Can an integrated approach to innovation throughout a long-term contract benefit both customer and providers? A facilities management expert believes it is an opportunity waiting to be grasped.
In a detailed and considered blog, Chris Payne outlines how "The opportunity to make a meaningful difference through innovation is usually mismatched to the eventual efforts carried out", for one simple reason.
The goal of stability
Facilities management contracts work towards creating a stable and therefore measurable "Steady state", as Payne calls it. Effort is very much focused on this at the start of a contract, and may involve some creative thinking, but the goal is ultimately an unchanging scenario.
Unfortunately a stable state is also non-reactive to external market forces, actions of competitors and new techniques, so when a challenge appears, innovation is called back into active service. Equally, as renewal time approaches for the contract, clients will be looking for services and features that differential their current supplier from the competition, and the supplier will be eager to put these in place. This results in a lot of effort in innovation with little time to see the benefits.
Integrated innovation from day 1
Instead, Payne advocates integrated innovation, which "Embeds behaviours at the core of operational delivery, underpinning core processes with a framework for collecting and advancing ideas at every level of contract delivery."
The process will be familiar to most as it enables the submission, prioritisation and implementation of ideas given in response to challenges or the need for solutions. Payne sums it up nicely:
"Applying an integrated approach supports innovation from the outset, encouraging meaningful feedback and interventions to overcome routine challenges whilst identifying opportunities for significant improvements."
Embedded mutual benefits
One benefit Payne offers may seem self-serving, but has an important principle at its heart:
"The provider becomes deeply embedded into the customer’s organisation, providing greater opportunities for contract extension."
When an innovation management provider becomes, effectively, a partner in the client's business innovation, they will be working to help the client improve their business. As the provider’s business improves through their own innovations, so their service to the client's business improves too.
No dash for the line
Payne's message is that facilities management companies should integrate innovation into all their contracts, to provide an ongoing improvement of services over the entire life of the contract, and with sustained effort and regular improvement rather than a final dash to the finish line approach.
The biggest hurdle may be…
However, Payne is a realist, and appreciates that the biggest hurdle to this kind of contractual approach might lie at the very top.
"The drive for innovation needs to be supported by leaders within the provider’s organisation and unless a willingness to evolve to an integrated approach is supported at the highest level, any efforts to innovate may be reduced to sporadic and isolated incidents of incremental improvement."
At TalkFreely we are confident that the more service providers that offer integrated innovation as part of their contracts, the more business leaders will see the benefits in other businesses, and want it for themselves. In innovation, as with so many things in life, a little competition envy can be just the boost required to turn procrastination into action.