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Tony Keane, IFMA's new President and CEO, shares his vision for IFMA's second 30 years

In IFMA's 30th anniversary year, Tony Keane, in an April 14 exclusive interview with Peter Kimmel, IFMA Fellow and Publisher of FMLink, addresses IFMA's infrastructure, globalization, and how it needs to adapt in order to accomplish its goals.

Tony Keane has clearly established himself as the individual to lead IFMA to the next level in its development. The interview and the actions he has taken to date demonstrate an uncanny ability to lead and motivate, to instill confidence in those with whom he works, to apply a strong business and organizational management background, and to identify what needs to be done for the association from both a strategic and tactical perspective. Read on to see how Tony intends to set his plan in motion.

Peter Kimmel: What was the first day that you officially started working as the President and CEO of IFMA, and what did you do immediately prior to then to ease the transition for both IFMA and yourself?
Tony Keane: January 18. Before that, I had spent a few days in the IFMA offices meeting IFMA staff and the senior management team—I wanted to get an overview of who they were and what they did. At the same time, Dave Brady [IFMA's previous President and CEO] and I sat down to work through a transition plan. I also attended a holiday luncheon to further enable each of us to get familiar with the other—obviously, I was "that big unknown" and wanted to alleviate any stress for the staff.

"The organization has had a great 30 years, and now the focus is on what can we do in the next 30 years—that's where I feel I can add value."

PK: What has been the most rewarding part of what you've done so far?
TK: I would say it would be the analysis and observations where I've asked staff to communicate back to me what they thought was going well and what needed to change—people really appreciated that. I believe that these efforts must be collaborative—a two-way street—and that there can't be just one person calling all the shots. The power of many is much stronger than the power of one.

I have received positive feedback on this approach to "learning IFMA," and that has been very rewarding.

PK: There's always a lot of apprehension when someone new comes in, especially when someone has been there for as long as Dave had, and it's clear that you've tried to make everyone feel comfortable.
TK: Absolutely! That's what I've tried to do. I really wanted to get input from the staff and the Board, and there's no shortage of ideas. It's about how we process that information and how we then build it into our strategic direction moving forward.

PK: Tell me about that vision.
TK: The reality is that the association has an impressive history. It's celebrating its 30th anniversary and has positioned itself as the educational and benchmarking source for facility management over the years. We've got numerous strong and unique products and services that helped lead us where we are today. But we need to reassess past success and efforts, and see what is going to take us through the next thirty years.

Among my first order of business was to conduct a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and listen to headquarters staff, board and members.

One of the conclusions I came to was that we had to fix the association's infrastructure—with IT [Information Technology] being the top priority. For us to grow the organization, we must have an infrastructure to support that growth. For the IT area we will need to:

  1. Update our association management software;
  2. Revise and improve our Web environment to bring it up to current technologies; and
  3. Integrate our Web environment and back-office systems to ensure that we're operating in a lean fashion—making it easier for our members, chapters and councils to access what they are looking for.

Between now and the end of the calendar year, the management team and I are going to spend a lot of time on those areas—building the framework for future growth. I am excited about the opportunities for business process improvement.

The second aspect is that we have to make sure that we continue to have a strong member value proposition. We must make sure that our current products and services are relevant to our members, customers and constituencies. We need to put a process in place that ensures their relevancy over the next thirty years.

"IFMA is considered a U.S.-centric group—we need to change that perception—that is one of our biggest challenges."

PK: Where do you want the association to be in thirty years?
TK: It's easy to say our goal is so many members, so much in revenues—but those are what I call the rewards for doing our job right. If we are serving our constituents and advancing the facility management profession, we will automatically be a larger and a more global organization.

With that said, one of my other goals is to strengthen IFMA's global footprint. Depending on what country and facility management culture we're working with, this initiative will take on many different shapes and forms.

PK: How do you see IFMA's tying into the other global FM organizations, such as Global FM and others?
TK: I've had conversations with several other FM organizations, including Global FM. I think it's important to understand the difference in roles played by them. Global FM is a federation of facilities organizations around the world. They take on tasks to help fellow FM associations magnify the importance of the facility management profession. One example is through the upcoming June 24 World FM Day where practitioners around the globe will be encouraged to celebrate their profession in unison.

In terms of other associations, the question becomes, "How can we each leverage our strengths?" For example, FMA Australia adopted IFMA's credentials (e.g., CFM®, FMP®) as part of their members' professional development. These may continue to be of value to fellow facility management groups—especially those who are smaller and don't have the resources to invest in a credentialing program.

PK: Where there are FM organizations in other countries, do you see members belonging to both IFMA and the other organization, or some type of joint membership?
TK: I'd say it depends on the desires of the local organization. At a minimum, people could belong to both. If there were a way to look at discounts or joint memberships, it could prove beneficial to both IFMA and the other organization.  Of course, we would consider this on a on a case-by-case basis, and study the needs of each organization.

What we really have to look at is how to reach the FM professionals around the world who don't belong to any FM groups. If we're going to elevate the profession to a higher level of credibility and accountability, we need to get those people involved. We need to make sure that they keep up with the latest trends and news impacting the profession. I am not averse to creative ways to look at global partnering.

PK: How do you see the roles of associations changing in today's world?
TK: Associations today (not just IFMA) are going to have to reinvent themselves, because their value propositions are being challenged again. Back in the early-to-mid-'90s, associations were challenged by the development of the Internet, and they had to rethink how they could add value. Before that time, what they had done to add value was to package information and disseminate it to their members. When the Internet came out, much of the information was readily available for free, and could be packaged in many different ways.

As a result, many associations struggled and had to look for alternative ways to add value for their members. Some merged, and some went under. The ones who are here today are those who figured out what their new value proposition was, and for many, that became the value of networking and bringing people with like interests together.

So in the last fifteen years, those associations built communities of practice, through both electronic and face-to-face forums. Now, once again, there are new technological changes—this time in the form of social media—Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. All of a sudden, one doesn't need an association to bring people together anymore.

Associations today need to reassess and ask themselves, "How do we add value?" My personal opinion is that the way associations add value is through the knowledge model: where there is data, there is knowledge and wisdom. There's a great deal of both data and knowledge out there from a variety of different sources. Associations now have to focus on the wisdom—but how does one create wisdom in our profession? One avenue would be to add structure to the communities that presently exist.

These changes will not evolve overnight—we're talking about three-to-five year periods, a long time for most. But in the history of an association, that can be a very short time.

"The power of many is much stronger than the power of one!"

PK: In these changing times, we know we need to adapt, and adapt quickly, even if we don't know the details of what new technology or advance will be impacting us a year from now. How do you see IFMA's being very agile so it can adapt to whatever situation arises?
TK: It all goes back to how I want the association to provide relevancy to the profession. I would like to structure the organization with that agility that you mentioned—it's that speed-to-market, that nimbleness. How we get there is not necessarily how we adapt to a certain event, but rather about building a process that will give us the ability to adapt.

Our internal business process and governing structure has to be flexible enough to respond to issues on a rapid-fire basis. As a small example, new health care legislation came out recently; within days, a few associations were already coming out with seminars and webinars to be offered within two weeks. Clearly, they had started that process before—they were in tune, watching what was going on, and made sure that they could get something out to their members very quickly.

We need to be able to do that for facility management. We need to provide value to our members and the FM community. I envision IFMA being that nimble, and providing the FMs the tools to implement change to help their organizations adapt to a changing environment. We need to be ready and willing in a moment's notice to respond. That's how IFMA will stay relevant in the future.

My vision is that when an FM has an issue or a problem in facility management, the first place they will turn to is IFMA. The form that guidance takes will be determined by what technological changes come along. It might be that we have a body of knowledge in books, courses, Web pages, or perhaps we would have to build that network and put our members in touch with the right people. We in fact already have several virtual communities around what our members are interested in. If a channel or group doesn't exist for something new that comes up, we want our members to feel that they can come to us to provide them the guidance they are seeking.

PK: A lot of other "agile" organizations keep on top of things by having people in Washington, D.C., keeping their ears tuned in where the news is being made. They have a constant presence, with many contacts. Do you see IFMA's expanding its current presence in Washington and perhaps in other strategic parts of the world?
TK: I think we have to look at it from a global perspective. We already have significant resources in Washington, D.C., and we will continue to monitor what is going on there.  We will expand our presence if we need to, but for us to be able to service the rest of the globe, we need to be sure we're doing something similar in other key parts of the world that drive change in the industry. We need to look at Europe, South America and Asia. IFMA is viewed as a U.S.-centric group—we need to change that perception—that is one of our biggest challenges.

PK: Some of the associations have a true lobbying presence in Washington, D.C. Do you see IFMA going in that direction, so that if there may be some legislation coming down the pike that may negatively impact facilities managers…?
TK: I think IFMA needs to look at it from more of an educational point of view. The goal and mission of IFMA currently, is not to become a significant lobbying organization. If somewhere down the road we need to fund a PAC [Political Action Committee], we'll consider it. The real need for us now is to ensure that we continue educating the folks in Washington, D.C., on FM-related issues—while at the same time keeping our members informed of the key issues going on in D.C. that may impact them in the future. IFMA's role is to be the conduit for that information and the educational component of it.

"There are lots of opportunities for business process improvement."

PK: A lot of what you've described so far has been along the lines of strategic goals, rather than a tactical plan. In your mind, please share with us from the perspective of the members how they will see a difference.
TK: The biggest visible change the members will see is that we will further our goals in terms of truly becoming a global organization. Members will also notice a greater ease in interacting with IFMA from a face-to-face as well as on a technological basis. We need to make it easier for members to see what we're doing—we need to enhance our transparency. It is only then that people will understand that IFMA is the key player in the FM community, and that they cannot afford not to be a part of our family.

PK: Right now, there are a lot of other organizations in the United States that focus on FMs, including those in niche sectors such as health care and retail. Tony, please share with us how you see IFMA working with these organizations.
TK: We need to look at the strategic relationships we already have with those organizations, and continue to build and leverage them together. What we don't need to be doing is spending a lot of energy and time where the marketplace is already being well-served by another organization. If for some reason, our members feel that there is a reason for IFMA to be more involved in that sector, we will listen to them and investigate where the gaps are, and build on them.

We have so many opportunities around the world that are not being served, and so many industries, even in this country, that are not being served properly. I believe there is plenty for IFMA to keep busy with. There's an old term called co-opetition, and that's how associations in this marketplace need to relate to one another at this particular time.

"We can't be, 'This is the way we've always done it, so that's what we need to do in the future….' We need to be ready and willing to respond.."

PK: What changes have you already made at IFMA since January 18?
TK: One such change has been an internal one, but it will likely not be visible right away. I have realigned the headquarters staff along the lines of what I call a "knowledge transformation model." The heart of IFMA needs to include the research and strategic initiatives side of the association, as this will continue to create credibility. I am calling the area Research and Strategic Initiatives (see Figure 1). Its role will be to take current issues and see how they impact FMs and what support IFMA can provide. We are going to hire a director of strategic initiatives for sustainability, whom we will look for immediately. By the end of the year, there will be a vice president of strategic initiatives and research, who also will oversee the director of research, director of sustainability, and also additional directors of other strategic initiatives as needed.

In this area, I also want to start a standards monitoring activity, where we will monitor and interact with various standards-setting bodies both in the U.S. and around the globe. We need to be aware of the standards that impact facility management.

Figure 1 shows the entire plan of staff realignment and indicates it works with our audience (members, customers and corporations). These groups are all dealing with all the issues of FM. An association can transform their knowledge into wisdom to emerging customers, who can input it into their daily lives. First, one needs a way to capture the information, which is what the strategic initiatives group does. The brains will be the conversion aspect; the COO position will oversee all the basic product areas: education, certification, publishing, membership, councils, events / conferences, chapters, and the corporate services group. Then, we'll have the "touch" area, which is where we "reach out to our members and customers," our communications area (public / government affairs, PR, marketing, member customer service center) and corporate connections. The overall skeletal structure includes the executive, HR, finance and IT.

So, to date, I've put the conferences and events areas back together into one area, created an opportunity for our sustainability initiative, and realigned our structure to increase our efficiency—improving our communication flow. At the same time, we've put some teams into place to focus on our internal structure including HR, IT, business processes, and communications. We'll also be establishing our own sustainability team to make sure we walk the talk.

PK: What is the biggest challenge that you see?
TK: Initially, it's getting the IT infrastructure into place. This includes the back-office systems, its integration, and the Web site. That's a big task, and it's a cultural shift for the organization to be able to adapt to that as well. Once I get past that, the challenge will be to change the culture of the organization to a truly global one.

PK: The IFMA By-Laws and Constitution were developed a long time ago—do you see that they may need to be modified?
TK: We need to be sure that the organization is nimble and agile, that may mean to re-examine the By-Laws and Constitution to be sure that they will support those endeavors. There is no timeline in place for that yet. Tom [Mitchell, current Chair of IFMA] has agreed to set up a task force to start looking at the Constitution this year. How long the process takes will depend on how much we have to tackle.

PK: Tony, tell me about your upcoming trips outside of the United States, and their purpose.
TK: I'm going to Singapore next week. It is a dual purpose trip where I will get to sit in and observe the accreditation process we're doing with Temasek Polytechnic. I also will be there to keynote a joint conference between IFMA's Singapore Chapter and the BCA [Building Construction Authority and Academy]. I'll be speaking about not only IFMA, but also sustainability and the role of IFMA on this issue.

In May, I'll be attending FMA Australia's conference, ideaction10, in Perth. My main purpose there will be to continue to build IFMA's relationship with FMA Australia. In June, I'll be at the EuroFM conference in Madrid, Spain; and before the end of the fall, I would like to make a trip to China—since we just approved the establishment of a new Shanghai Chapter. I not only will want to see them, but also visit with our training partners in China and visit with the chapter in Hong Kong. I would like to gain a better understand our presence there, and what it is that IFMA can do to help support that marketplace.

PK: In terms of your own background, besides what is in the résumé, which parts do you see yourself relying on the most over the next year?
TK: Initially, it's going to be a lot of my finance and operations background–followed by my experience in leadership, and change management. I then need to oversee the facilitation process with the board and committees, and make sure we are moving forward as one team.

PK: What is the biggest surprise you've had since you started on January 18?
TK: I'd like to answer that in terms of what was most different from my original expectations. On a positive note, I think that the level of passion and enthusiasm by IFMA's members is far greater than I had thought it would be—it's not so much that there is more passion, but rather that there are many more people that share that passion. There is a very positive energy, with people wanting to know what they can do to make a difference.

There were many items that could have been a surprise for me, such as the condition of the IT structure and where we were with the headquarters business process operations. But during the transition period, these were all identified, so they really weren't surprises.

The one surprise I did have was that I thought we would have more CFMs and FMPs out there. On the one hand, this could be construed as a negative, but on the other hand, this means that there are a lot more people out there who need to become CFMs and FMPs.

PK: If I were working for an outsource provider, as many more FMs are starting to do, do you think that the CFM would be appropriate for me?
TK: I do. The basic core competencies around which the CFM is built will be the same skills, no matter which side of the fence one is on. It's just like the difference between a small and large business from a financial perspective—the principles are all there, but just at different levels of magnitude.

PK: To help our readers understand the man behind the leader, I'd like to ask some questions about you, your family, and what you like to do when you're not at IFMA.
TK: First of all, I have the benefit that my personal family and I were born in the U.K., so my upbringing was much more from a global perspective. Since moving to the USA, I have lived in California, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Northern Virginia, Maryland, and for the past 5 years, Texas. I have visited all 50 states and 28 different countries.

Between my wife, Laura and me, we have six children. One of our two oldest daughters is a quality-control, wholesale order processing manager; the other is a fifth grade teacher. Our two oldest sons are close to the same age—one is starting a job at a large banking company as an account executive, and the other is in college studying to be a veterinary technician. Another daughter is in college studying to be an occupational therapist, and the youngest is in high school.

PK: I think you'll be able to take care of the whole world with skill sets from just your family!
TK: Yes, one thing that is very important to my wife and I is that family comes first. My wife and I both like to travel, seeing and exploring new places. Also every once in a while, in my spare time, I attempt to play a round of golf—only an attempt.

PK: What hobbies do you have and what else do you like to do in your spare time?
TK: My wife and I watch a lot of movies, especially comedy and action-adventure. I enjoy wine and wine tasting—there are some excellent wines all over the world.

PK: Is there anything else you'd like to share, Tony?
TK: The organization has had a great 30 years, and now the focus is on what we can do in the next 30. That's where I feel I can add value. I look forward to working with the board, committees, staff and members to make that happen. That's what makes this new role fun and exciting for me—seeing an opportunity to make a difference, and taking this association to the next level.

Peter S. Kimmel is the Publisher of FMLink (, the online magazine for facility managers as well as a Principal of FM BENCHMARKING (, an online subscription-based benchmarking and sustainability tool for FMs. Prior to founding FMLink in 1995, Peter was president of his own FM consulting firm for ten years, and before then, he managed facilities in the Federal government and in the private sector. He is a three-time winner of IFMA's Distinguished Author Award, most recently in 2009 for his energy management research. As the founding president of IFMA's Capital Chapter, he led it to IFMA's first Chapter-of-the-Year award. In 1997, he was named an IFMA Fellow. Peter is a registered architect and holds a Master of Architecture degree from the University of California.

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