Transparency has become something of a buzzword in facilities management of late. That’s not surprising in a sector characterised by opaque contracts and commercial structures, and lax data capture and management. Customer demand for transparency has been there for twenty years at least – it’s inevitable that eventually providers will seek to satisfy, or at least to appear to satisfy that demand.

Martin Read, the editor of the British Institute of Facilities Management influential in-house publication, FM World, fired something of a shot across the bows of the industry last week, with an opinion piece focusing on the growing demand for transparency in facilities management. What a senior officer of the industry association could not say, however, is that that demand cannot be met within the very narrow paradigm of the traditional FM delivery models.

While the intentions of those organisations currently focusing on transparency are undoubtedly positive, transparency is not something that be delivered simple because an organisation desires to do so. FM is just too complex a business discipline for this to be realistic. In the maintenance of a large or complex estate, there are a myriad of opportunities for data to become corrupted, to simply disappear, or to simply not be collected in the first place.

Unless processes are redesigned from the ground up, to ensure the collection, management and verification of data, then the scope to offer transparency is severely curtailed. It may be possible to share data, but the data will not be reflective of the situation in reality. And, when that inevitably comes to light, it will have the opposite effect of the one intended, undermining trust, and corroding relationships.