Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Do Consultants (Really) take the time to understand the needs of their Clients?

Guest article from Richard Davies - Project  Manager, Capital Projects, Property Services – Severn Trent Water 

When organisations are looking to rationalise, their first port of call is often an external consultant.  In my experience, where the consultant fails is not getting to grips with the culture of the organisation that has instructed them.....  This leads to wasted time and recommendations that cannot be implemented
Severn Trent Centre - Google Images
In these increasingly uncertain economic climates, all organisations are looking to minimise their cost base and gain maximum efficiencies.  This can lead to many actions for example reducing staff and an increased focus on outgoings.  This is as true for large organisations regardless of size.  It is a fact that one of the areas of focus, particularly for large organisations is the use and amount of operational space they hold, particularly if they have recently rationalised their staffing levels.

Until a few years ago, property was just something a company had to have in order to operate.  In most cases was treated as an unavoidable overhead, not a key part of the business, however it is increasingly becoming an important part of the cost base as companies look to minimise their overheads.   With modern technology allowing people to work from home, in most cases reduced work force sizes, and most companies adopting open plan rather than cellular office space companies are finding that they have more space than they need and a rationalisation is required.

Having more space than you need leads to not only more rent, rates etc, but the space needs to be heated, lit, secured and managed, all of which is a strain which organisations can ill afford in these austere times.  In addition, there has been an increased tendency to move to open plan and hot desks from cellular office due to the amount of space taken up by offices.  Consequently this reduction in space can lead to savings in many areas: - energy bills, FM, security etc.

Severn Trent Centre  - Under Construction
My work over the past 3 year at Severn Trent Water has been centred on these types of activity.  The business has an aging, dilapidated estate which is in need of significant investment.  The first part of this was a new Operational Centre in Coventry, which allows the workforce to work in a much more flexible way.  It promotes the open plan and hot desking philosophy with an IT solution that allows working from home and other places to be as productive as the office.  By creating this building (Severn Trent Centre) it allowed us to close 7 other buildings, all of which were old and inefficient.  An illustration of this can be seen in the carbon footprint as the new building uses far less energy than any one of the buildings closed on, which is another important aspect for Severn Trent Water.

Many organisations are going through similar processors at present and this rationalisation exercise should provide opportunities for property professionals across the spectrum, with re-design of space, fit out, review of leases, enacting of breaks in leases etc.  However this opportunity must not be squandered. When organisations are looking to rationalise their first port of call is often an external consultant.  In my experience, where the consultant fails is not getting to grips with the culture of the organisation that has instructed them.   Their advice is restricted to analysis of headcount, square meterage and cost thereof, without really understanding how the organisation works.  This leads to wasted time and recommendations that cannot be implemented. 

It is vital that any advice provided must be considered in the context of the culture and operations of the organisation and therefore consequently there is an increasing need for large organisations to have a resident property expert that understands both the property world and the nuances of the organisation.  Only then, can they help steer the consultant and apply the advice provided by external bodies to gain the most savings. It is, however true to say that professionals on the outside remain closer to the cutting edge and new thinking than those within client bodies as there is a certain level of insulation that comes with working within a client body.  There is not the daily interaction with other similar professionals which can lead to a lag in implementing new industry best practice.

As long as the economic climate remains in its current state of health, companies will increasingly review their property costs, which will in turn result in opportunities for consultants, either as the resident expert within a client body, or as a consultant providing advice.

Richard Davies  - Project Manager, Capital Projects, Property Services – Severn Trent Water 

Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment