Working with EAs & PAs to Coordinate FM Tasks for VIP Visits

Episode 11

Facilities Management Podcast


About this episode

Oliver Boote, UK Facilities Manager for the Colt portfolio at Mace, talks about the importance of liaising with employees in preparation for big events and how his team uses Workplace to drive FM appreciation.


Matt [Host]: Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Comparesoft Podcast. Great to have you here. This week, our guest is Oliver [Boote]. Oliver is the UK facilities manager for the Colt portfolio at Mace. He manages a small team in the UK to deliver first-class facilities and workplace services to over 750,000 square feet of offices, data centres, and node sites. Oliver has a passion for workplace experience, sustainable offices and the future of work. It’ll be really interesting to get his take on facilities management.

Welcome to the show, Oliver. Thanks for being on. How are you, sir?

Oliver Boote: Thanks very much for having me. I’m very well, and yourself?

Matt: Very good. Thanks. All right, well, let’s just jump straight in then. We always start off by asking, how do you go about setting a good facilities management culture?

Oliver: For us, it’s ultimately about setting expectations, and being honest about the pitfalls and the challenges that we’ve got. You’re never going to get everything right all of the time. We try. From our team members and our service partners and our contractors, is people who are happy to spot issues, raise and escalate any problems and letting people know what’s happening, even if it was an error on their part, because they know that they’ll be supported to fix it. I think it’s a bit old school now. I don’t think there are many places that operate like that, but we don’t have a finger-pointing culture. It’s about talking to each other. It’s spotting issues, raising those, and then working towards a solution. Because ultimately, what we’re there to do is to create great places for our customers and employees to work.

I think that comes down to communication. It’s about making sure the right hand is talking to the left hand. And so you’re not doing things like organising a deep clean the day before you’re ripping out a ceiling on a floor, and replacing a bit of equipment. It’s about tying those things up. So you’re not spending extra money, and you’re not doing work that you make null and void a couple of days later. As part of that, we’re really, really keen for our service partners to talk to each other. We get the cleaning team to log jobs for the maintenance team if they spot something that doesn’t work. And vice versa. If the maintenance team have done some work and they’ve done an initial tidy-up, we encourage them to report the X, Y, Z room or floor, whatever needs to clean or attend to.

Equally, I’m happy, particularly on some of our smaller sites, our remote sites where we don’t have a permanent presence. I’m happy for our service partners to talk directly too, I guess you could call them our clients, but senior representatives from Colt. Because they see my cleaning supervisors and they see my maintenance technicians far more often than they see me. And so I’m always happy that if my cleaning team can organise a [wee 0:04:02] waste collection and get that done and loop me in to say that it’s been done. I’d much prefer that than having everything come to myself and us having to go back out, when actually on site, someone can just point at something, show them what they mean, and get that done. What that means for us is we empower them, our service partners and the wider team to make decisions.

At call house, we’ve got a catering team that run the cafe, but they also do events and things like that. We’ve gotten some pretty big events in the last six months or so. My involvement really has been some comps to the wider business, checking our maintenance activities and making sure we’re not doing any shutdowns or as we’re doing these out of our events. And coordinating the teams together. Actually, the cafe team have procured the service contractors, they’ve produced the budget, they’ve produced the plan of what they’re going to do, and presented that to the client internally to say, this is how we can support. Whether that’s an EA or it’s a team administrator or it’s the country manager for an all hands, we kind of let them do that, because they know that they’re empowered to make those decisions and to get those things. Because they know that we trust them to do it, because they’re the experts. I think that helps us deliver across the board in really, really good service because there isn’t people going, “Oh, I don’t know if we can do this or I’m not sure or I better check.” our teams go out, they deliver, they do what they’re asked by the client, by the colleagues that we work with. And then if there is any troubles or there’s any escalations or there’s anything that needs to be resolved or just double checked, then they can come to me. I think that’s, as I said, that empowerment and that communication is how we breed our culture, certainly.

Matt: Well, it sounds like you’ve got a very smooth and efficient process working for you there, all of us. Sounds fantastic.

Oliver: Definitely, I think that there’s a lot to be said, for the ability to let people do what they’re good at. We don’t have the resources to double-check every decision that somebody’s making. There’ll always be little things that don’t get picked up here and there. But it’s about letting those teams be on top of that, make those decisions, get those results for the customers. When I say customers, I don’t just mean the contract holder. I do mean, all the co-employees, all our customers, ultimately. We deliver first-class service, and in the end, it makes everybody look good. That’s all you can ask for.

Matt: Indeed, and so, then what’s the best way to plan for facilities management activities?

Oliver: I think for multi-site portfolios at large or large single sites as well, you’re only really going to be able to do that with effective CAFM or CMMS systems in place. On our portfolio, we worked with SFT 20. Obviously, we have our asset lists. We code them all up in terms of their SFT 20 codes, and then the software pings out maintenance schedules and frequencies and things like that. And then we work with our M&E service provider, to make sure we’ve properly captured that. We double-check things. Of course, review constantly. An engineer will go to the site and say, “You’ve still got this. We’ve moved it, or we’ve replaced it, or we’ve changed something. So, we need to reinput those frequencies.” And so, that’s about using the tools that we’ve got at our disposal. There’s no way in a million years, we could manually do that, as part of a team. It is down to the software that does that, that sends those jobs to our technicians across the portfolio to do the work. And then feeds that data back in real-time to us so we can keep an eye on it.

We absolutely check to see halfway through the month, have we done roughly half of our PPMs? Are we tracking okay? Do we look like we’re going to hit targets? Again, it’s about making sure you’ve got the correct data up front, it’s in the systems. Any errors are quickly flagged, and then you can adjust that. You’re not getting to the end of the month and opening up and going, “Oh, hang on, how come we haven’t done 15% of what we’re meant to do?”

I think for some activities and things that are less regular, you don’t necessarily have to have that real-time feedback. A lot of our cleaning periodicals are quite predictable and they’re done quarterly. It’s sort of the last quarter of every month. Again, that’s left to our service partners to plan those in. They will come to us for big things. We only do it at Colt House at headquarters, if we’re doing like a window cleaner or something like that. They’ll say, “Oh, look, is there going to be a big event? Are there external guests? Do you know if there are any VIP visits in the next six weeks or so?” And we’ll schedule that clean just before that, so the buildings looking as good as it can be. And so that’s sort of how we run that. And then, again, for reactive works or minor projects, we’ve got a help desk, and we run it all through our CAFM system. Again, the only way to stay on top of reactive jobs is that real-time reporting, because we’ve all the will in the world, and nobody remembers everything. The only way that you’re going to get that done, you’re going to get those items ticked off, is that you’ve got that live report, you’ve got that live report, you’ve got that live dashboard and that feedback.

And then for project stuff, we don’t have any programme management software that we use. If we’re doing a project, we would engage a company or something like that. So we’d use their programme management, we’d work to their timeframes on that. We then communicate that back into the business. Within this BMS upgrade that we did, we made sure we did it all out of hours. So we weren’t taking controllers down, when people were having meetings and things like that. But for our items, we always check with site management where relevant or Colt House with myself really, and into EAs and PAs to make sure there are no VIP visits. Because again, you don’t want to be drilling holes in walls and making loads of noise, if you’ve got somebody coming over from important clients or things like that.

Again, we do most of that work out of hours. But where it makes sense and where we can be sensible to do things in hours, we just make sure that we’re not disturbing anything. People can put up with five minutes of noise happening across the whole day, we just want to make sure that that’s not when the CEO is doing a presentation to whoever if that makes sense.

Matt: Obviously, you manage a small team. How do you think facilities management teams should go about driving appreciation for those maintenance teams across a business? And particularly, with the top management? What’s the best way of doing that?

Oliver: I think it’s about celebrating success. And not just internally, but sharing that across an organisation. I’ll be honest, it’s something we’re still working on. We’ve got good celebrating the small events that we’ve talked about. We’ve got a really good reach of sharing all the work that our teams have done to support that, off the back of the columns and the information that goes out from who’s ever organised the event. They’re very visible those things, particularly if they’re all hands, or they’re quite large and involve quite a lot of people. We partner with different teams.

Colt does this thing every year where in the run-up to Christmas, we do a children’s Christmas party. There’s soft play, and there’s fancy dress, and there are Scalextric and all those sorts of things. We get a lot of recognition back from that. It’s very, very visible in the business. It’s about, for me, how do we also share what our maintenance teams do? Because really, if they’re doing their job, excellently, not they shouldn’t be seen, but you shouldn’t know about it, because everything’s working. There’s no problems. There’s no issues. There’s no like, “Oh, wow, that’s changed.” Because you should come in, everything in your building works. And you can just get on and do your job.

Colt has Workplace. So like Facebook, but for corporate businesses. We post a lot on there. I’ve started not just doing the front-of-house activations that we do, not just posting about the events, but we installed a new extract fan in the kitchen. The brand-new hood, as well as part of that, and some back plates. I posted that on the workplace, and tied it into things that were relatable to say, “Oh look, there’ll be extra delicious food offerings because we’re able to cook more things.” There are some good things like that, but I’ll be honest, I’m, I’m still trying to work out how I make a gas tightness test or fix the dosing system, on the walls, on your open water systems. I’m not certain how we quite get that engagement yet, but I’m trying to think of good ways. If anyone’s got any things that they do around that, we would be open to suggestions and some help.

Matt: What’s the best way to implement an effective facilities management plan for you then?

Oliver: Unless it goes back to the question a little bit earlier, it’s about understanding what you’re trying to do for whom, when and how, basically. And then once you’ve got that, and you’ve got that understanding, you stand about using your CAFM tools to organise and schedule it for you. Again, I open to, to how others do this. I’m not sure that you can do any of this effectively, without those software tools, to do a lot of the scheduling for you. As far as I’m concerned, our teams, certainly from a facilities management perspective, but also from our service providers. What we’re there to do and what they’re there to do is to provide the expert advice, when they look at something, when they get through a bit of care. They’ve done their PPM, does it need any additional works? Is it all rocking and rolling fine? It’s to then feed that information back to us.

In terms of the actual implementation of a plan, that’s got to come from, let’s say you’re working to SFT 20, that’s your plan for your hard services assets. For your soft services, there’s a little bit more discretion that’s dependent on, from our perspective, what the client’s budget is and what the client’s expectations are. We have a nice office and we provide a high a high service level. But by the same token, we’re not investment banking head office. We’re not Google or Facebook, or somebody like that. We have a large cleaning team, but there’s not 24/7, 365 days of the year. It’s slightly more limited than that. That’s based on budgets and what you do and things like that. And then you need to look at your data and what the information is telling you, both in terms of customer surveys, the things that you can gain from sensors and things like smart cleaning and those sort of things. Ultimately, those decisions in terms of once you’ve decided what it is you want to do and how you want to do it, you are then leaning on your scheduling tools or your CAFM tools or your dashboards or your sensors to give you that gives you that schedule, and then you react around that as needs be or as there are extenuating circumstances.

Matt: Okay, and so you’re speaking about tools a little bit there. Moving into that conversation then, what do you think about software tools? Do you think they’re useful for managing facilities management activities?

Oliver: I think it’s absolutely essential. I think from some of our previous answers, it’s impossible to run an effective and productive team without some form of CAFM or CMMS tool, to delivering certainly, your hard services, and maintenance. I just don’t think that there’s a mechanism that you can do that effectively without those tools and having captured that data, and be sure that you’ve done it and prove that you’ve done it if you need to, in an audit or whatever that might be. If we expand out to wider things. Space utilisation, office occupancy, things like smart cleaning, all those sort of things. The feedback and the data from your IoT devices that were plugged into a lot of that, again, could help you make really informed decisions about levels of cleaning quite often and for a long time.

Look, we still do this on some of our sites as well. We clean the same every single day. But if we look at our occupancy, Mondays and Fridays we’re much, much quieter than we are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, particularly the head office. Does it make sense that we do very, very similar things every single day? Probably not actually. We started to look at, well, Mondays and Fridays, we sort of do more deeply in activities. Focused on really getting in there and doing some of the more intense stuff. And then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays is a much bigger focus on our bathrooms and our kitchens. Because we’ve got more people in, there’s more cups, there’s more plates, there’s more sandwiches left on the side, and those sorts of things. We focus more on our meeting rooms on those days, because we’re busier, the meeting rooms are used much more often. And then that means that on Mondays and Fridays, we have a much bigger focus on the desks and their breakout areas and things like that. The only reason we need those software tools, and we need that data to give us the information to make those decisions. I don’t think short of putting your fingers up in the air and guessing without a plethora of software tools, you can’t do that.

Matt: What about spreadsheets? Do you still use those? Or are they done?

Oliver: We do. Yeah, we do still use spreadsheets. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t. They are useful from time to time, particularly, if we find together a quick work in progress on a– There’s a handful of projects outside of our normal reporting structures. A client says, “I’ve got a meeting with the executive leadership team. They want to know what we’ve done in the last couple of weeks. Can you give us some quick headline things?” We would do a quick work in progress on an Excel spreadsheet, because you can put it together really quickly. You can share it. I think the universality of those tools means that that can be put into who’s ever reporting format they like, however they’re doing it. Do they want to put it into a Power BI dashboard? Are they throwing the table into a PowerPoint? Is it going into some other aggregator somewhere for them to do that?

We do use spreadsheets, as I said, more on an ad hoc basis. We don’t run our primary activities off of it. As I said, all our M&E goes through goes through a CAFM system. All our reactive jobs go through that. Even our projects, we have a project code on there that we would use the software tools for, but from time to time, if we’re working cross functionally with say like the IT team at Colt. We’ve just helped them install a load of teams units across Europe. Because they’re obviously there for the IT, we’re there for the workplace and building thought power and all those sorts of things. We did use Excel documents to manage expectations and timeframes on that, because it was just a shared doc on a SharePoint that everyone could jump in and just update delivery times and prices and quotes for contractors and things like that. From time to time, we do use them, but not as part of our core service delivery.

Matt: Okay, and so you got a modern business going on there. Has it always been like that? Or was that like a transition? Did you have some members of the team that needed to understand the technology? Or is it just always been smooth sailing in terms of tech?

Oliver: Yeah, so I’ve only been with Mace for 18 months. Since I’ve joined, yeah, absolutely. It’s always been like that. We’ve added some more things into our reporting platforms. When we report to the client, we principally us Power BI, with probably like an awful lot of organisations. And that’s where our respective CAFM tools and sustainability platforms and things like that put all in into a nice readable, easy to understand format. We’ve added more things. We started putting some more costings that come out of the finance platform and things like that. But since I’ve been at Mace, that’s how it’s been. I think that it’s certainly been that way for a number of years, and it’s part of the business proposition for outsourced service provider. You have to have some tools and systems in reporting metrics, because that’s what’s particularly for when you’re dealing at a senior level. We do all of Europe for Colt. That’s the snapshot that the clients need and the clients want.

To say that I’ve not been here through a transition of that. We’ve added more things to the existing platforms, but we’ve always worked off of that, certainly since I’ve been here. I’d say sort of steady change rather than a dramatic all Excel documents one day, and then the next day everything was on a all singing all dancing platform.

Matt: All right, and so are you been a fantastic guest for us, Oliver. You’ve given us some real great insights there. But now moving into the last round of the show, what are your top three tips for our listeners on effective facilities management?

Oliver: To be a bit cliched. It’s communicate, communication, can and then more communication. Obviously, you have to listen to what people want and what they’re saying, and that’s both from customers. Whether that’s the contracts holder, “the client” or employees, and, people that use the spaces that you manage. Also, from our suppliers. Ultimately, they’re the experts, and if they’re telling us something isn’t working or could be better or could be slightly more efficient, you should always have a look at that to see what see what it is that they’re suggesting and what the alternatives are, because that’s what you’ve engaged with them for.

Listening to people, isn’t just about exactly what people are telling you. It’s about what the data is saying. It’s well about how employees are using those spaces, how your maintenance teams are engaging in their tasks. Listening to what the data is telling you in partnership with what the customers are telling you verbally. That’s definitely the biggest tip.

I think, to expand a bit more, and to give you three. I would say, do what you say you will. I don’t think that needs too much explanation. And then the final thing, and this is something that is quite a focus for me, particularly is that the small things go a long way. Because some people call them the 5%. Some people call them the 3%, or the 1%, or whatever. My view is that when people come into the office or to a data centre or whatever, everything should just work. The fact that loads of work goes on behind that should be the expectation. Everything should work. It comes in, it makes sense. They know where they go in. All the IT works. They’ve got a desk. There’s power there, the toilets are clean, the kitchens are fully stocked.

The things that people notice are the little bits. And that’s about if someone asks you for something, it’s not as just saying, “I’ll log a job.” Or, “Go speak to help desk.” It’s, “Okay, that’s not a problem. I have a [inaudible 00:28:10] We carry things around for people, we help people do set ups, we do all sorts, and then we go back later and login and sign in and make sure it gets closed. Because actually, they’re the things people see, and they’re the things people remember. And they’re like, “Oh, yeah, the other day I was doing this, this and this, and somebody in the workplace team helped me do this even if it wasn’t their area.” We help people occasionally with meeting rooms in terms of the AV because we’re always on site. I know how it works. It’s not my responsibility to do that. That sits with IT. But if I can do it, why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t I show somebody? Because that saves someone from IT having to come down and do it. And then conversely, I hope that that breeds relationships with the IT team. So, when they’re doing their meeting room setups and their checks, they go, “Oh, this isn’t working. We’ll let facilities know.” Or even better, they’ll get it sorted themselves, and then just let us know that they did it. I think that’s the thing. So those little things, people remember them, and that makes your life easier in the long run.

Matt: Okay, and so wrapping the show up and quickly, what’s your favourite saying or quote on FM?

Oliver: It’s quite a simple one. It’s, wonderful is all the little things that we can do that make a difference. It’s not specifically a workplace quote. It came from a gentleman called Peter Merritt, who, if you google him now, he is like an inspirational speaker and does the company away days and team events, and sort of things. His background. Well, originally a hotelier, and then moved into workplace and corporate real estate and those sort of things. He was doing five-star workplace experience buildings and things like that in the early 90s, long before most of the market was even aware that that’s what they wanted. It’s something that’s stuck with me for quite a while. Certainly, I’ve met him on a couple of occasions when I was working out in Australia. He is a really infectious person. The passion that I have certainly, for workplace experience definitely comes not just from him, but certainly from people like him, whose whole ethos is workplaces and facilities management is ultimately customer service. We are almost in the hospitality game. So we have to be as good as when you walk through the doors. I can’t think of a fancy hotel now. But when you walk through the doors of the Ritz, or the Dorchester or somewhere like that, what do you get? How do they make you feel? You can’t do all of those things, because there’s not necessarily the budget for all those things. But the little things are mostly free, and they can be done. It’s just about time and effort and turning up. Yeah.

Matt: Marvellous. Well, there we go, everyone. What some incredible insights and information and advice there from you, Oliver. Thanks so much again for being a guest. It’s been really insightful.

Oliver: Thank you very much for having me. It was a pleasure.

Matt: No worries. All right, and thanks to you guys again for being here with us on this episode. We’ll see you on the next one. Cheers.