The recipe for a successful international FM strategy

More multinationals are choosing to bring an international perspective to their FM issues, with Microsoft being one example. Mette Pilgren, Facilities Manager at Microsoft, and Christer Olsson, who heads up international projects at Coor, tell us about what’s necessary to execute an international strategy locally.

Christer Olsson, Manager of international projects at Coor Service ManagementIn many cases, global FM strategies are too rigid and developed on the basis of what applies on a company's home market, according to Christer Olsson, head of international projects at Coor, who has gained substantial insight from a raft of international tendering processes over recent years.

"You need scope for modification to local conditions. I've seen a lot of examples of centralization being taken too far. This doesn't just apply to operational solutions, but also some terms and conditions, such as liability issues. You need some flexibility here for FM strategies to work well in individual countries," comments Christer.

Christer also deals with the problem of insufficient local support. He believes this is the key to success in global strategies.

"A lot of time and money could be saved if local organizations were involved early in the process in designing and executing an international strategy. This is important from two considerations, partly for capturing differences in tradition, needs and structure early on, but also for securing the commitment and understanding of local organizations."

One example of a global group that takes a global perspective on FM issues is IT group Microsoft. It took its first step back in 2007, when it introduced a dedicated global FM organization. Previously, FM issues had been decentralized to each country, organized in tandem with Purchasing and Travel.

Mette Pilgren, Facility Manager at Microsoft in DenmarkMette Pilgren became Microsoft's Facilities Manager for Denmark and Iceland in February 2008. She agrees on the importance of giving some influence to individual countries, even if she regards working internationally on FM issues as the natural approach.

"In global businesses, many matters are controlled by central guidelines. But the degree of control varies for different issues, and for FM, taking consideration to differences in culture, history and habits is important."

Mette also thinks that Microsoft gives 'reasonable' freedom to local FM organizations. Local facilities managers are free to choose their levels of outsourcing and suppliers, but receive central tendering support. There are standard guidelines for legal issues in place, such as agreement terms, credit terms and notice periods, although these do allow local variation.

"Microsoft outsources nearly all its FM operations, although there are exceptions. Here in Denmark, we've chosen an IFM solution, which is also most common through the Microsoft group. I get good central support when tendering, but I'm free to choose the best solution for us here in Denmark."

To some degree, central monitoring is also centralized. Mette reports highs and lows, savings, costs and some key performance indicators on alternate months, which are then fed into a global benchmarking process. This provides good supporting data for exchanging best practice within the group.

The next step in Microsoft's global FM strategy is to bring in a more consistent grasp of services and quality of service. Work in this segment is currently ongoing.

"The group will be granting countries some freedom here too. The goal is to bring quality of service up to 80-90%. This feels like a good split," adds Mette.

In response to the question of how a local facilities manager could best prepare for smooth execution of an international FM strategy, Mette says the most important thing is to bring knowledge of local conditions, while also understanding central wants and needs.

"In my role, one of my key tasks is to maintain a good local network and dialogue with the Danish management. Then I've got to balance local wants and needs, while also giving consideration to central guidelines. So far, this hasn't been a problem."

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This article is the last in a series of three on multinational FM strategies. The first was in issue 2 of 2010 "International FM strategies—hot right now", which discussed the advantages and disadvantages of different ways of managing FM issues in international organizations. One key conclusion is that there are substantial local synergies across all FM operations. Issue 3 of 2010 included the article "Think global—act local", which dealt with what you should bear in mind when formulating an international FM strategy.

Read "International FM strategies—hot right now" in Nova no. 2/2010

Read "Think global—act local" in Nova no. 3/2010

Want to discuss issues regarding international FM strategies?

Contact Jens Ebbe Rasmussen.