RICS-member Willem Keeris defines FM as ‘the name of a general management function, responsible for the facilities provided within an enterprise, as a result of planning and coordination of support processes and aimed at supporting the success of the primary process of the subject organisation’. Corporate Real Estate Management is — particularly in countries surrounding The Netherlands and in the US — viewed as a strategic activity that is closely aligned with and supports the corporate strategy.  The RICS sees a clear difference. FM is seen as a separate professional group within the RICS organisation, an organisation with worldwide 12,000 members and with its own practice standards. Since the 1980’s in The Netherlands there has been a tendency to include CREM and FM in various combinations within the facilities department. At banks like ABN Amro and ING this is the case. However, that is not the same everywhere. Philips is the leading Dutch multinational when it comes to separating the Corporate Real Estate function. On the other hand, at Heineken and Akzo Nobel there is no question of a CREM approach. They are years behind their foreign competitors.

Where in The Netherlands there is a movement towards combining FM- and CREM-disciplines, this is not to say that they are growing closer. There are some positive operational consequences like improved procurement, innovative office concepts and a higher quality of accommodation in building and installation terms.  On the other hand, CREM in practice has been downgraded by being allotted a place within the facilities organisation and therefore the real value to the company of CREM – strategic CREM – is never realised. As a result, real estate remains an operational issue rather than being viewed as a strategic corporate resource.  FM is often confused with technical management — a misunderstanding and therefore a barrier for facilities departments than can do so much more. Plenty of reasons therefore for the RICS to lobby for a clear differentiation between FM and CREM.  Within a modern enterprise, CREM should be a business partner for the board and must deliver a strategic contribution to the success of the firm.  That demands from CREM professionals that they must operate in terms of the primary process with the bricks and mortar as secondary.   Close co-operation with the facilities department means that the positive aspects of both are not lost. Corporate Netherlands still has much work to do.

Thanks to Rik Schaap MRICS and Leon van Leersum FRICS for their input.

Paul Stotesbury FRICS is owner of People & Property, management consultants in real estate [now: Redept].

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