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DBA in Facilities and Properties Management, sponsored by FSI (FM Solutions) Limited

Rachel MacDonald

Rachel MacDonald

Sheffield Hallam University

Sheffield Hallam University

In 2002, Sheffield Hallam University launched a major research-based qualification designed to create a unique offering of information for the FM industry.  Five years later, Rachel MacDonald is one of the first FM professionals to complete the new Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) in Facilities and Properties Management.

Rachel's DBA is a significant milestone, achieved after four years of intensive research and with the vital help of sponsorship from FSI, developers of the Concept range of CAFM software.  When Director of Facilities Management for the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Trust, she was awarded the first FSI Concept Scholarship = worth £15,000.00 - to provide the tuition funding for her investigation into why the NHS was not making better use of FM data to improve business performance.

"I did a Masters degree about eight years ago, and I've always been interested in researching the 'how's and 'why's of FM, particularly in relation to performance", she says.  "The DBA is a very new qualification as far as FM is concerned.  It's the same level as a PhD, although the research is focused on delivering information to industry rather than academia.  I am part of an NHS forum which Sheffield Hallam runs for FMs and I was very excited when they started talking about the DBA and the possibility of a scholarship.  Obviously it is an expensive qualification and the NHS is not in a position to spend large amounts of money on an individual in that way.  So it was wonderful to hear that FSI was interested in sponsoring someone.  I had to prepare a research brief and present my ideas to a panel."

Rachel's brief was based around her interest in performance.  "I wanted to look at why some acute NHS trusts perform better with their patients' environment in FM terms, when we all have the same basic resources", she explains.  "I wanted to examine the systems of measurement that might be used.  I already had a strong idea that if people had the best possible measurement system, they would be better informed and therefore able to make more informed decisions to improve the way the business operates."

Her findings will resonate with all FM professionals beyond the healthcare sector, throughout business and industry.  "It was all about using the experiences of people I spoke to, and the fruits of my desk and book research, to look at how I, as a leader of facilities, observed what went on and how I could use that to improve my leadership capabilities", she continues.  "The DBA gave me time and access to these teams of leaders working in groups, and seeing how all their personalities fitted together, rather than just tapping into the views of an individual, top, charismatic chief executive.  The impact for me as an FM leader has been huge - perhaps even greater than I understood during my research.  It actually led to a change of career!"

Rachel decided that in order to give her research the attention it demanded, she would have to reduce her workload, so she moved from her position as Director of FM with an acute trust to take up a part-time position in primary care.  Here, she was able to apply her FM skills to clinical service delivery - a neat parallel with the subject of her doctorate.  Since completing her DBA, she has returned to a full-time role and is now Director of Change Programmes at North East Lincolnshire Primary Care Trust.

"My DBA research let me explore the idea of FM becoming more involved with clinical services, and adding extra value.  As an FM, you then become a strategic broker, helping the organisation to deliver the corporate agenda, working with people to design new services and contributing to an environment that is all about encouraging the modernisation of clinical service delivery."

Rachel says the DBA was extremely hard work, but the vision she has gained as a result of her research has convinced her that FM is rightly moving to the heart of the business, giving FM professionals an exciting opportunity to stake their claim to a place at the top table.

Rachel is grateful for the unique opportunity provided by the FSI Concept™ Scholarship.  She says that even before she embarked on her doctorate, CAFM had featured strongly in her thinking: FM managers need information management systems so that they can report to the board in the board's language.  "I look forward to offering FSI help and support with the information that I have acquired through my research, just as they made such a great opportunity available to me through the scholarship", she says.  "It is good to know that they will benefit from my DBA as well."