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Introduction

This paper provides a rich set of information on the strategic role of facilities management with relation to the commercial property development. This is in line with Creswell (2009, p. 2), who posits out that a literature review chapter should cover information related to the study aims and objectives. As such, the paper is divided into five main sections. First, the paper covers a comprehensive definition and discussion of facilities management. The second section addresses information related to the strategic role of facilities management as it relates to core and non core functions in a commercial property. The third section addresses literature related to strategic facility management, while the last section will dwell contemporary issues in facilities management.  Finally, the paper will be wrapped up with a short but comprehensive summary addressing all the major points reviewed in the herein.

Facilities Management

In a competitive business environment, businesses and commercial entities must lay down strategic measures in order to survive in the market. Rondeau, Brown, and Lapides (2012, p. 12) note that this is inclusive of the core and non-core business practices. Facilities management falls within non-core areas of an organization, which has an essential role in supporting the core business areas of an organization. To this end, facilities management in a commercial property development must be strategically defined just as the strategic role it plays in the overall functioning of the business surrounding. According to Barret and Baldry (2003, p. 24), facilities management includes a cohesive approach, “to operating, maintaining, improving, and adapting the buildings and infrastructure” of a commercial property with the aim of providing an enabling environment which supports the core business objectives. The British Institute of Facilities Management defines facilities management as, “The practice of coordinating the physical workplace with the people and work of a business entity”.  On the other hand, the International Facility Management posits that facility management is simply the management of a vital asset—the business “facilities”.

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On their part, Hinks and Mcnay (1999, p. 35) note that facilities management in commercial property development is mainly concerned with the creation of an optimal business environment in which the entity can effectively perform its primary functions. He adds that facilities management is a generic term that encompasses the actual business infrastructures, such as buildings and company assets, which are used in the delivery of services to the customer and ensures that the services are at their best value. Shaw and Haynes (2004, p. 172) take this further and argue that facilities management in a commercial environment ensures that services are effective and responsive to the needs of the customer. This is besides allowing changes in the future in terms of space usage within the commercial property. Another importance of proper facilities management is that it ensures that services and products are delivered in a cost effective manner while creating a competitive advantage for the business. Furthermore, Shaw and Haynes (2004, p. 174) posit that strategic facilities management also enhances the image and culture of a commercial property as clients will associate the arrangement of facilities within the commercial property with the value of services and products emanating from the same property. 

Facilities management has rapidly emerged as an important factor in mainstreaming the property assets in the recent past. Fleming (2004, p. 37) estimates that facilities management has seen a tremendous growth in the property markets more than in other sectors in the industry. He adds that unlike the past when facility management was mainly concerned with physical and architectural planning of organization’s building, the contemporary practice in facilities management emphasizes the need to streamline value addition to property owners by addressing unnecessary and wasteful practices that negatively affect the business environment and which also affects the overall implementation of core objectives of a commercial property. Insightful planning and development of asserts and infrastructures within a commercial premise thus need to follow a strategic plan which caters for the current need of a property owner, as well as future needs. Facilities management thus provides numerous opportunities for avid property managers to come up with professional and creative ways of not only managing a commercial property but also the initial development of the property. The traditional facility management practices of minimizing wastes, saving energy, and recycling of wastes together with avoiding water and environment pollution practices are no longer sufficient in the contemporary facilities management practices.

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Rondeau, Brown and Lapides (2012, p. 12) observe that it is not uncommon to find contemporary facilities managers providing professional and informed guidance in the implementation of action steps involving a whole range of green issues during commercial property development. Consequently, Allison and Kaye (2005, p. 13) note that facilities management practice plays an important role in ensuring that commercial properties function as the most effective and efficient standards through giving value added improvements in the core business of the commercial property. In view of the inherent benefits of facilities management evident in commercial properties, which have already adapted the practice, Rondeau, Brown and Lapides (2012, p. 19) observe that the practice stands on the verge of being given the strategic importance as a business practice which is going to provide numerous opportunities to the achievement of business objectives. This is also evident in the complex nature of services offered within the facilities management practices even as the practice moves in the core operational functions of commercial properties.

Strategic Role of Facilities Management

According to McGregor (2012, p. 27), efficient and effective management in commercial property development requires a forceful strategy in terms of managing the available facilities within the context of the larger plan or space strategy. As such, commercial property development requires that facilities managers formulate strategic objectives, which must be achieved before the completion of the development of a commercial property.  Having strategic objectives in facilities management will ensure that development of a commercial property follows a pre-planned channel and ensure that all necessary action steps are followed while developing a commercial property. Ameratunga (2000, p. 43) observes that the essence of facilities management in commercial property development, however, is to ensure that the business objectives are met at lesser costs and in an efficient and effective way. Based on this point, Booty (2009, p. 10) notes that the concept of facilities management in commercial property development implies a practice that must be strategically approached in the larger context of a business strategy. In other words, the strategic plan in the development of a commercial property must include conscious facilities management practices and thus must be approached with professionalism and expertise as much as marketing.

Based on the above discussions, it is evident that facilities management plays a strategic role in the efficient and effective development of a commercial property. However, the approach to facilities management needs to be reviewed in a professional manner. For instance, Dalton, Jarrett, and Mahaffie (2003, p. 2) note that there should be deliberate planning from a facility manager to put the needs of the commercial property in the spirit of differentiating the noncore and core business operations of the property being developed. This will ensure that an adequate attention is given to facilities planning and arrangement, which will be in tandem with the available resources for implementing a facilities management strategy. Generally, resources, such as personnel and finances, must be provided for facilities management program conscious of the importance of proper and informed facilities management in a commercial property development. Thus, a conscious plan can imply things like prior identification of the sources of finance to run a facilities management program as an equally important element of the larger strategic plan in development.

This can also involve establishing a budget to cover both long term and short term needs of the facilities management program in order to avoid ad hoc allocation of funds to facilities management activities during development of the property. Falconer (2006, p. 12) observes that this should be done by analysing the needs in terms of expertise and personnel who are going to be in charge of facilities management. The personnel need to be sufficiently qualified with relevant skills and knowledge in facilities management. The other important step in strategic facilities management is to develop solutions by looking at the available options and choosing the most efficient one to ensure that the implementation of facilities management activities does not detract the overall core business of the development program. In the present of all of the above, an implementation procedure then needs to be laid out and embarked on immediately so that facilities management go alongside other development activities (Rondeau, Brown & Lapides 2012, p. 15).

Strategic and Contemporary Issues in Facilities Management

In order to achieve their objectives and missions, commercial property owners and tenants have a responsibility of ensuring that they have a clear path that will lead to this end. One of the tools that are used to give facilities managers a clear direction is the strategic plan, as much as the strategic role that facilities management is concerned. It is important that a strategic plan is defined well in terms of objectives and mission that the owners and tenants of a commercial property wish to accomplish during and after development.  According to Mankins and Steele (2005, p. 27), strategic planning in facilities management is “a process of defining the values, purpose, vision, mission, goals and objectives of an organization”. They argue that this should be done by having “a jurisdiction or agency identifying the outcomes it wants to achieve through its programs and the specific means by which it intends to achieve these outcomes”. Sarshar (2006, p. 276) observes that the strategic role that facilities management plays is essential, especially, where competition for limited resources, such as space and land, is stiff and the financial resources are limited.

In a commercial property development, different stakeholders have distinctive roles to play in pursuing the highlighted mission and objectives of the institution. It is important that each facilities manager as part of the stakeholders in strategic planning should ensure that the objectives are met within a specified period. Before being included in the strategic plan, facilities managers must understand the importance of having the plan and how it is going to be achieved in the process of implementing a development plan in a commercial property. The stability of the commercial property should also be considered first in dealing with any emerging issues with relation to management of property within a commercial property environment. The owners and tenants of the property can contribute to the handling of the emerging challenges and assist a facilities management team to execute that program within the timeline provided. This will assist in avoiding issues of expenses in implementing facilities management that arise with the failure to meet datelines. There is also a necessity to identify any existing need and change within the operations of the facility. Availability of resources, commitment, and capacity are also important aspects in the successful implementation of a strategic plan (Mintzberg 2002, p. 22).

As the strategic planning committee is composed of experts and planners, it has the responsibility of ensuring that timelines are adhered to in the process of implementing a strategic plan. The committee is thus responsible for a number of roles including organizing the whole process of planning and scheduling and conducting regular meetings to discuss the process. It is also the responsibility of the committee to ensure that priority is given to the implementation of the strategic plan by enforcing attention to the overall aims and objectives as outlined in the strategic plan document (Wauters 2005, p. 147). This will help to avoid shifting or changing the priority such as diverting the resources meant for the implementation of a facilities management plan to other matters of the commercial property. It is also important to have the values of the management board and the entire community reflected in the strategic plan. This is important because it will help to build a sense of ownership by the board and the community and thus commit themselves to the successful implementation of the plan. After developing the actual strategic plan, the facilities management committee will also be mandated to review the progress regularly in terms of the mission and vision statement of the facility. The committee also has the responsibility to monitor factors like trends, demographics, community, and technology in contemporary and best practices in facilities management. Such factors might impact in one way or the other on the successful implementation of a facilities management strategic plan (Allison & Kaye 2005, p. 45).

The strategic role of facilities management has been evolving in the recent past because of changes in the environment and legislation that govern the use of resources for development. It is now necessary for a facilities management team to be flexible so as to be able to adjust occasionally to a new sustainable reality. Ragusa (2011, p. 1) observes that facilities management in commercial property have also a responsibility to develop a vision for the sustainable use of resources allocated by the owners or tenants of a commercial property. Facilities management also needs to create a leadership role which can pursue issues of sustainability while being able to confront the economic challenges that may arise in the pursuit of the facilities management programs. The essence of a facilities management program is to enable saving energy, space, and other resources which are needed for the commercial property owners and tenants. Facilities management thus is always faced with the challenge of ensuring just that. That is, to manage increasing costs of energy and deal with the volatility issues associated with energy. Furthermore, facilities managers are also faced with responsibilities of fixing budgets, engaging other stakeholders in the overall development program, prioritizing the renewal needs, and meeting the challenges in a commercial property development program. 

Literature Related to Strategic Facility Management

According to the research done by Fleming (2004), users of commercial properties have higher expectations for the environment within those properties; thus, he points to the significant role that facilities management must play in meeting such expectations. As such, a facilities management team must take into account performance specifications starting with the physical environment which can impact the productivity of employees as they serve the customers to user perception as a definition of the experiences that the users or customers have whenever they visit a commercial property. Hinks & Mcnay (1999, p. 36) also indicate that commercial property users apply different perceptions on the arrangement of facilities within a commercial property based on the former experiences and work flow patterns within the commercial property. A study done by Dalton, Jarrett, and Mahaffie (2003, p. 56) reviewed the students’ perception of the maintenance services in an escalator of a university campus. The researcher used a set of students who used habitually both the stairs and the escalator for their upper classes daily and another set that used the escalator only for the period under study. The students were asked to estimate the percentage of time that the escalator was not operational. 54 percents were the percentage of time that those who frequently used the escalator said it was broken while those who used both stairs and escalator said that it was broken down 31 percent of the time.

Atkin and Brooks (2005, p. 35) observe that the mere distinctive experience of using a bad escalator in likely to increase the importance that frequent users attach to the failure of that facility within that time when they were using it. Another possibility of this study was the ease of the recall by frequent users on the number of times that the escalator had become none-functioning. This is an indication that facilities management can have a long term effect on the perception of the customer in a commercial property, especially, where the customer is a frequent user of the facility in question. For instance, if all washrooms in a commercial property are wrongly designed, customers are likely to have a greater recall of this defect than they have with the friendly customer care executive at the main entrance. This also underscores the importance of ensuring that facilities managers get it right when it comes to the facilitating design and implementation of organization’s core business objectives(Atkin & Brooks 2009, p. 50).

In a different study, Barrett and Baldry (2003, p. 34) found a difference in the perception of facilities management as it relates to the performance and importance of the management services and the customers. In their research, they used key performance indicators which revealed that the KPI used specified factors depending on the needs of a commercial property and clients therein. A glaring distinction was the lack of general performance indicators to measure the general perception that clients had on the existing facilities management practices in a commercial property. However, Mann (2009, p. 15) found that most clients and users have no experience with effective and efficient facilities management practices, which makes them lack standards for benchmarking the existing facilities management practices in a commercial property of their choice.

In the research done by Alexander (2004, p. 33), it became evident that facilities management plays its role in reducing the complaints and absenteeism in a commercial property environment. Besides, it increases productivity on the part of employees and satisfaction on the part of customers. This ranges from the mere design of office furniture to the actual design of a building. The facilities management thus encompasses a whole range of areas of concern which the facilities managers need to focus so that they were able not only to satisfy customers but also employees. Effective facilities management can ensure that the need of users of a commercial property in terms of work environment is met. It can also help to ensure that there is a sense of satisfaction in the work place. Consequently, the work environment can be used as an incentive to attract and retain talented workers. The work environment can contribute to the increased productivity and customer satisfaction and vice versa. This is the reason why facilities management must play a strategic role in the commercial property development (Ameratunga & Baldry 2000, p. 295).

Summary of Major Points Reviewed

The contemporary competitive business environment will force commercial businesses to lay down strategic measures in order to survive in the market. The laid down measures include the core and non-core business practices. Facilities management is one of the non-core areas of an organization which plays an increasingly essential role in supporting the core business areas of an organization. As such, facilities management in the commercial property development needs to be strategically defined in line with the role it plays in the overall functioning of the business sphere. Strategic facilities management can enhance the image and culture of a commercial property as clients will associate the arrangement of facilities within the commercial property with the quality of performance and value of services and products emanating from the same property.  People, who are working in the commercial property, can also be either motivated or discouraged with the arrangement of facilities in their place of work, starting from simple things like office arrangement to the entire building. Strategic planning should also be involved, especially, in terms of resources and time required for the implementation process. However, it is an important tool worth investing by a commercial property that wants to have success and control of the future. More importantly, the strategic role of facilities management will be helpful in decisions making and actions undertaking and will help not only in achieving objectives but also provide it for a lower cost.

Efficiency and reliance in service delivery is an important feature for a successful health institution. Thus, for a commercial property, a strategic plan will go a long way in helping it to achieve efficiency and reliance in the face of competitive business environment and facilities conscious clients. For the effective implementation of facilities management managers need to prioritize it and differentiate the practice with core business objectives. Adequate attention and enough resources are also important in ensuring that the facilities management practice is achieved according to the plans of managers. In contemporary facilities management, the best practices are shifting from the traditional space and energy saving, waste management, and environmental preservation to more advanced areas like sustainability of both space and environment. Budgeting and physical planning are coming up as influential areas in facilities management, especially, during development.  Finally, the strategic role of facilities management can only be achieved when the personnel implementing the strategy have relevant skills and knowledge to combine all the elements of facilities management.

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