Deciding the Duration of a Facilities Management Contract

Hannah Davis
Contract duration is a central part of the sourcing decision process and it’s important to get this right.

As a Strategic Facilities Management (FM) consultant, clients often ask me how they should define their ideal FM contract duration. There’s no one answer that suits all situations, but there are many influencing factors. These include the range of services, service coverage, levels of risk being transferred, specification type, procurement and contract administration costs, the need for competitive tension and the intended role of the service provider. Contract duration will form an important part of an organisation’s business-case to (re)procure FM services.

Size and complexity of the FM contract

The primary guide to FM contract duration is value and complexity. The greater the value and complexity of the contract, the greater the time required to achieve the return on the investment for both client and supplier in making the change.

Duration ranges from single service procurement to the 25 to 30 years associated with Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Larger or more complex projects typically have longer durations to allow sufficient time for the sourcing strategy to be achieved.

Figure 1 below identifies the types of contract solutions that are common in the FM market place and their typical contract durations.

Figure 1: Relationship between Contract Complexity and Contract Duration

Simple single service contracts such as cleaning or pest control tend to have the shortest contract duration of two to three years. This increases to four years for slightly more complex bundled contracts. Total Facilities Management (TFM) or Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) contracts are more complex, typically between five and ten years. Integrator services incorporate a TFM/IFM solution and an independent helpdesk and ten-year durations are typical. Contracts such as PFI, which are very complex due to various types of risk transfer, have the longest durations of around 25 to 30 years.

Why longer contract durations for more complex projects?

  1. Mobilisation period for complex projects can be costly, and longer contract durations spread this cost.

  2. Contract changes may result in service performance fluctuations as the new service provider mobilises and integrates with the client organisation. This has a potentially greater detrimental impact on complex projects, or projects with critical needs and no flexibility on service performance (hospitals, for example).

  3. The service provider needs time to build up knowledge of the client and their assets, which should result in increased efficiency over time. The more complex the project, the longer and more costly the knowledge assimilation exercise.

  4. Relationships should improve as the contract duration proceeds and familiarity is established. This should lead to greater efficiencies, and improved contract performance, for both service provider and client.

Figure 2, below, highlights the main stages in contract performance, against contract duration

Figure 2: Relationship between Contract Performance and Contract Duration

Contract performance generally remains consistent through mobilisation. Performance then increase throughout the implementation, or bedding in period, through an increased focus on performance by both client and service provider management. Continuous improvements are then made, though these tend to be on a diminishing returns basis. Performance then tends to plateau, as typically seen prior to preparing for re-tender.

How long for your organisation or project?

The contract duration must allow sufficient time to realise continuous improvements and thus provide value. This matrix illustrates suggested durations, based on the nature of the estate:

Single Service
Bundled Service
TFM/IFMIntegrator Service
Small Simple Estate

2 + 1 year

4 year
5 + 2 year
7 + 3 year
Large Complex Estate
4 year
5 + 2 year
7 + 3 year
7 + 3 year

A recent survey undertaken by i-FM found that the most common type of FM contract was the IFM model, and the most common duration was three years with an option to extend. In the same survey the optimum FM contract was found to be the IFM with a period of more than three years. In my opinion, as outlined in the matrix, and according to industry findings, there is growing recognition that longer durations are more appropriate for IFM and TFM contracts.

Supporting clients

Each client has their own specific requirements and complexities which will determine the optimum contract form and duration. However, it is important that clients are informed on the standards and norms within the industry as well as the impact of the selection on their assets and business. At Faithful+Gould, we support our clients in exploring the nuances of their individual situations to ensure that the optimum FM solution is reached.

One such client is the Crown Commercial Service. We provided wide-ranging technical advice which included selection of appropriate contract durations for an FM framework which will be the primary route for suppliers to provide FM services to the government and the wider public sector. Expected value is up to £4bn, as stated in the OJEU notice.

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