cited where cultural insensitivity could have caused serious management issues.  An early grasp of the cultural context was considered vital for ensuring successful relationships, services, and implementation of equality and diversity policies.

 

3. Found partnerships on trust and transparency

In countries with little or no knowledge of FM, assessing partner potential is only achieved effectively face-to-face.  People have confidence in people, and first impressions matter.

They need to see an organisation which is open and with whom they want to work.  Look them straight in the eye.  Listen and watch body language carefully.  Do they have the level of professionality expected by corporate clients?  Are they honest about their business and weaknesses?  Are they a know-it-all or do they have the hunger to improve and see you as the opportunity to do it?

 

4. Do meticulous (and helpful) due diligence

Executed properly, due diligence involves a lot of information (touched upon in the figure below).  Nevertheless, when it comes to successful mobilisation, both God and the Devil are in the detail.

Nowhere is this more important than in partner evaluation.  You need to be certain they’re ethical, financially-savvy, EHS compliant and capable of delivering to corporate standards from the off.  Frequently, small organisations have just been doing what they do, with little interest in the formal process.  Due diligence represents an opportunity to help them organise better and develop their own Standard Operating Procedures, and for relationship building.

5. Get fully-up-to-speed with local regulations

Local regulations in developing markets often entail eccentric stipulations and inspections.  To avoid unpleasant surprises and a costly loss of reputation, be sure you have a thorough understanding of all policy and employment law relevant to your operations.

 

8. Explain and demonstrate what FM value means

Building confidence and collaboration with the local customer is vital, notably, if you are assuming responsibility for pre-existing supplier contracts.  This isn’t always easy.  Often they will perceive FM outsourcing as a loss of operational control and believe things can be done better and more cheaply their way.  Dealing with this requires a convincing service delivery model upfront, which shows how you will ensure compliance, cost saving, and create value through measurement and innovation.  More important still is to demonstrate a commitment to working together with them to ensure it works as they want it to.

 

7. Prepare excellent Communication and Governance Plans

Of all the documents involved in mobilisation, these are paramount. Ultimately, your success hinges on communication at every step, and the quality of your Service Level Agreements and performance measurement. Your customer will expect continuous information on progress and this is a great way to educate them on the value FM represents and brings to their organisation.

 

9. Understand the challenge and opportunity of TUPE

Local contracts often require TUPE, or the transfer of customer employees to your own business.  They may see their move from a prestigious international corporation into FM as a compulsory step down.  You need to be sensitive to their needs, understand their strengths and then find them new purpose.  Show them how they will become better within your business.

However, get the transition right and it’s a win-win for both of you.  TUPE staff often understand and care for the customer better than any supplier could.  There are many instances where KEY staff have seized the new opportunity to learn and have rapidly progressed their careers within the business, to become key individuals within the business.

 

6. Implement a thorough Action Plan

When it’s time for kick-off, getting off on the right foot is everything.  A lot of things have to be mobilised simultaneously: key staff and team, suppliers and service lines, equipment, processes and procedures.  If you’ve thought through the detail of every action, everything should work like clockwork and you’ll be free to deal with the unexpected should it occur.

 

10. Pay very close attention to performance at the outset

With any new enterprise, things are most likely to go wrong in the early stages.  You need to know the moment they do, and to take remedial action quickly and appropriately.  It is therefore essential you prepare and maintain a comprehensive set of performance measures.

 

We hope you’ll find these Top 10 tips useful.  Remember: if you fail your new customer, the likelihood is they’re only going to understand this later on down the line.  By that time it will take you twice as long to turn things back round, as it would have done to mobilise right first time.  Good luck!

 

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Profile of Walid Barhoumi: Middle East Programme Manager for KEY FM International

Today we’re in Tunis to get to know Walid Barhoumi, a Programme Manager instrumental to the success of KEY Facilities Management International (KEY FMI) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.  Joining the conversation is Jim Yorston, KEY FMI’s Chief Operations Officer.

 

 

Walid Barhoumi, KEY FMI Programme Manager for the Middle East

Walid Barhoumi, KEY FMI Programme Manager for the Middle East

 

To begin, Walid, it would be great to learn something of your background prior to KEY FMI?

Walid:  “In terms of higher education, I originally started out studying economics, but later moved on to achieve a degree in IT engineering.

 

After gaining a few years of experience, I wanted more and decided to start my own IT business.  I began approaching big companies in my home country of Tunisia, and soon landed a support contract managing the local site of a large pharmaceutical multinational.

 

I enjoy problem-solving and helping people out, and quickly became the go-to guy whenever anything went wrong on-site.  Before long, I was as good as managing the facility, although I had no official designation as such.”

 

How did KEY FMI discover you?

Jim:  “I first met Walid when were awarded the FM contract for his site.  We were struggling to find a Tunisian partner who we felt confident could run things to the required standards.  Then someone mentioned that the local IT guy was pretty switched on and might be able to point us in the right direction.  So, I emailed Walid’s company to arrange a face-to-face.

 

Our first conversation was not what I expected.  Walid spent the whole time talking about how he wanted to learn about Facilities Management (FM), and be a part of something bigger than just IT.  Well that started us on this journey and led to many hours spent in Tunisian coffee shops, working on a proposal he could submit to KEY FMI.

 

His IT background was much evident back them.  It was clear that some work would be needed to attune him to KEY FMI’s way of thinking.  However, he was also so attentive, inquisitive, and quick and eager to learn.  When I got on the plane back home, I knew we’d found a real gem and was in no doubt he would sort Tunisia out.”

Walid:  “FM is hardly known in Tunisia.  Within the business, only the local MD and I had ever heard of it.  Furthermore, after talking to Jim I realised that, while I’d been doing FM after a fashion, I was far from doing it properly. 

 

I knew that in the short term the new Office Coordinator role would mean moving out of my comfort zone.  Nevertheless, I couldn’t miss an opportunity to learn from the True FM experts and to take my career to the next level.”

 

Walid has since risen to become a Programme Manager for the whole MENA region, how did this come about in so short a time?

Jim:  “Walid very quickly got to grips with KEY FMI’s approach and reporting requirements, and soon had Tunisia running like clockwork.  Consequently, I recommended him to the MENA Programme Manager for consideration should any opportunities arise. 

 

That opportunity arose much sooner than expected.  MENA had been underperforming and we were looking to replace the Programme Manager.  When I put Walid forward for the position, the client executives looked at me as if I’d lost my marbles!  I insisted and told them he had my personal guarantee.

 

I knew it was a big step-up for Walid.  I trialled him on two countries at first, but included one where we were experiencing the biggest problems.  He took control very quickly and the way he dealt with the challenges was impressive.  Everyone was happy, so we soon handed him the reins for the entire region.”

Walid:  “They were exciting times.  I had been waiting for the chance to show what I could do and here was my win-or-lose moment.  I worked late every night, and spent many hours in front of my laptop, researching the new markets and requirements.  From time-to-time I felt a little tired, but I was always happy because I was doing something I loved.

 

I also felt really supported by the KEY FMI team.  Whenever required, I’d just raise my hand and there’d be two or three people willing and available to help.  Particularly, Jim was always there for advice and reassurance, no matter how late I called him.  This enabled me to relax into my new role and gave me the confidence I needed.”

Jim:  MENA is the toughest market in the world of FM and Walid handles it exceptionally well.  He’s one of the best, if not the best, we have, and he continues to grow.  A proper success story!  He’s a firm but fair manager, a good presenter, and great with clients and customers.  He’s also a genuinely nice guy, someone I’d trust with my life.”  

 

So to end, Walid, what’s next for you and FM?

Walid:  “In terms of myself, I intend to keep improving.  My approach is working fine and is delivering the results, but it’s not the best I can achieve. 

 

Particularly, I want to develop my understanding of FM management systems.  To-date I have been heavily involved in the detail of day-to-day operations.  With a better grasp of the overarching framework of FM, I believe I will be better able to reflect on the rationale for these activities, their consequences, and how they relate to strategic organisational objectives.  English is not my first language, and I think this knowledge will also help me clarify and simplify my communications.

 

I see a great transnational Programme Manager like the conductor of a symphony.  The FM management system is the sheet music and the orchestra is the team, and delivering the best performance is all about striking the perfect balance between keeping the score and managing human relationships. 


Conducting an FM Management System

When it comes to FM, I think there are two major disruptors in the imminent future.

 

The first is the new ISO standards for FM, particularly ISO 41001.  These provide a framework for ‘a symphony’ and are set to transform global FM.

 

The second is workplace digitisation.  New technologies can now enable continuous monitoring of buildings and activities, and automate work scheduling and reporting.  These systems provide rich real-time information, while assuming a large part of the burden of operational management. This frees up the FM to focus on what they should be doing: identifying and implementing opportunities for improving service quality and adding value.

 

Thankfully, KEY is ahead of the curve in both these areas.   Our CEO often says, “the only constant in business is change”, and I enjoy working for a company that recognises this.  We know who we are and what we do, but we are also thinking ahead, ever exploring and contributing to the evolution of our profession.”

 

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The first International Facility Management Standards: An Overview

2017-18 will go down as historic years for the global Facility Management (FM) sector!

Things kicked off on Friday 31st March ’17 when the ISO 267 Facility Management committee published its first two international facility management standards.  A third followed on July 12th.

These first three standards are:

  • ISO 41011 standardises an international vocabulary for FM.  The standard affords a clear common terminology for providers and customers.
  • ISO 41012 gives guidance on strategic sourcing and the development of agreements.  The standard helps define and regulate a better working relationship between providers and customers.
  • ISO 41013 outlines the scope, key concepts and benefits of FM, while also providing a context for the use and application of the terms already defined in ISO 41011.

 

Announcing the publications, Stan Mitchell, our CEO and acting Chair of the ISO 267 FM Technical Committee, said:

“Many thanks indeed to the forty two countries who have supported the committee.  Special thanks to Paul Stadlöder, Jay Drew and Olav Egil Sæbøe for their leadership who along with the hard working members of their respective committees have delivered. Well done to all and many thanks on behalf of Facilities Managers everywhere for getting us on the map!  There is more to come, make sure that your country is represented so that you can participate”

Well done too to Stan, who has been integral in the process leading to these groundbreaking publications, and those to come.  He inspired international support for the ISO FM Technical Committee, which he leads in the creation of these new FM standards.

 

Management Systems Standard ISO 41001: The real game changer!

Particularly, many are on tenterhooks regarding the upcoming ISO 41001, due for publication in Spring 2018.  ISO 41001 deals with the requirements and guidance for use of management systems.  It aims to improve awareness and support for effective facilities management regimes globally and across all sectors.

ISO 41001 will help facilitate appropriate FM structures and resourcing.  The standard is set to transform business management globally, providing markets with a model for developing a world class FM regime.  Additionally, it will provide a basis for professional training and certification, and supplier benchmarking for public and private sectors.

We’ll be posting on the themes of the new standards for the rest of August, with regular updates beyond.  (Next Friday: a video of a presentation by our CEO on their development and implications of ISO 41001!).

Want to know more about the standards, or keep abreast of their progress?  Then we welcome you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Equally, if you need support with ISO 41001 accreditation and your operational efficiency from those who led development of the new standards, do get in touch.

Cultural Awareness in International Facilities Management

Why is cultural awareness important?

In mature markets, a one-size-fits-all approach to Facilities Management can lead to frustrations and inefficiencies.  In developing markets with a different cultural context, it’s often a deal breaker.  This article explores some common cultural barriers in a Middle Eastern context, and how to overcome them.

Studies show that the degree to which companies flourish in a foreign market is influenced by their cultural awareness and ability to communicate with its people.  Facilities Management is business’s fastest-growing professional discipline worldwide.  Therefore, the ability for providers to adapt to different cultures can determine the success or failure of expansion plans.

Indeed, there is perhaps no better arena for observing culture in action than International Facilities Management.  For one, cultures reveal themselves in situations where economic survival is important because, arguably, it is in these situations that cultural resources are most required.  Therefore, it is vital to have an understanding of culture in board room negotiations.

For two, the components of True Facilities Management (FM) operations -people, process and even place- are all shaped by deeply-held cultural attitudes and values toward work, hierarchy, trust, and communication.  Without an appreciation of the framework which determines the way staff, suppliers and other stakeholders behave, it is difficult to be sure if complex requirements and schedules are mutually understood.

In short, cultural awareness is essential to both client communication and solutions.

middle east landscape, cityscape, building and spice market

Cultural Awareness in Middle Eastern FM

True FM is founded on the belief that an optimal solution isn’t something you shoehorn a client into, but rather something which emerges from fruitful partnership.  Fruitful international partnership, in turn, hinges on cultural awareness.

Nowhere is this truer than with KEY’s Saudi Arabian contracts.  As Jim Yorston, KEY’s COO, puts it:

“The rich culture of Saudi Arabia has been shaped by its Islamic heritage, its historical role as an ancient trade centre, and its Bedouin traditions. People see, interpret and evaluate things in different ways, and this must be respected. What may be considered an appropriate behaviour in one culture is frequently inappropriate in another”

KEY’s Saudi team acknowledge the language barrier to be the biggest challenge they face.  However, they also highlight four other examples of how cultural ignorance or disregard can give rise to relationship problems.

Time and scheduling.  The Arab people take a more relaxed approach to both, and inflexibility runs a real risk of offending partners, suppliers and clients.

Friendship is more prominent than the West, and Arabs will not do business with anyone they don’t like or trust.  We aim to build genuine friendship with our Arab colleagues, taking in an interest in the things that are important to them outside the workplace.  Most meetings start with a catch-up on health, news and family.

Disagreement.  Losing face means more in the Middle East than in the West.  We take care not to disagree with or contradict someone directly, but rather express differences of opinion in more indirect and subtle ways (e.g. “in similar situations I have experienced in the past, it has often been preferable to…“).

Body Language.  Pointing and the thumbs up sign are considered rude by many Arab countries.  So too is crossing your legs when sitting or displaying the sole of your shoe to someone.  The Arab people also have a different concept of personal space.  Compared with usual Western behaviour, people will often stand or sit much closer to you, touch you more, and may even take your hand when leading you somewhere.  This can seem unusual and uncomfortable from a Western viewpoint at first.

Cultural awareness helps avoid FM no-no's such as a thumbs-up in the Middle East

Strategies for Cultural Assimilation

As a company providing International Facilities Management services in Saudi Arabia (as well as the other countries in the Middle East where we operate), it is vital to quickly understand the culture.  Only by this can you ensure you have a workforce adequately prepared to deliver.

In order to avoid cultural blunders and ensure seamless assimilation, all of KEY’s employees undertake a rigorous induction upon arrival in Saudi Arabia.  This focuses on three core aspects:

RESPECT!  Above all KEY cultivates RESPECT for cultural differences, and a willingness to listen and learn.


Cultural Training
, including:

  • An introduction to the history and politics and of Saudi Arabia
  • Information about Saudi Arabian people and Saudi Arabian society
  • Major cities and regional diversity in Saudi Arabia
  • Practical information on living and working in Saudi Arabia
  • Attitudes towards women and foreigners
  • Managing culture shock
  • Saudi Arabian social and business etiquette: greetings, gift giving, invitations, privacy

Basic Language Training
.  English is not the primary language for most Saudi service delivery staff.  Ordinarily, they are migrant workers from other countries.  Without a grasp of the basics there is the risk of misunderstandings with clients, customers and work instructions, with potentially adverse consequences.
Jim illustrates this with a recent example from KEY’s prestige CAF train cleaning and maintenance contract:
“I asked one of the cleaners to bring me some water as I wanted to show him the best way to fill the tanks before the train departed.  Ten minutes later he appeared with a trolley full of bottled water, smiled, and said ‘you ask for water to fill tank sir!’ What I’d meant was for him to bring me the hosepipe attached to the mains outlet.  If I’d used his method the train would still be waiting to depart!”
CAF Train Cleaning in Saudi Arabia

Summary

In this article, we have argued that cultural awareness is more important to International Facilities Management than any other business.  We highlighted this through reference to the cultural differences experienced by our Saudi Arabian team.  Particularly, these included potential clashes of business attitudes to friendship, body language, punctuality and disagreement.  We also showed how KEY’s approach resolve these challenges through cultural and language training for our employees.  Above all, we stressed the importance of cultivating respect and openness regarding cultural differences.

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International Facilities Management Solution for CAF’s Riyadh to Dammam Train Service

Below is video presentation about KEY’s International Facilities Management solution for CAF Saudi Arabia’s core Riyadh to Dammam train service. This is the second in our ‘True International Facilities Management’ themed posts for July ’17.

The presentation was made by Jim Yorston, KEY’s Chief Operations Officer, at the anniversary of our partnership with CAF.  You can also read the case study for the contract here.  Alternatively, check out our prestigious new contract for CAF’s premium high-speed fleet from Riyadh (King Khalid International Airport) to Al Qassim.

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