The FM Professional

An interview with Kim Coffey, Manager of Corporate Programs at IFMA

David Spence
March 18th, 2015

OfficeSpace exhibited at IFMA’s Facility Fusion conference and expo in Vancouver last week and after the show I got to sit down for a chat with Kim Coffey, IFMA’s Manager of Corporate Programs, to talk about how this year’s Canadian show went, what we can look forward to next from IFMA, and how advances in technology are changing the role of today’s facilities management professionals.

Steven, OfficeSpace: Now that we’re into the final educational sessions on the last day of the show – how do you think it went, from an organizer’s standpoint?

Kim, IFMA: The feedback we received was incredible. People at the show loved the amount of networking that was going on, the education sessions and that they were learning things they could take back to the office and put to use immediately. The venue has been great too, and on the exhibitor side we’ve received really good feedback.

Steven, OfficeSpace: We were really impressed with some of the conversations we had at the show. We were getting some great in-depth viewpoints into how Facility Managers might use our software – the various problems they are looking to solve and how they currently manage their space. The show’s size allowed us to have a lot of one-on-one time with attendees and get a detailed insight into their needs.

Kim, IFMA: I think the attendees were prepared for that. These facilities professionals are hungry for information, they want to make the most of their time here and the combination of a slower-paced show and being in the same building for two full days gives them that opportunity and time to bring in some of the problems they’ve been wanting to talk about and get into the real meat of how they might go about solving them. That’s been easier than at a larger conference where time is limited.

Steven, OfficeSpace: How did the Vancouver show compare in size to IFMA shows in the USA?

Kim, IFMA: We have our World Workplace conference every year which is fantastic and draws about 4,500 attendees. This used to be our only show and there you have almost 300 exhibiting companies and the attendees are spread out between 5 or 6 different hotels and the convention center. There are typically 12 concurrent education sessions – and that’s a lot to choose from. Attendees are often in a rush because the area to cover is huge and it takes time, energy and planning to get across the halls to the education sessions and the expo floor.

Steven, OfficeSpace: And how did this show compare to other Canadian IFMA shows?

Kim, IFMA: This is actually only our second Canadian Facilities Fusion show! We did have the large annual World Workplace conference in Toronto many years ago, but at the request of our members we brought the more intimate Facilities Fusion events to Canada. It’s not just the US version of Facilities Fusion, it really is a Canadian show in terms of the educational content and how the show is organized and integrated with the expo.

Steven, OfficeSpace: Are there plans to make the Vancouver Facilities Fusion show a permanent fixture on the IFMA conference circuit?

Kim, IFMA: There are definitely some plans and we want to see how the Canadian shows go. Based on the show’s history, typically the event moves around. Right now we’re in Vancouver and next year we’re in Montreal. We want to make sure that people can attend the show, so perhaps if they can’t make Vancouver because it is too far away, they’ll be able to get to one in eastern Canada. What we need to work out is the rotation. Last year’s conference was in Ottawa, next year is Montréal and 2017 is in Toronto. We’d like to see how the shows grow, and we’ve seen good growth year on year since Ottawa last year, about 25% larger on the expo and some of the preliminary numbers look like 15% more attendees. Next year we expect to get facility managers from Montréal, Ottawa and Toronto, and May is a great time to be in Montréal!

Steven, OfficeSpace: We saw a really great range of people at our booth from all over Canada and from the States too. Do you get a lot of attendees going to multiple shows?

Kim, IFMA: We don’t see a huge amount of crossover, but this year we want to compare our Canadian attendees with the shows in the States. In terms of people going to the Facilities Fusion shows and the World Workplace show in the US, we get around a 15% crossover. The different shows attract different people because the smaller events cater to people who perhaps want to take their time a bit more, and the big ones are more for people who enjoy the hustle and bustle of a bigger trade show.

Steven, OfficeSpace: We attended a lot of great seminars over the last few days. What was your favorite educational session that you sat in on?

Kim, IFMA: I didn’t actually have time to attend very many because we were concentrating on the show organization! Since it’s a smaller show we had a leaner IFMA staff and we were all wearing multiple hats. There were a lot of logistical issues that we had to take care of! You can give me a favorite if you like!

Steven, OfficeSpace: We went to a lot – one of our favorites was a presentation from the Facilities Manager at Harvard Medical School on what to do when facilities budgets are cut and steps that can be taken. It was great for us to hear because we do get feedback from potential clients that they really want OfficeSpace but they’re not sure if they even have the budgets for facilities management software. It was interesting to hear a longtime facilities professional talking about the ways FMs might approach pushback on budgets from upper management. We’ll actually be covering that seminar on facilities budgets in more detail in a future blog post.

Kim, IFMA: I like hearing that it’s been helpful for our exhibitors, and it is a great way for people in the industry to learn about what kind of pain points their customers might be experiencing so they can better position themselves.

Steven, OfficeSpace: If we talk about IFMA membership – is it still a strong membership base? Are the demographics changing? Is the member base getting older, younger?

Kim, IFMA: Our membership base is really strong – over 24,000 facilities professionals globally. We have a larger base of male members than female but we are seeing more women come into the facilities profession, and holding more senior positions. We’re also seeing growth in the younger demographic which is partly due to the push that IFMA is making with the IFMA Foundation.

Steven, OfficeSpace: Can you tell me more about the IFMA Foundation?

Kim, IFMA: I would be happy to! The IFMA Foundation supports Facilities Management in higher education and has an accredited degree program (ADP). The Foundation actively helps universities make sure that the content they have will be sufficient so that when a young person graduates with a Facility Management degree they will be prepared to go into that profession and be immediately effective and successful. It lends a lot of weight when graduates from these programs apply for jobs since their course has been approved by IFMA and we’ve been involved with the facilities management profession for over 35 years. There are 11 core competencies that the IFMA Foundation has identified as being essential to a course in Facilities Management and even though the facility where a graduate ends up working might not require all 11 competencies right away, FM graduates from an IFMA approved program have a degree that is not too heavily weighted on one side of the discipline, and they then have the knowledge to adapt quickly if their job changes. They can also implement new strategies in their jobs which might not exist already.

Steven, OfficeSpace: That’s something that’s really interesting to us as a software company because what we do touches almost every part of an organization – not just facilities but also HR, IT, Finance, the C-Level executives. Technology is so ingrained in the modern workplace. Given that the IFMA certified programs are giving upcoming Facility Managers a grounding in every aspect of running a facility, do you see software as being an important part of that?

Kim, IFMA: Oh yes – it’s huge. And it’s not just facilities management software like OfficeSpace, it’s moisture sensors, temperature sensors – technology which helps run a smarter building and gives a facility manager a more complete picture of the space they are running so they can manage it effectively and catch issues before they lead to problems, things like excessive heat in data centers which can cause a lot of damage if they aren’t caught. Facility Managers have to be increasingly tech-focused in order to manage their facility and its people, to be able to move them around easily. Nowadays they are often responsible for remote workers also – FMs can’t control the environment that those people are in but they are being asked to assist in that transition to a more virtual facility. In order for FMs to be successful they have to continue to be on the cusp of new technology and new ways of doing things.

Steven, OfficeSpace: We’re noticing that a lot of the facilities professionals we’ve been talking to recently are really switched on to new technologies. The conversations we’ve been having have been quite technical; we’re getting some real detail in the questions we get asked. We know that our clients appreciate being able to call us and ask our client services teams questions about OfficeSpace – do you think that’s a trend across the industry, of people placing more value in that kind of support?

Kim, IFMA: I do. I see the Facility Manager as being like a general physician – they know what they need to know about lot of different things, but when things go wrong they need to go find a specialist. Frequently the specialist they talk to is the product or service provider, who knows everything there is to know about that particular sector of the facility. It’s good to hear that the FMs you are talking to are tied into the loop with new technology and that they are able to effectively work with you to get what they need from your software.

Steven, OfficeSpace: And we think that ties in with what you were saying about facility managers coming to shows like Facility Fusion to stay up to date with the latest technologies and trends. So many of the education sessions we took part in touched on flexible working, the mobile workforce, technology in the workplace.

Kim, IFMA: Yes, facility managers simply have to be able to handle new ways of doing business because their organizations and work environments are changing rapidly. This goes beyond brick and mortar. Facility Managers now find they are partly responsible for employee satisfaction, too, as this is becoming increasingly important to attract talented workers.

 Steven, OfficeSpace: Thanks, Kim, for spending time with us today!

We had to wrap up our interview there, but stay tuned for detailed posts on the education session we went to on what to do if your facilities budget gets cut, and a more in-depth look at the IFMA Foundation. OfficeSpace is going to be exhibiting at Facility Fusion Orlando next month – if you are interested in collaborating on a blog entry or being interviewed by OfficeSpace, get in touch let us know!