COVID-19 hasn’t slowed down the development of facilities management standards, with four endorsed and another three underway, says the Property Council's representative to the Standards Australia, Stephen Ballesty.
The director of independent consultancy In-Touch Advisory, Ballesty is an IFMA Fellow and life member of FMA Australia, and has chaired the Property Council's Office Quality Guide steering committee since 2004.
As an Australian delegate to the International Organization for Standardization for facilities management (ISO/TC267) since 2012, Ballesty is working with counterparts in 48 countries to develop the ISO 41000 series of standards.
Facilities management is defined as an “organizational function which integrates people, place and process within the built environment with the purpose of improving the quality of life of people and the productivity of the core business”.
Adopting specific standards for facilities management delivers a host of benefits: greater industry consistency, more reliable outcomes, better procurement procedures and improved understanding of facilities management practices and their contribution to a more productive, sustainable and liveable built environment.
The process of developing standards and reaching international consensus can seem painstaking, but four standards – for scope, management systems, vocabulary and strategic sourcing – have already been adopted and published by Standards Australia.
Three more standards are in development for policy, technology and human behaviour – or, as ISO calls it, “Influencing organizational behaviours for improved facility outcomes”.
“While conceptually developing standards is fairly straightforward, achieving global consensus and acceptance is a longer journey”, Ballesty says.
“When I first heard we would tackle how facilities management influences human behaviour, I thought it was biting off more than we could chew. It’s clear that buildings influence behaviour and organisational outcomes but gaining consensus across dozens of countries is challenging.
“However, getting this right will be defining for FM and anchor its role at the centre of people, place and process.”
It’s not work for the faint-hearted, Ballesty admits. “You have to be diplomatic and patient. It can take years to write a standard.”
But Ballesty is excited that “momentum that is building” at a time when facilities management sits at the intersection of a host of trends, from user experience to advancing technology, sustainable sourcing of materials to social responsibility.
Ballesty recently presented a paper which argues that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provides an “additional lens” through which to view facilities management standards. He is leading an ISO/TC267 task group that has already identified 57 areas of alignment between the ISO 41000 series of facilities management standards and the UN’s 17 SDGs.
“We have now been approved to develop a proposal to produce a standard that uses the SDGs in the facilities management context. This would not only demonstrate that the industry supports the SDGs, but also create better FM standards – so it has the potential to be symbiotic.”
On 4 June the ISO/TC267 held its first fully virtual plenary meeting, these international forums have previously been held face-to-face over three days. While participating in Zoom meetings with dozens of global colleagues is a testing task, Ballesty remains committed to the work for Australia’s property industry.
“Australia is generally considered at the forefront of facilities management thinking and has been influential internationally for many years. A lot of other countries seek to learn from us. We have a strong voice in these important standards and can be proud of the role we play on a global stage,” Ballesty concludes.