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The who’s who of compliance: client or service provider?

February 19, 2018

Who is responsible for statutory compliance in your organisation? Is it an internal team, or do you outsource that to a service partner?

By James Bradley

While there is always a shared responsibility to some degree, typically it will be the client organisation that bears the ultimate burden. Not just of any financial penalty, but also the reputational damage if the transgression becomes public knowledge – and that’s without any lapse in compliance having caused damage to property or, worse still, people. Clients often believe their hard FM compliance is taken care of when outsourcing to a provider, but the reality is that they will suffer if the solution is not fit for purpose.

At a recent BIFM Leaders Forum around the topic of Hard FM compliance, sponsored by Churchill Service Solutions, the group agreed that responsibility for hard FM compliance is a grey area – perhaps even greyer than a definition of what hard FM compliance actually is – something I’ve talked about before (see here). Perhaps because it’s difficult to define, it remains on to-do lists and the issue ends up being outsourced.

But organisations cannot simply absolve their responsibilities by outsourcing risks and obligations. While the delivery of hard FM compliance sits well within the remit of an FM service partner, the client still needs a solid understanding of what good (and compliant) looks like to make sure they’re covered. Even if the provider falls foul, the buck still stops with the client organisation, so to speak, so it’s within everyone’s interests to get on the same page.

Clients who have little experience in hard FM compliance could put together tender documents that are unclear. Good, accurate specification is very important for successful partnerships, particularly when the points of contention are a matter of remaining on the right side of the law. Should there be a law that the specification needs to be created by a qualified person?

Perhaps a return to input specification is the key here. While some argue this style is too prescriptive and restricting, it allows both client and provider to reach an accord at an early stage of a working relationship. Compliance matters could be set aside and tendered separately using this approach to clear up confusion around the who, how, when, and why.

Clearly compliance should be in a service partner’s DNA, but the issue always concerns more than one party. The law implicates everyone, so the process should be unequivocal and collaborative in nature. Achieving clarity around responsibility should be at the top of everyone’s agenda.