In 2006, I was fortunate enough to visit Google's fabulous headquarters in Mountain View. While I was marvelling at the company's ultra-fast expansion, my contact suddenly asked me if I knew who the most important person in the organisation was. Obviously I said it was the R&D Director. "Wrong", he said with a smile...
"It's our Facility Management Director"
He's responsible for harmonising the company's working environment around the world and dealing with the masses of new people constantly joining the company. Without him, Google would grind to a standstill!"
His comments left a deep impression on me. They obviously reflected the special care that Google places in its employees' working environment and also the fact that any development and expansion plans would flounder without an effective facilities management department. The common school of thought in France is that "facilities management will follow" and we tend to overlook this particular function.
The facilities management department of course makes a fully-fledged contribution to the company's performance. It helps provide a quality working environment which, after salary and job satisfaction, is the third largest motivator amongst employees. It supports all major projects. Last year we managed to overhaul our entire information system. Like any project of this type, it was an intensive time for the teams who had to deal with a heavy workload and high levels of stress.
I would credit a significant part of the project's success to the support received from the facilities management team, this included:
- preparing and fitting out training rooms
- welcoming the many providers and temps that had been drafted in to help the teams
- organising all of the meals
- setting up relaxation activities during the weekends when we were testing and switching over the system.
"Their unwavering presence at our side helped ensure a calm working atmosphere and prevented any wasted time."
The facilities management team also plays a major role in organisations' CSR policies. The team is often responsible for site safety and security as well as being central to environmental policies and quality certification which are the responsibility of senior executives and essential for ensuring good working conditions as well as being a prerequisite for today's many invitations to tender.
Finally, the facilities management department plays a key role in the company's economic performance because it can have a significant influence on costs. According to estimates, the cost of "facilities" averages 7% of a company's revenue. Therefore they are often the driving force behind major invitations to tender and projects aimed at streamlining suppliers. They manage up to 20% of an organisation's total non-strategic purchases. Each euro saved in their area has a direct impact on the company's net income. Financial departments are aware of this and are constantly calling for expenditure to be optimised and reined in.
They often face a tricky mission because they receive little credit when everything works (who has ever thanked facilities management because all the chairs were nicely lined up at the start of a meeting?), but they are often the first to be approached when a problem arises. I often compare them to the "superheroes" in films that solve the public's everyday problems without anybody ever seeing them.
Here at Manutan, not a day goes by that we do not talk about these "everyday heroes". We know that their internal success depends on reliable partners capable of keeping their promises. They need solutions that enable them to combine quality, safety and cost control.
In addition to reliable deliveries and quality products we believe that it is essential to equip them with high-performance digital solutions (e-catalogues, reporting, vending machines, etc.) as well as a dedicated contact that they can call at any time for continual support.
As we described in our Perspective on Rogue Buying, we are convinced that the success of any purchasing approach depends on the combination of an effective digital strategy with a high-quality relationship approach.