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18 November 2018
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9 October 2017 | Nick Fox

Nick Fox, head of estates operations at Serco, discusses how much we rely on subcontractors, and vice versa

During my time in FM, I’ve found that we rely on our subcontractors as much as they rely on us. This reliance is built up from trust, previous quality service delivery, site knowledge and relationships, not formal contracts (written contracts, not purchase order agreements, which rarely explore performance and response clauses).

In some cases a formal contract in whatever form exists and this helps drive performance, but I would love to understand what percentage of service arrangements are covered by a formal contract, not just purchase orders. What typically happens is that there are high-level framework agreements in place that are rarely useful, and there to create a cost framework as opposed to a service delivery framework. In some cases the FM won’t even know that they exist and even if they do, the approval route for orders may go via someone who again may or may not know they exist.

So FMs on the shop floor are left to fend for themselves and unless they have the skills, time and templates, often left to provide a service bound by KPIs, but with no ability to manage their supply chain effectively. Can FM really add contract management to our role? 

In any contract the FM team needs the ability to call the shots on their supply chain when the time is needed otherwise they will be penalised for service deficiencies. 

Contracts should not be awarded based on value or service criticality.

Any scenario that needs subcontractor support should be bound by a contract. I’ve not worked on a contract yet that hasn’t penalised me for failing to respond in a certain time frame and then complete a job in a certain time frame. So why aren’t we being more savvy with our supply chain and merely relying on the ethos of ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’?

How much time must we waste chasing subcontractors when a simple contract with clauses can prevent all of this?