150 shades of grey

January 19, 2018

By James Bradley

Lots of people talk about compliance but everyone interprets it differently. If you can’t define it, you can’t deliver it.

Compliance. The very word evokes images of cell doors being slammed shut, multi-million pound fines and companies being vilified in the press. It’s something mentioned in hushed tones, a term which will make even the meanest CFO loosen his purse strings.

Lots of people talk about compliance in the FM world. Clients, FM firms, M&E specialists, H&S consultants, specifiers, the list goes on. But the reality is that everyone interprets the same ‘rules’ differently. At a recent BIFM Leaders Forum, sponsored by Churchill Service Solutions, around the topic of Hard FM compliance there were more definitions of compliance than people round the table. Twelve people and more than two dozen definitions.

And that was a group of senior hard FM specialists with a particular interest in defining compliance. What happens further down the food chain? In my experience, there will be several different definitions of hard FM compliance in one M&E company, let alone across the industry. Whereas most agree that statutory compliance is the need to obey a rule which is governed by a law, many argue that standards are also compliance. Others say that’s good practice, but not compliance. It really is a case of hundreds of shades of grey.

While this led to some frustrated smiles at the recent roundtable, on the ground it’s less of a laughing matter. Taking different interpretations of compliance can result in client organisations thinking they’re tendering for one level of service, but the bidding companies taking very different angles which results in completely different service levels (and prices) making it hard for the client to compare apples with apples. It can result in directors going to jail or the company being fined in the worst instances, all the while believing they were compliant (and usually wanting to be).

The challenge for the hard FM world is that if we’re all interpreting compliance differently, how can we possibly be delivering what the end user needs? If we can’t define compliance, how can we possibly deliver it?

As for us, Churchill Compliance will be launching its new SaaS platform, CATI, in the coming weeks, helping clients to put the best foot forward with their compliance obligations. So stay tuned…