How do you deliver innovation in facilities management?
This post was created by Andrew Wilkinson, Strategy and Marketing Director, Sodexo Corporate Services.
It’s hard to quantify something as abstract as ‘innovation’; yet, despite this, more and more customers are demanding it as part of an integrated offer.
When entering into a long term partnership, our clients want to know that their facilities management provider can adapt with them and innovate the way services are delivered to create more value.
However, in practice this proves quite difficult. How do you demonstrate that you can be innovative and resolve an issue that might not yet even exist? Demonstrating your track record on innovation is one thing, but proving that you can continue to deliver new ideas, over time, may well be more challenging.
So other than meeting (or exceeding) our clients expectations, why is innovation so important? Well, Michael Porter identified two sources of competitive advantage: cost advantage (delivering the same benefits as your competitors but at a lower cost) and differentiation advantage (delivering benefits that exceed those of competing products).
The FM industry has in the past focussed a lot of its efforts on competing on cost. However, as the world economies, on the whole, recover from recession, the focus will quickly shift from cost to value. This is a great opportunity for our industry, but it will require a change in mind-set and maybe even skills.
At Sodexo we’ve been putting steps in place to turn the abstract language around innovation into delivering predictable value creation for our clients and consumers. If we want to be a strategic partner with our clients, then we need to deliver strategic outcomes.
To do this we have focused on two key areas:
1. Innovation process
2. Culture and mind-set
Firstly, as an organisation employing over 400,000 people, we have both a huge resource of good ideas but also a challenge in capturing them. Therefore, helping people to understand the link between business strategy and how innovation might enable it is the key.
As part of my role as Strategy and Marketing Director for Sodexo Corporate Services, I am committed to driving a culture of innovation. To maintain this commitment, we have developed an Innovation Cycle which integrates our long term vision, sub-sector market analysis, product and account development plans and quality of life values. This planning tool is helping us to manage outcomes and ensures that the ideas we are developing are aligned to the markets where we operate.
Secondly, the process of innovation needs to be fuelled by creativity and ideas. For us this means creating the right environment for our people to be entrepreneurial and up-skilling our FM professionals to a level where they are able to use techniques from across our global business and adapt them for their customers. It is also about giving our employees the freedom (within a framework) to devise new ways of delivering our services based on local needs; whether that’s working with external partners to trial new equipment and technology, or creating new menus that reflect our quality of life proposition.
In Sodexo, our unique values of Service Spirit, Team Spirit and Spirit of Progress drive us to deliver excellence for our clients and this drive for excellence in service means finding every opportunity for improvement.
We believe there is still plenty scope to innovate in facilities management and that this opportunity is closely linked to quality of life. A survey carried out amongst global leaders by Sodexo indicated that over 90% believed that quality of life is set to become more important within their organisation; while a further 53% of those corporate business leaders surveyed believed that the integration of younger generations into the workplace will be the catalyst for this change.
There is an opportunity for facilities managers to work collaboratively with clients and consumers to support the transition to better ways of working; at Sodexo will we continue to invest in our people to ensure they are doing this in a way that maximises value for our customers.