FORS has announced the launch of a ‘digital transformation’ programme as it works with members towards ‘a safe and sustainable future’.

Speaking at the body’s fifth annual conference at the Manchester Central Convention Complex, concession director Ian Henderson (pictured) pledged to review the audit and training process and re-engage with operators through improved online data access.

Henderson replaced John Hix in the lead role in April 2021 in a shake-up which also saw Glen Davies assume the role of technical advisor and Aimee Mitchell become head of business operations.

The new team has spent the last six months on a fresh vision, resulting in a strategy based on what Henderson labelled "the four Rs - recruitment, recognition, retention and re-engagement".

"Our ambition is to be the 'FORS partner of choice', delivering a customer-centric scheme," he said, "and to be sustainable and to engender safe and efficient methods of business operations."

However, he admitted the process had been a “steep learning curve” and that there was more work to be done.

“At FORS we acknowledge what is required to achieve accreditation. We allow evidence at the time of the FORS audit process for additional accreditation that is fit for purpose,” he said. “But are we doing enough? Our operators and specifiers say 'yes and no'.

“It appears to me we have a set of rules, and people set up ways of working to meet the standard and to meet those rules. But sometimes we miss something. Sometimes we forget the people, culture, attitude and approach that we see in our daily interactions with members.”

Henderson said FORS' recent survey of operators had started to reveal what members expect from it as "a business enabler that opens doors" for them.

“The overarching concern of operators is how they they can interact with the data they need to access,” he explained. “Some specifiers have said the same thing. We are looking at the future of audit. Is it fit for purpose and creating best practice, and if it isn’t what can we do about it?

“And we’re looking at the marketplace. How can we engage with training providers? How do you book training and book audits, and how do we, as the administrator, engage with audit providers?”

As a result of the feedback, FORS is now working with Paris-based digital services and software company Sopra Steria to develop and enhance its website.

“We recognise there are infrastructure changes we can make fairly simply, and in the new year a new FORS online system will be available, as a simplification,” Henderson continued. “Alongside it will be a number of process changes. We hope that it will be much better aligned to members’ needs and goals.

“My desire is for the new site to be tested and running concurrently with the present system for a period of time and then go live by the end of March next year.”

Henderson went on to address claims from some members that FORS is too London-centric and focuses too heavily on the construction sector. He argued that holding this year's conference in Manchester and focusing attention on the North West and North East through meetings with local specifiers would help it “lose this stigma”.

“It can start to become the norm to talk about FORS as a national and international scheme,” he insisted. “I think the Governance and Standards Advisory Group (GSAG) plays a part in that, and we’re looking at all sorts of things to enable that to happen. But we all have to play our part.”