EuroFM: The Italian Job

(Written by Cathy Hayward)

Milano Congressi
Milano Congressi

It was an inauspicious start to a conference. Just days before delegates starting gathering in Milan for EFMC2016, the International Facility Management Association announced that through its partnership with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, it would be bringing its US expo –  World Workplace –  to Europe. It’s not the first time WW has been held in Europe, but, by holding it in May 2017 in Barcelona, the event appears to be in direct competition with next year’s EFMC, to be held in the same month. Or will EFMC be swallowed up by its American cousin? Time will tell.

But any tensions between the two groups were well hidden as various senior management and volunteers of IFMA Italia, IFMA US and EuroFM stood up to welcome more than 300 delegates to the stunning Milano Congressi on Wednesday morning (8 June) for EuroFM’s annual conference.

The sponsors slot can be a salesy affair – a necessary evil and an opportunity for delegates to switch off and check emails. But Peter Ankerstjerne, CMO of conference sponsor ISS, did a good job of introducing some of the conference’s main themes of change and technology. Describing the world’s largest taxi firm Uber, which hasn’t got any taxis, AirBnB the world’s largest accommodation provider, which doesn’t own any properties, and Facebook the world’s largest media company, which doesn’t produce any of its own content, he asked what the uberisation of facility management would look like. “The world’s largest service company might not have any employees,” for example”, he said, describing a model where companies would pitch for a pool of employee talent. The FM Twitterverse responded by asking how companies would foster teamwork, loyalty and high standards of service if staff were different every day.

Technology was the key to responding and challenging this disruptive force, Ankerstjerne said, setting out ISS’s smart buildings concept. This was a theme followed throughout the conference with presentations from several organisations who either offered smart buildings/ internet of things-style products, or who had trialed them in their organisation to great success. There was a general consensus that the technology is there, it’s just not always joined up enough to use the data to good effect. Data “caught up in the BMS” and not used elsewhere was a phrase used more than once.

Debra Ward
Debra Ward

Change was required, and several sessions explored what was forcing that change and how to deliver it. Debra Ward, MD of Condeco Software, looked at how the ageing workplace, urban migration, Gen Y, part-time employment, more women n the workplace in developing countries and technology were changing the workplace. FM used to be there to make sure buildings didn’t burn down. Now it’s about driving employees’ effectiveness by providing the best possible environment, she argued. “You have a different way of walking into a Travelodge and a Four Seasons. The environment shapes you.”

Ward discussed how to embed the right culture throughout the workplace to make change. Strong leadership, a vision that everyone can relate to, relentless communication, and embedding the vision in everything that you do was essential to engender cultural change.

One facilities professional setting out, almost singlehandedly, to change the market, is Anne Lennox Martin from FMP360 who shared her dream about less adversarial and more collaborative FM relationships. Through the FMP360 tool, both suppliers and clients measure one another and come to a joint view of performance. “If people at the top work in harmony, then those delivering service on the ground walk tall,” she said. The impact of the FMP360 tool was demonstrated by Deborah Rowland from the Ministry of Justice who talked about the impact on the organisation. “If you don’t have a shared vision with your suppliers, then you’re on the road to nowhere.”

Paul Wyton
Paul Wyton

Another British contributor was Dr Paul Wyton from Sheffield Hallam University who talked about sustaining change in FM through two case study experiences. For any change management programme to be successful, it needs to be clearly defined and communicated, well-planned and well-resourced and have leadership support. Organisations need to get people ready and willing to embrace change. In Wyton’s examples, even though the change wasn’t sustained across the organisation, there were local examples of success which made an impact. Sometimes we’re too focused on technology problems when actually social barriers are greater, he added.

EFMC is a truly multi-lingual and multi-cultural affair. On the study tour the day before (see box), delegates had come as far as Singapore, Thailand and Croatia. And within moments of entering the conference on Wednesday morning, chatter in French, German, Norweigan, Spanish, English and Italian all combined to create a healthy hum.

But that melting pot of cultures and languages also has a downside. While all of the presentations – apart from the IFMA Italia track – are in English, many of the presenters either don’t have a good command of the global business language, lack presentation skills, or both. Sometimes some excellent content was lost in translation or delegates had given up on a monotone speaker. The academic element is EFMC’s USP, but that too has its shortcomings. While academics such as Sheffield Hallam’s Paul Wyton have an engaging and natural presentation style, others struggle and the result means that many people (sadly) tune out and miss out on great material. EuroFM can’t be expected to train presenters themselves but maybe the European academic institutions could invest in training key people in presentation skills to ensure greater understanding and take-up of key messages and research.

What EFMC does really well is to support research and young people within European FM. Through the Student Poster Competition, which explored issues such as the productivity of knowledge workers and reducing workplace restaurant waste, Bachelor and Master students presented  their FM projects and research work. It recognises new ideas, knowledge and insights created as part of study programmes in European Universities as EuroFM member organisations. Further research speakers also provided an insight into their FM projects and research papers by means of a research poster exhibition.

It will definitely be a case of watch this space in European FM  come next May.

And now for an aperitif

Outside the old Campari building
Outside the old Campari building

In the ornate Galleria Vittorio Emanuele arcade in the centre of Milan, close to the famous Duomo, the first Campari was served in the Campari Café in 1867. The red aperitif was made and drank there until, in 1904, the Campari family moved production to the grand Viale Gramsci, 9km north café on the outskirts of Milan.

Today that villa still exists, but it is the buildings in what was the villa’s gardens that the group of EuroFM delegates came to see, as part of three study tours the day before the conference began.

Green roof
A Green roof

The new Campari headquarters, created in 2009 by renowned Italian architect Mario Botta, is divided into two main buildings linked together. The new structure is spread over nine floors above ground and two below, while the original factory building, whose facade still remains, links to its modern counterpart with two floors.

The reflective pool
The reflective pool

The entire design is simple and chic; glass partitions, white furniture and grey slate floors punctuated by the red Campari brand in chairs, plants and art. After a typical corporate reception, a 1,400 sq m open space greets the visitor, with an enormous white bar stretched across one end. Used for all-staff meetings for the 400 employees, as well as events, the space is also rented out to external organisations. It faces the park, and is covered by a green roof, part of the facility’s 800sq m green roof linking the park to the building. A reflecting pool outside the plaza further embeds that link. Half of the 10,000 sq m park is public space, at the request of the local authority, but has been designed so visually it appears to be one space.

Campari adverts
Campari adverts

The Red Passion Lab museum on the first two floors of the old building charts Campari’s history through some of its innovative advertising and products and acts as a showcase of the red aperitif. This is very much a facility where the company’s main product is close at hand. On touring the main office floors, bottles of Campari, and the firm’s other products – Skyy Vodka, Wild Turkey, Aperol and Cinzano – are dotted around on filing cabinets and desks in the same way waste paper litters other offices. A camparisoda is never far from reach.

 

A corridor in the Campari building
A corridor in the Campari building

The spirit’s production has long since moved elsewhere with the HQ now housing corporate functions including marketing, finance, HR and operations. This is a traditional business which is reflected in the workplace. Everyone has an assigned desk (eyebrows were raised when a question about hot-desking was posed) and about a quarter of the space is cellular offices, albeit with partly-glass partitions to create a flow through the space.

 

Campari logos
Campari logos

Although stylish, the building is practical with energy saving at its heart. Giant brick louvres at 45 degrees hide the facility from the heat of the Italian sun; while a Siemens dashboard linked to the building management system allows every employee to adjust the temperature in their own space – although the tour guide, the former head of facilities management, acknowledged that this causes some interesting battles in the open plan environment.

At the same time as creating the aperitif’s HQ, the architect designed four residential towers adjacent to the corporate structure, shaped like a quarter of a circle, of different heights, covered with the same red bricks as Campari’s HQ. These towers contain about 100 apartments in addition to commercial activities on the ground floor.

The other study tours were Coca-Cola and Edisons.

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