Pros and cons in appointing in-house and outsourced facilities managers

In today's facilities management (FM), we, as a FM practitioner, could be representing clients to look after their facilities and properties (so-called 'in-house facilities managers'), while we could be working in the FM agency side and offering them FM services (as an 'outsourced facilities manager'). Surely, our clients shall need FM professionals in overseeing their facilities services by insourcing / outsourcing / offshoring / mix. However, what are the pros and cons of in-house facilities managers / outsourced facilities managers?

In-house facilities managers

Pros

1. More strategic - acting on behalf of clients directly, facilities managers shall take care of facilities with longer term strategies, which shall include planned preventive maintenance, rather than short term approaches like remedial maintenance;

2. More stable - facilities managers shall not have worries in renewing FM contracts with their clients; this shall be the usual happening encountered by FM agencies in practice; FM contracts periods shall be 1-5 years normally;

3. More direct - as facilities managers shall represent clients directly, faster decisions shall be expected for better efficiency in operations and change management.

Cons

1. Blank procedures - facilities managers shall develop procedures from scratch according with the clients' needs; however, would depend on their experience in policies and procedures developments, which shall have previous references to similar buildings' best practices, as FM agencies shall find necessary templates for ease of revisions;

2. Slower in FM market trends / responses - facilities mangers shall focus on internal operations mainly, which shall be different from the FM agencies' practices - shall be more open / stick to the up-to-date market trends as to stay competitive in the market and gain more market share and recognitions by the existing / potential clients;

3. Not much accountability in internal practice - facilities managers shall handle all internal practices / in-house operations, maintenance, repairs, replacements, to a certain extent, but, who shall check out / counter check the quality of internal practice and ensure professional practices? This shall rely on external auditors / merely depend on self disciplinary acts by the in-house team, which could be an operational risk if the team does not perform well.

On the other hand, we shall look upon:

Outsourced facilities managers

Pros

1. Sharing of the operational risk for the clients - clients could be more focus in their core-businesses, which shall not be managing facilities in general;

2. Better use of head office's resources in procurement, human resources, finance, etc, functions - clients do not need to have these functions in the in-house team; this costing shall be borne by FM agencies and be shared by other clients / sites;

3. 'Like' manages 'like' - outsourced facilities managers shall be able to report duties to more senior / regional directors, which shall offer better professional advice / support to facilities managers / the FM on-site team, which shall minimize the conflicts in managing the team by 'non-FM' professions for ease of communication and understanding in work practice

Cons

1. Staff turnovers - this shall be a common problem to clients, as outsourced staff do not have much loyalty because of fixed terms in FM contracts, their 'second class' in the clients' organisations (in some cases) with fewer benefits, career progression within the FM agencies, changing jobs, etc;

2. Redundancy in FM roles - clients shall have one / a few key personnel to look after the outsourced FM agency, which shall have some overlapping in the interfaces; this shall bring about conflicts of interests and a bit waste in resources

3. Incompleteness in FM solution by FM agencies - FM agencies may not offer one-stop service to clients, which shall depend on their competencies / capabilities / geographic presence; also, they may have offered short term goals only as their contract shall be short terms.

The above shall be based on the author's opinion and observation only, which shall not represent any FM agencies / clients.

Believe this shall be useful to those with no FM background and get some understanding through this short article.

Johnny S. F. Yip is a FM practitioner, a part-time teacher in the Advanced Diploma in Facility & Property Management and the honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Chapter of IFMA.

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