ISO 41001:2018 Facility Management System – Three years on – Problem solved or just another standard?
In late 2018, the long-awaited International Standard Organization published ISO 41001:2018 – Facility Management system – Requirements with guidance for use. Some two and a half years later, we look at whether it has been a success story or whether it has failed to live up to its pre-launch expectation.
The questions I will answer are:
- Should we pursue ISO 41001 and become certified?
- What is the certification process and the stages involved?
- What are the benefits of certification and will it add value?
In Part 1, dated June 2019, I looked at early indicators of how the standard was received by the profession and industry, less than a year after it was launched. At the time, I experienced varying opinions from around the Globe. It was evident however that the ‘FM Mature’ countries were not adopting the standard as quickly as its pre-launch expectation suggested. There were numerous reasons for this, mainly due to a) a lack of awareness of the standard; or b) organisations were already certified to any one of several other associated ISO Management System Standards (MSS), notably ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 and that until they felt a need or were being persuaded that ISO 41001 was a must, they would refrain for the time being. It should be noted that pursuing any ISO MSS is a resource intensive and time-consuming process that also involves business disruption and a great degree of business process re-engineering. Regardless of this fact, less ‘FM Mature’ frontier countries have been quicker to embrace this w standard and have viewed it as a way of demonstrating compliance and projecting themselves as ‘exemplar’ within the FM space.
My original intention for Part 2 was to articulate compelling reasons to become certified to ISO 41001, after all, I represent the UK’s British Standards Institution (BSI) on ISO’s Technical Committee 267, the body responsible for developing the suite of FM Standards, and firmly believed that it was the answer to advancing the FM profession in a way in which FM could position itself alongside, quality, occupational health & safety and environmental standards and demonstrates strategic value within an organization.
Less than two years later, the world has been shaken to its core by the COVID-19 pandemic, its impact on society in general and of course on almost every business, throughout the world with regular lockdowns being widespread everywhere.
Focus on ISO 41001 has therefore understandably shifted during this time to more reactive approaches that needed to deal with the threats of the pandemic and associated workplace related knock-on effects. During this time, I am also pleased to report however that the excellent work of ISO TC 267 under the stewardship of Stan Mitchell and now Duncan Waddell as the respective Chairs of the committee is preparing the next set of FM ISO Standards, either published or in the making, including standards covering FM Strategy, FM Policy, Influencing Behaviours for better FM Outcomes, Sustainability in FM, Performance Measurement in FM to name but a few. The committee is aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and other Technology-based standards are also being developed by the committee. Indeed, FM is and will be in a far better place through the sterling work of the authors and contributors of the TC 267.
So, fast forward to Q2, 2021, how is ISO 41001 currently positioned as we hope to see light at the end of the pandemic and prepare ourselves to return to work where hopefully, normal practices will resume, or will they?
Through being an active contributor to ISO’s TC 267, and an ISO 41001 Certified Lead Implementer Professional, an ISO 41001 trainer on behalf of BSI and some 30+ years of FM experience, I consider that I am reasonably qualified to be able to answer these questions with an honest opinion.
1. Should we pursue ISO 41001?
With my ISO hat on, I would say absolutely yes, as it’s the right thing to do for an FM organization. Without my ISO hat on, I would say, absolutely yes, if you plan it properly and develop a SMART Facility Management System (FMS). What is the difference I hear you ask? The difference is significant. Pre-ISO 41001 when organisations adopted what is possibly ISO 41001’s closest cousin in ISO 9001 supplemented by ISO 14001 for Environmental Management and OHSAS 18001 (now ISO 45001) for Health & Safety, the system; was cumbersome, involving several MSS and was never a perfect fit for FM services. ISO 41001 has been developed specifically for the FM sector and is therefore our very own tailored FMS. Part of the problem we face today is the same problem that was being muted in 2019 – it’s a chicken and egg situation! The legacy ISO MSSs still exist and therefore the interest in adopting ISO 41001 has not manifest as I expected, partly due to the legacy but linked to this is the lack of widespread awareness and appreciation of the standard.
Developing or frontier countries in certain regions have been quick to adopt the standard as they consider it as a way of closing the gap between the more mature FM countries and regions and themselves. The widespread adoption of the standard is particularly true in the Middle East and in parts of Asia.
As the world starts to emerge from the pandemic, organisations will seek assurance from their non-core supporting service (FM) that robust systems exist with appropriate controls to safeguard potential future risks and threats to businesses, people and places, the foundation of what is essentially FM within each organization. Indeed, after salaries and arguably the IT infrastructure, property, property related costs and FM is the biggest expense to an organization, so it makes perfect sense to insist on building a foundation and structure that caters for all FM in its richest tapestry on a robust Management System.
ISO 41001:2018 provides a wonderful baseline which is constructed from first principles. These are:
- Context of the organization – understanding the needs of your organization from an FM perspective.
- Needs and expectations of interested parties – whether internal or external, your organization will have numerous interested parties which will interface to some greater or lesser extend with the FM function. Their needs need to be captured, documented and catered for
- Determine the scope of the FM system – apply a ‘risk and opportunities’-based approach to developing your FMS.
Developing your FM model around these three core principles is the correct way of doing developing your scope. It does not rely on legacy matters nor does it purely roll-over from previous years, as is often the case. It will be fresh, fit for purpose and lean in nature but with a sharp focus on risks and opportunities.
Essentially, there are three main reasons why organisations would wish to pursue the standard: 1) to become certified and recognised accordingly; 2) To genuinely seek a better way of delivering, managing and administering FM services; or c) both.
If it is purely for 1) then it is usually to achieve the ‘badge of honour’ and any business re-engineering necessary will be viewed as a ‘necessary evil’. The organization will learn little form the process and it is unlikely that the certification would enable positive change, only limited change at best. Furthermore, if senior management are not totally committed and engagement and buy-in is not obtained from your colleagues and those that will be responsible for operating within the framework then there is a high probability it will fail.
If, however an organization starts its ISO 41001 FMS journey from a desire to establish a robust structure within an appropriate framework and also targeting business improvement, then there is every chance that the benefits of not just certification but the intended benefits of the FMS will manifest. Why is this so? The answer is that facility management is a supporting role where, according to ISO 41011: 2017 Facility management – Vocabulary, is 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”. Ultimately, its all about providing the right support to the core business, not for any other reason.
If we consider the Standard within the defined Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle that it derives from, the starting point will be the ‘planning’ stage and specifically to understand and establish the context of the organization, including the interested parties, as already stated. More often than not, outside of ISO 41001, FM plans do not usually start from this point, they usually start from a position of ‘this is what we’ve done before’ By examining what we need to do to satisfy customers and any interested parties, both internal and external, we can start planning around the precise needs of the organization and tailor the facility management service accordingly. As we emerge from the pandemic, striving to plan and strategize to steer our organisations on the right path, this is an ideal time to implement the standard, after all ISO 41001 is intended as a framework, not a rigid structure and so the initiatives and objectives can be factored into the FMS accordingly. It should be considered as the central fulcrum of the FM plans and operations.
When a long-standing client asked me whether I thought they could manage their FM operation themselves after many years of outsourcing on a large scale, my answer was ‘no’, as not only had they outsourced all the FM services for many years, but they had also out tasked their processes and systems over several years and they did not have a base point for managing their own hybrid FM aspirations……but, by baselining their objectives and goals within the framework of ISO 41001 and developing their plans from first principles, then, yes, they could certainly achieve this.
Although FM has existed well before the arrival of the standard, ISO 41001 provides a fantastic opportunity for every organization to deliver what the business expects of it and to do it in a value and performance based demonstrable way.
It is also worth noting that the standard took two years to prepare with inputs from numerous facility management experts from all over the world. It is a well planned and structured approach to planning, delivering and managing facility management services. It has also been developed more so for the demand or client organisations as opposed to the FM service supplier.
Yes, of course you should implement ISO 41001: 2018 Facility Management System for your FM business needs and to satisfy your organisations and other stakeholders’ expectations.
2. What are the certification stages?
There are several preliminary stages to consider in implementing any ISO MSS and ISO 41001 is no different. Ultimately it will be a commitment by the organization in more ways than one, it will be resource intensive and will require senior management commitment.
The initial stages will involve, asking the usual questions of:
- why do we need to do this?
- What is the cost?
- What will it involve?
- How long will it take?
- Do we have competent internal resources, or do we need a consultant?
- Will we get senior management commitment?
- What are the benefits?
Following a positive decision to proceed, another key question should be:
- Shall we become certified or test the water, develop and apply the system until it is systematic and integrated across the business and then go for certification?
Either way, the next step will be to undertake a baseline audit, a gap analysis that will serve as an objective evaluation of your organisation’s current arrangements against the requirements of ISO 41001.
Each section of the FMS Manual (FMSM) has sub-sections which will define the requirements. The FMSM will be a descriptive document which describes how the organization structures itself around the requirements of each section. This is supported by and substantiated by ‘Documented Information’. Documented information refers to all the important information within the business that must be kept organized and controlled.
This includes documents and records. Documents will include any of the following:
- Technical documents
- Process maps etc.
Usually, if an organization is already accredited to another MSS, such as ISO 9001, some common vocabulary would already exist to satisfy the common sections within the MMS hierarchical structure. This can therefore be reproduced quickly to satisfy the equivalent requirements of ISO 41001, but more likely with some revision required to satisfy FM as opposed to another service. There will also inevitably be an element of tailoring form say a pure quality, environmental or health & safety aspect to FM.
As a rule of thumb, I would estimate that any MSM produced since 2015, probably provides between 30% - 40% of the overall requirement to satisfy ISO 41001, particularly if it has been prepared for a service organization.
Either way, the baseline Gap Analysis will tell you how much work you will need to align your MSS to the requirements of ISO 41001.
Once the gap is known, including the actions necessary to close the gaps; senior management commitment established, and resources identified a programme will be established to develop the Facility Manual and the supporting documented information.
Critical to success will be a) obtaining senior management commitment; and b) establishing competent resource(s) that has the required capacity to do what is necessary to prepare the FMSM.
It is at this time that you should also seek proposals from and appoint an accredited certifying body to conduct the external audit.
Following completion of the FMSM and the documented information the next step will be to conduct an internal audit. The purpose of the internal audit is to assess the effectiveness of the facility management system against the organizations needs and the requirements of the standard. It also serves as a mock external audit, which will follow by the certifying body.
It is worth noting that the certifying body would like to witness at least 3 months use of the FMS and evidence of this will be tested during the external audit. This should therefore be factored into the programme.
The external audit arranged with the certifying body will involve either a site visit to a virtual audit and will cover the following:
- Testing the effectiveness of process and policy
- Adherence to compliance and statutory requirements
- Process flow analysis from policy to records
- Staff interviews
- Checking facts and evidence
- Prepare audit report
Subject to the outcome of the external audit the auditor will pass or fail the audit. The auditor may also issue minor or major observations or nonconformities and will expect the organization to address these within a reasonable time which will be mutually agreed with the external auditor.
The certificate will be valid for three-years and will also comprise annual surveillance audits to ensure that the organization continues to comply with the requirements of the standard.
3. What are the benefits of certification to ISO 41001:2018 and will it deliver value?
There are indeed many benefits to any organisation in adopting and becoming certified to an ISO MSS. Research carried out by both British Standards Institution (BSI) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) identify several business benefits for every organization.
Whilst most of the research has been carried out on the primary ISO MSS, ISO 9001, Quality Management Systems, transferable benefits would be true to a greater or lesser extent to ISO 41001. Its fair to say that the results are compelling and speak for themselves.
Whilst there is no disguising the effort required to set up a new MSM with associated documented information, it will pay dividends in the long run. Implementing an effective and robust MSM for FM will help you to focus on the important areas of your business, save money and improve efficiency. The management processes that will be established throughout your business will provide a sound foundation, leading to increased productivity and professionalism. This in turn will improve your customer satisfaction.
As with ISO 9001, I believe that ISO 41001 will soon become the internationally accepted and stated facility management standard, which, for similar reasons to ISO 9001, will be the eventual ‘FM’ expectation of every organization as the norm, much in the same way as the other key MSSs. It will undoubtedly deliver many benefits and provide competitive advantage to the host organization. This said, there will be those that will always doubt or challenge the need for the standard as the foundation for the facility management operations within an organization.
The challenges and my corresponding responses are:
Challenges to ISO 41001: 2018 Facility Management System
Response to the Challenges
I didn’t know ISO 41001 existed
This is about the marketing and promotion of the Standard. ISO 9001 started slowly. It will gather momentum as it is the only true global standard for FM.
We don’t have the time or the expertise to implement it
Work with a reputable consultant that may develop and implement it on your behalf.
It costs us too much to become accredited and we don’t see the benefit
This is a very small cost when you consider the overall cost of FM and all property related costs being as much as 30% of the organization’s overall expenditure. The glass half-full side considers the significant cost savings it will achieve.
We are already accredited to another ISO MSS
As already stated, this is the only true global standard for FM services. Other standards can easily integrate into ISO 41001. It will not work the other way around.
We are committed to following other standards or good practice guides
As the above response. It doesn’t matter, keep using them but integrate them into your FM baseline Standard.
Too much of an overhead and administrative burden
The answer to this could be yes, if you are not doing it properly. The time spent planning will be worthwhile and surely having a robust process that works is better than having informal processes which are loosely linked together at best.
The certification process is complicated and takes too long
Not really, refer to the certification process flow in this paper. It is straight forward.
Becoming certified takes time and effort
It won’t happen overnight but for the effort that you put in, you will be rewarded many times over, once it is implemented.
Certification requires greater accountability
Yes, why, does that scare you? If so, good luck to you!
Instead of focussing on the challenges of implementing an ISO 41001 based FMS, lets consider the benefits. Take it from me, someone that has significant experience of the standard, both from a research, implementation and training perspective, if the key dependencies are established and addressed then it is all upside. The dependencies are:
- Commitment of senior management throughout the development process
- Adequate time for planning and development
- Appropriate resources deployed and external consultancy support as required
- A budget is allocated
- Governance through robust programme and project management
- Accurate planning stages with the organization and interested parties
- All parts of the standard are addressed within the FMSM
- The responses given to the challenges above
Having addressed the challenges and the recipe for success, let us look at the clear benefits from developing an ISO 41001 based model.
- Provides standard and integrated FM approach and system across the business
- Demonstrates the value of FM to the business
- Puts you in control of your FM business
- Improves FM business performance
- Deploys effective stakeholder communications
- Improves reporting standards
- Manage your supply chain with confidence
- Optimises your FM resources and suppliers
- Enhances customer satisfaction
- Create cost savings and working efficiencies
- Effective measurement of your FM performance
- Covid-19/viruses emergency preparedness & business continuity
- Mitigate/reduce business risk
- Minimises mistakes
- Meet your CSR & environmental targets
- Encourage innovation and continuous improvement
With so many clear benefits to adopting ISO 41001, it is difficult to accept the reasons for not doing so, at least the principles and framework of the standard, if not seeing it through to certification. I have discussed this point with many senior representatives from various global entities, more and more are starting to get it and appreciate the benefits it will bring.
Although FM provides so much value to the core business in what it does and achieves, it continues to be considered by many as a silent partner at best, at worst, a cost cutting commodity that is always a cost saving or cost reduction target. Regardless of how its perceived, the benefits of ISO 41001:2018 Facility Management System are unquestionable. The advantages by far outweigh any perceived disadvantages.
As the facility management role has evolved in emerging from the pandemic, with ever increasing responsibility and risk, organisations will once again turn to facility management for answers. There is no doubt that, as a profession and industry, we will rise to the challenge again, but our work will be so much easier if we have a solid baseline to work from.
Integration of technology and sustainability targets into FM will be the next big challenges which we will need to embrace in addition to the post-pandemic enforced challenges and changes that will be thrust upon us.
The time has never been better to start your journey. Don’t delay, do it now!
In Part 3, we will review innovative approaches to how we can embrace the benefits of other allied standards or good practice guides in an integrated way that will provide organisations with a firm baseline to build around ISO 41001. This will enable organisations to benefit from quick wins, evident in other Standards into the overall Facility Management System Manual. Prime examples would be the Standards around quality, environmental, occupational health & safety, sustainability, social accountability, asset and energy management. Of particular interest will be ISO/PAS 45005: 2020 – Occupational health & safety management – General guidelines for safe working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evbex is an estates, property and facilities management consultancy, advisory, technology and training company that is headquartered in the UK and has bases in Asia, the Middle East and North America.
We are an ISO 41001: 2018 Facility Management System, Certified Lead Implementer Professional and an Associate Consultant of the British Standards Institution. We deliver ISO 41001 training programmes on behalf of BSI and support organizations all over the world to implement the standard.
In June-2021, Evbex will be launching its ISO 41001: 2018 Management System Platform as part of FM Navigate, an FM Technology solution that serves the demand organization (https://www.evbex.com/fm-navigate-facility-management-software/)
FM Navigate – Management System is a comprehensive cloud-based ISO management system, which enables you to select a management system of your choice. Once you have made your selection you can develop and build your MSS within FM Navigate using ISO’s high-level management structure. The platform allows you to allocate roles, responsibilities and authors to develop each section or element as appropriate. You can select your internal auditor and when ready, select your external auditor to proceed towards certification in your chosen MSS. The external auditor can access the platform through an ‘auditor’s portal’ and will therefore be able to carry out remote audits.
Regardless of whether you wish your Management System to be certified, you can also use this as your Management System framework to introduce a consistent and professional approach across your business.