Is it time to put government property under the microscope?

Government has been asked to do more with less for a long time now

But have government property functions, often the second highest operating cost after staff, ever been properly put under the microscope?

Effective property management brings many benefits. The obvious one is improved value for money, but effective property management can also:

  • optimise the delivery of mission-critical services and programs
  • better connect you with your stakeholders
  • ensure happier and more productive staff

If you’re not 100% confident that your property management meets the needs of your business, or if discussions around property management can’t be held freely because ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’, then you might be missing out on valuable benefits.

To illustrate, here’s two case studies.

Case Study 1:

We reviewed one government department and found that on average, its property accommodation (eg. bums on seats) was only 60% utilised at best. This means that two fifths of that department’s property spend was on space which wasn’t being used.

Case Study 2:

Looking at another government department, we found that separate business drivers in the portfolio were causing tension about where the organisation was best located to service its administrative and operational delivery requirements. By separating out these drivers and analysing each separately, this organisation was able to better plan for future property needs and ensure it is fit for purpose.

Build an effective property management approach

Government entities have more property drivers than the private sector, which is often more focused around cost. To build an effective property management approach, government should focus on the following three strategies.

1. Set your property strategy

Do you know what your organisation’s property strategy is? Does one even exist? If not, it’s worth thinking about to ensure that your resources and ongoing management are aligned with a strategic direction. For some organisations it is about managing a reducing physical footprint as staffing numbers have dropped over time, while for others it is about sustainably managing the property requirements of an increased or changed organisational function.

2. Assess your performance against comparable organisations

Are your property services being delivered in the best way possible? What are comparable organisations doing that you’re not? If you’re not sure, it’s worthwhile doing some benchmarking to understand what common models are in the market and to benefit from the experience of others.

3. Review your property function

Given all of the above, do you have the right skills in your team, and the right people in the right positions? How do you know that you are successful in delivering your strategy?

Without key metrics you won’t know if you’re heading in the right direction. Not only will you miss out on potential efficiencies, you will also struggle to position property considerations strategically within your organisation. Without confidence from the executive level that your property function is kicking goals, you’ll get less buy-in and investment to deliver on your strategy.

Efficiency drives will never disappear. You can, however, be well-positioned for the next one by having a plan for your property function which ensures you’re:

  • providing value for money
  • meeting the organisation’s needs
  • delivering on many other intangible benefits