Ravindra Singh of Ernst & Young on operations within the service sector

Ravindra Singh of Ernst & Young on operations within the service sector

Singh reflects on the astute clarity of goals and functions of an FM, and sheds light on the company’s initiative to translate workspaces into a stimulating, creative and collaborative facility for employees

Ravindra Singh, Ernst & Young, Facility management, Interview

While a facility manager is mainly responsible for providing integrated FM services; the focus is also on using best business practices to improve efficiency, by reducing operating costs while increasing productivity. Given that this is a wide field with a diverse range of responsibilities, Ravinder Singh, director, Ernst & Young, who has three decades of work experience, sheds light on how facilities management is a low visibility but high impact service and how well-devised strategies can have significant consequences.

Envisioning the future
Singh has adapted and implemented various transformative measures and tools over the course of four-plus year at EY, which have helped innovate and deliver scalable and sustainable services across all verticals. The company initiated its vision, strategy and execution plan in 2015 with a focus on excellence. “At EY, we firmly believe that Organisations must think strategically if they are to do more than simply survive in today’s increasingly competitive marketplaces. This thinking applies to both core and non-core businesses. In the case of the latter, facilities management plays a pivotal role in support of the core business and must be closely coupled with the organisation’s strategy overall,” explains Singh.

At EY, AWS (the FM arm of the company) has developed in the past few years into a major, thriving service line. It has an entrepreneurial DNA with a vision to contribute to the top line through internal partnership with service lines. “As an emerging discipline, AWS has become the focus for important issues of best value and customer satisfaction within the management of supporting services. Well-managed services enable an organisation to function at its most efficient and effective level, offering value improvements to the organisation’s core business. At EY, FM has been elevated to a strategic level of importance and is therefore tasked with the opportunity to contribute to business success and to aid the delivery of competitive advantage. Indeed, in recent years, the range of services covered within the remit of facilities management has become more complex, as it has moved into the core operational functions,” avers Singh.

Identifying the right tools
Some of the most decisive tools at work in EY are:

  • Mobility and security solutions: The company has established a 24x7 secured work environment on a proven technology platform that is fully digitised and efficient to allow safe access to employees, clients, partners and visitors.
  • Simplifying business travel: An online app-based travel tool that empowers users to make their own decision in a timely manner to book travel, hotel and ground transport in just three clicks helped EY’s employees reduce travel time, costs and environment impact.
  • Everbridge: Critical events can occur any day, anytime — severe weather, workplace violence, active shooters, terrorism, IT and power outages, environmental discharges, critical equipment failures, medical emergencies, social media attacks. They threaten safety and brand reputation, interrupt supply chains and disrupt operations. Everbridge is an emergency addressable tool for employee and business safety that uses one common platform enterprise-wide to aggregate risk data, locate people and assets under threat, initiate action and manage incidents, and analyse after-action performance.
  • Safeme: This is another safety and security tool for employees working late, enabling them to connect with on-ground response teams with just a click.
  • U Utility tool: A smart app-based tool with sensors to plan preventive and day-to-day maintenance through an app-based smartphone tool, which has comprehensive MIS, data analytics, benchmarking and real time reporting capabilities for FM helpdesk.

Bona fide rules of workspace design
“Given that a company like ours competes for the best talent in a job market, we keep in mind few simple thoughts while designing facilities. We also aim to reduce attrition rate as, these days, monetary compensation alone isn’t the only motivation factor for employees. They now demand a workplace that stimulates creativity, collaboration and communication, while also reducing stress and anxiety,” explains Singh. With this clear intent in mind, EY introduced some crucial design concepts that aided the overall development of its workspace quality. These include:

  • Stand-up work zones: In addition to health benefits, stand-up work zones are ideal for people to brainstorm, discuss, or meet.
  • Flexible workspace (project rooms): The hottest design concept in EY, this features desks, tables and chairs that are easily movable and resizable. This is in contrast to the more traditional office plan, where the location of furniture and other resources are fixed and unchanging.
  • Safe and secure work zones: An ideal place to work on weekends and after office hours with complete safety and security is crucial. These secure and safe zones are equipped with all facilities — standalone AC units, CCTV coverage, tea and coffee dispensing units, etc.
  • Lounge areas: EY has created areas with relaxed and cosy seating such as sofas, couches, pod seats and coffee tables. These are suitable for a variety of activities including impromptu meetings, breaks, etc.
  • Ergonomic workstations: Sitting at desks for long periods of time can have negative effects on health. To address this concern, EY incorporated several new technologies such as ergonomic chairs, height adjustable desks, etc.
  • Bringing nature into the workplace: One of the most powerful and enduring trends that EY adopted is reshaping the workplace by reconnecting people with nature. “This concept is based on the premise that we have an innate need to connect with nature, and that when this connection is made, it results in better health, concentration, creativity and work performance. The theory is that it improves both physical and psychological health as well as reduces stress and enhances mood,” adds Singh.
  • Day light harvesting: With the clear understanding that natural light is healthier than artificial, EY strived to harvest natural light in most of its facilities. This not only saves cost but also improves physical and psychological health of employees.
  • Indoor plants: In all EY’s facilities, indoor plants help purify the air that may otherwise be harmful to human health.

Deploying the benefits of technology
“We use multiple (in-house/vendor) tools to improve the performance of real estate and facility management through business analytics, critical alerts and automated process capabilities. These have increased visibility, control and automation of real estate management, space management, facility maintenance and energy management needs,” shares Singh. Based on the inputs from these tools, FM teams are making more informed decisions — bringing increased value to the firm. Some of the tools currently in use are:
• IBM staging tool (previously known as IBM TRIRIGA)
• CAFM, for planned preventative maintenance
• MYF + internal app-based billing for spot hire/billing/FM
• SAFETREX live vehicle tracking application
• SBT — in-house, self-booking tool for travel bookings
• E-cafe tool to manage cafeteria operations
• One touch/Everbridge/24X7 response (security and safety apps)
• VMS — visitors management application
• ERS — meeting room management tool 
• U-Utility, smart facility maintenance and preventive maintenance tool

Energy conservation project was initiated as PoC, in one of EY’s largest premise, almost three years ago. This project provided real-time analytics through router, sensors installed in the facility over Wi-Fi on a smart phone. The project was a success with RoI of approximately three times to conserve energy as per day light and ambient temp.

Measuring returns
“Facilities management at EY can be summarised as creating the optimal environment for the firm’s primary functions, taking an integrated view of the business infrastructure, and using this to deliver higher level of productivity and customer satisfaction, best value through support for enhancement of the core business. Essentially, it must deliver effective and responsive services; enable changes in the use of space now and in the future; sweat the assets (make them highly cost effective); create competitive advantage for the organisation’s core business; and enhance the organisation’s brand and culture,” states Singh.

EY has also launched a new career development tool LEAD, which is a 360-degree career development plan that allows performance and goals review and needs mandatory feedback every quarter from the identified/agreed stakeholders and reporting manager. There is an annual GPS-global people survey, and feedback is further broken down to zones and buildings to develop an action plan to address issues. In AWS, from FY19 onwards, there is now budget alignment to zones and buildings, empowering the location FMs to own their budgets and drive efficiencies through new initiatives without compromising on quality of service which is aligned to yearly goals and incentives.

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