Integrated facilities management (IFM) customers value having a single point of contact and, in most cases, feel their arrangements have met their service quality objectives, according to latest interview research. But they also highlight areas for improvement and the merits of alternative forms of provision – in particular for more demanding needs.
This study involved in-depth interviews with 15 senior-level customers who have – or recently had – IFM contracts with providers including MITIE, ISS, Balfour Beattie Workplace, Initial and OCS. It explored what works well and what does not, customers’ future intentions and whether they see IFM as the right model for public sector roll-out.
The customers we spoke to regarded being able to call on one supplier who could sort out a wide range of problems as very important, saving them significant management time and cost. Most customers felt that their IFM providers had achieved the service quality objectives that they had set and that providers deliver consistently to a good standard across a broad range of soft FM services.
However, some customers reported finding IFM providers struggle to cope with some more demanding requirements. This included more technical hard FM areas and also those environments, such as hospitals, where services are more critical to outcomes than in, say, an office environment. The culture of IFM providers – felt to involve satisfying, rather than delighting, customers – was also criticised.
Most customers accepted the need, and even desirability, of IFM providers bringing in sub-contractors for specific tasks – and recognised that their buying power delivered benefits when they did so. But there was some resistance to the ‘broker’ model – under which an IFM provider outsources delivery to a broad range of sub-contractors – from customers who felt their provider had not added enough value to justify a mark-up of 2-3%.
Unexpectedly, the majority of customers we spoke to felt that IFM had not met their cost-saving objectives. Several counselled against adopting IFM purely to achieve cost savings believing that better management of operations was more likely to succeed.
In-sourcing is considered by a significant proportion of customers to be a valid and cost-effective alternative. Most believe it would be feasible if they invested in building up in-house skills and, interestingly, did not see contracts to be a barrier, given notice periods and break clauses. Those who had brought services back in-house did not appear to have regrets.
When we asked if IFM was right for the public sector a common answer was ‘Probably, but not yet’ Some of the leading players who have recently made acquisitions to broaden their service range were felt to need a bit more time to bed down to enable them to consistently deliver quality service via a single point of contact.
“This work showed us that customers see the strengths of the IFM model, in particular, the single point of contact.“ says Frank Proud, director of Apex Insight. “But they also highlight weaknesses from their experience and feel there is more work to be done before IFM can consistently meet the most demanding requirements, such as those found in public service settings like hospitals.”

The full report of findings: “UK Integrated Facilities Management: lessons from experience” is available from

Frank Proud 020 7100 7239
07904 486 525

Notes for editors
Apex Insight is an independent provider of research, analysis and advice covering business services markets in the UK and Europe. It supports managers, investors and advisers in making better business decisions.