4 Pillars of Communication & Delivering FM Services to the Crown Estate

Episode 13

Facilities Management Podcast


About this episode

Tarniah Thompson, Head of FM and Sustainability at SHW, reveals the four key pillars of communication used to help build FM culture during her time at Co-op, SHW, and when delivering FM services to the Crown Estate.


Matt: Hi, everyone. Great to have you back with us. This week our guest is Tarniah [Thompson]. Tarniah is the Head of FM and Sustainability at SHW Property. Tarniah has worked with well-known companies including Workspace Group, Co-op and JLL. And now with SHW Property. Tarniah has over 10 years’ experience in both soft and hard FM, and has been responsible for FM service delivery on clients’ portfolio such as the Crown Estate and Columbia Threadneedle investments. So, it’d be great to get her take on facilities management. Welcome to the show, Tarniah. Thanks for coming on. How’s everything going? How are you?

Tarniah: I’m fine. Thanks, Matt. Yourself?

Matt: I’m very good. Thanks. I can’t complain. I can’t complain. We’re moving on. We’re moving on.

Tarniah: Yeah.

Matt: Let’s dive straight in and not keep the people waiting.

Tarniah: Go for it.

Matt: How do you go about setting a good facilities management culture?

Tarniah: Oh, well, first of all, communication is key. I think that a lot of people within facilities management think that you have to know M&E, or your HVAC system, air conditioning unit. Where I think for me, it’s communication. Communication, in terms of basically communicating with the people and building the occupiers, the contractors, to the team.

There’s four main pillars, really in facilities management, which is people, processes, buildings – or the portfolio – and technology. And once you’re communicating in each of those pillars, I think it builds for good facilities management culture.

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

Tarniah: First and foremost, I think having a really good PPM. When I say PPM, I’m assuming everyone knows what the acronym is, but it’s a planned preventative maintenance plan. So, PPM. Basically, knowing exactly having, your works programmed in. And also as well, utilising and tracking your facilities maintenance and your compliance. We do that by using technology now, but it used to once upon a time be all in spreadsheets. For us, we use a system called PRISM, which is provided through a company called Tetra, then we use their compliance system. And that helps us track and build our PPMs off the back of that. Like when I say utilising the capabilities of IoT.

Matt: Yeah, well, we will definitely come back to that conversation around technology and spreadsheets. That’s definitely going to be an interesting one to get your take on. What do you think about moving on slightly from that subject, then? How do you think facilities management teams could or should go about driving appreciation for their teams across the business, and particularly with top management? Because we know that sometimes, or a lot of the time, they don’t get that sort of recognition that they deserve? And kind of work in the background. How can they go about building more awareness and driving that appreciation?

Tarniah: Yeah, 100%. I mean, they always say FMs are silent assassins as such. I think that in the FM world, certainly, you’re sharing your vision, really. For me, even if I work with a quiet base in and even internally is understanding what the client wants first. I know you said in terms of appreciation for the team. But if your vision and your goal aligns with the business and the stakeholders, then you automatically get buy in and therefore the appreciation then normally aligns itself. Once you set your vision and have your clear goals and align with that, the driving of the appreciation doesn’t really need to be forthcoming in that sense. So, then It’s about how you communicate that.

Sometimes in top management, they lose sight of what’s actually happening on the ground. You might have, for example, a high level of risk actions to complete, and report goes out of that high level of risk actions. And then your team or the FM team drive it down to a low percentage. It’s then basically communicating that back up to your top-level management and saying, “Actually, look, this is what we set out to do. This is where we’re at the moment. And this is the difference.” It’s basically communication really along the way, and then encouraging that teamwork and getting people’s buy-in.

Matt: So, then, moving on from that, what do you think is the best way to implement an effective facilities management plan?

Tarniah: Before you say that, it’s a kind of briefly, obviously, we’re looking from the before. But communication is best way to implement a facilities management plan. Looking at what the goals are, what you’re setting out to achieve. For example, it might be an office that is looking to be more DDA compliant in terms of wheelchair friendly. It might be the company’s vision to make a workplace fun.

If I elaborate on that, how do you make a workplace fun? So, the occupants in that office might put in a pool table, or how they increase productivity, looking into the methodology behind that. And then also, looking at how that feeds into the bigger picture because you can have a lot of drive in terms of saying, “Right. Okay, this is the facilities management plan, but to make it effective, it has to all tie in.” A lot of companies these days are being driven by sustainability. So, they want to look at energy efficiency. How can they bring that into your field to make it effective? It’s pulling it all together.

Matt: Okay, interesting take on that one. And so then going back to the conversation around software tools and technology and spreadsheets and everything else. What do you think about software tools? What’s your opinion on them? Do you think that they’re useful for managing facilities, management activities? And how so?

Tarniah: Yeah, 100%. The software technology, I mean, out there is astounding. Do I think they’re useful? Yes. 100%. However, they are only good as the people using them. If, for example, it is plugging in the data and it’s coming from human plugging in data, the data is only good as the human putting it in. It’s funny. We’ve mentioned this as I’m working on a project at the moment, in helping one of our clients obtain a grasp rating. Basically, it’s a lot heavy on data and inputting data. One thing that we’ve installed at the moment is AMR, automatic metre readers. We’ve got them on some of the properties, which is fantastic. Collecting the data from the energy consumption being used on the properties is fab. We’re getting the data live. Again, as it’s coming in.

However, getting the data prior to the technology being installed is very difficult. We’ve got numerical errors and gaps in data. Software is 100% needed and I think that’s where we need to be moving to.

Matt: Yeah. And so, then what about spreadsheets? I mean, do they still have a place? Or do you still use them? Are they going to be obsolete soon?

Tarniah: 100%. Yeah. No, definitely. They definitely have their place. I mean, if I use the example I was speaking about before. We’re monitoring data and extracting data, and putting it into a system and finding out where the gaps in the data usage is. But sometimes nothing beats a spreadsheet by pulling it off and actually seeing where that gap is. If you’re missing consumption for June and July and August, instead of going through a system where you’ve got an interface that doesn’t show you that pulling off a spreadsheet that’s behind it. You’re missing all the nice, lovely user interface and just seeing a raw spreadsheet where you need to plug that in. I mean, it’s priceless, and in comparison, to using something that has a nice swanky interface on it.

I think at the same time, it does have its time and its place. I think that with technology these days, you can have things that can show gaps in data like pie charts and that could be put in on a user interface, and therefore brings us back to the software element again.

Matt: They’re working in unison; spreadsheets are probably not going anywhere for the foreseeable.

Tarniah: No.

Matt: But they’re not as good as the tech. So, basically, interesting take. Moving on from that, what are your top three tips for our listeners on effective facilities management?

Tarniah: Right. Okay. Oh, it’s hard to think.

Matt: You can have more than three if you want. It’s up to you.

Tarniah: I’ll try and keep it to three. I will try. I always say that highly effective facilities managers are habitual planners. I would say, a top tip would be to have a maintenance plan, and communication, and to have sight of your stakeholder’s goals. I think without those three items, I think you don’t have an effective management plan because everything stems off the back of that. It all falls like a domino effect. I’d say those would be my top three. Was that three or was that four?

Matt: Hey, it’s all good. We’re not counting. It’s the quality of the information that matters, and it was high there. There we go. And so, Tarniah, you’ve been an amazing guest, given us some fantastic information, and some tips and insights here today. So, thanks for that. But then wrapping up the show, what’s your favourite saying or quote on FM for the listeners?

Tarniah: Okay, favourite quote. Yeah. All right. I’m gonna go with this one, because it’s a bit of me. I’ve got one. I know that I’m literally looking because I have a quote behind my screen here, and I see it every day because it’s for myself. So it is, we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. I believe that was an Albert Einstein quote.

A little bit of context for that is because I feel that and I think it’s perfectly fitting for the podcast is that we’re moving into an era where technology is being used. We mentioned earlier spreadsheets and moving away from that, and using different technologies in order to resolve the problems. I think a bit of innovation and a bit of innovative FM, I think is key. I’ll stick with that quote.

Matt: Well, that’s a great one. That is a great one. So, thank you. Thank you very much for that.

Tarniah: You’re welcome, Matt.

Matt: Thanks for being on the show, Tarniah. You’ve been a fantastic guest. It’s been a great episode and thanks for being on.

Tarniah: Thanks so much. Thanks for having me.