Organizations across the globe rely on facilities management to operate successfully. In this guide, we’ll explore facilities management, how it can vary, and what it takes to become a strong facility manager.
What is facilities management?
In short, facilities management is the day-to-day operations necessary to ensure a physical environment supports an organization’s needs and core function.
The ISO defines facility management as “an organizational function which integrates people, place, and process within the built environment to improve the quality of life of people and the productivity of the core business.”
There are many things that go into supporting the core functions of an organization, especially when considering the vast gamut of industries that require facilities management. It could be a school district with buildings across multiple locations, a manufacturing company with one large production facility, or a commercial office space renting out a single floor of a city skyscraper. Whatever the industry you find yourself in, facilities management (a facilities manager) ensures your physical spaces and assets are able to support the needs of your organization.
Why is facilities management important?
All organizations exist to fulfill a core function, from generating profits to serving a community’s needs. Working in the background, facilities management is the essential spine of any successful organization. They support in a variety of ways:
The first and foremost function is to ensure the staff, employees, and occupants are able to fulfill their job duties effectively. This means making sure the space is clean, organized, and ready to use. It also means vehicles, equipment items, and technology are functioning properly when needed.
Comfort & safety
Tied closely with productivity is making sure that all building occupants are safe and comfortable. Ensuring the buildings and equipment are inspected to meet safety standards is critical to minimizing liability and risk. Facilities managers also monitor ways a facility can better meet occupant comfort.
Productivity, safety, and comfort must be created efficiently. Facilities management is often the largest expense due to its far-reaching impact across the organization, so any efforts to minimize unnecessary operating costs are important for the business’s bottom line.
As organizations grow, expand capital assets, change locations, or adapt to changing work environments (the introduction of a virtual work environment as one example), facilities management is at the forefront of ensuring the success of these changes. The team needs to know the facilities inside and out, as well as the people and assets within them, to best advise on new opportunities.
Beyond EHS (environment, health, and safety) compliance, facilities managers bear a social responsibility to promoting greener practices for the organization. This can mean a reduction in waste, optimizing energy efficiency, or leveraging new best practices. Sustainable facilities management promotes a positive brand image for the organization and reduces their overall energy consumption costs.
What does a facilities manager do?
The title of facilities manager can mean a variety of things depending on the size of an organization and what industry they serve. Their job responsibilities can also be fulfilled by people with different job titles (director of facilities, director of operations, maintenance manager, property manager, and many others).
The easiest way to understand the role of a facilities manager is to break down the facility management services into two categories, hard services and soft services.
Hard services vs. soft services
The simplest way to understand the difference between hard services and soft services is that hard services relate to the physical spaces and assets, while soft services relate to the organization and its operation.
|Hard services include:||Soft services include:|
|Facility maintenance||Staffing and space planning|
|HVAC||Custodial and waste management|
|Plumbing||Grounds and pest control|
|Electrical||IT and technology|
|Lighting||Safety and security|
|Fire safety systems||EHS compliance|
|Construction and renovation||Catering and food service|
|Occupancy (leasing, relocation, purchasing)||Mail management|
Facility manager vs. property manager
A role that is commonly confused with a facility manager is a property manager, and it’s easy to understand why. This confusion is most commonly found in commercial real estate, where a property owner and organization are different entities. In owner-occupied facilities, i.e., the organization leaders are also the building owners, this is not applicable.
In those commercial real estate situations, however, both a property manager and facility manager will be present. The key difference is that the property manager is employed by the property owner (landlord) while the facility manager is employed by the residing organization (tenant). As such, property managers oversee everything having to do with the commercial buildings themselves (building maintenance, utilities, capital improvements, etc.), and facility managers oversee everything relating to the occupants, employees, and assets inside (workspace management, asset maintenance, catering, etc.)
Read more about facility management vs. property management.
How is a facilities department structured?
Like most things relating to facilities management, the department structure varies greatly depending on the size and industry of facilities management.
For smaller organizations, the department may consist of only one individual that oversees everything without a facility management team. When this is the case, the facilities manager (or facility manager when referring to a single facility) is very involved in the day-to-day operations.
As organizations scale up in size, specific services are delegated to focused facility professionals or teams. For example, a maintenance manager, transportation director, or production manager may come on board to own those specific services. Other organizations may split their management based on zones, locations, buildings, or regions, overseen by building managers or regional managers. In either of these situations, the facilities manager (or more likely facilities director or VP of operations) is freed up to handle more strategic tasks in collaboration with the executive leadership.
Outsourcing facilities management
Many organizations will seek to outsource varying levels of their facility management (from outsourcing the entire department to only a few selected services).
Outsourcing can be a cost-effective option by reducing in-house training and payroll costs. Each organization must weigh the costs and benefits of outsourcing for themselves, but often the more specialized, less frequent services are outsourced, while common, frequent services are kept in-house.
|Core to organization function||Peripheral to organizational function|
|Low training costs||High training costs|
Read more about outsourcing facility management.
What are the qualifications of a facilities manager?
The role of a facilities manager is not an entry-level position, and often requires years of experience or education. Often, a facilities manager begins as a maintenance technician, building manager, mechanical engineer, or another related job title. As they become more experienced, they begin to move into higher-level director positions, enabling them to oversee more of the strategic functions of the department.
The educational requirements change depending on the size of an organization and the candidate competition, ranging from a high school diploma, a 2-year associate degree, or a 4-year bachelor’s degree in facility management or engineering. Many candidates will also bolster their education with a facility management certification.
The three most common are:
- Facility Management Professional (FMP)
- Certified Facility Manager (CFM)
- Sustainability Facility Professional (SFP)
Due to the wide range of responsibilities a facilities manager is expected to fulfill, they require a diverse skillset:
- Strategic planning
- Leadership and communication
- Project management
- Business and financial acumen
- Technical skill (maintenance and technology)
Read more about facilities manager salaries and career paths.
What is a facility management software?
The term facility management software is a catch-all phrase to describe any digital tool that supports the day-to-day operations of facility management. The software can be specifically designed for one service or encompass most/all of them.
While there are defined categories of facilities management software (CMMS software, CAFM software, IWMS software, or EAM software), the boundary lines are rather nebulous. Each software provider will offer its own feature set (regardless of what category they fall into).
When selecting the software for your facilities, it’s best to identify the desired capabilities for your organization, rather than which specific category software is labeled as.
Some common examples of facilities management software features include:
Want more resources for facilities management?
Facilities management is an ever-growing industry, with many different topics to help you grow and develop your skillset. We’ve compiled a list of resources you may find helpful.
- Maintenance Assessment Tool
- Facilities Management Job Board
- Facilities Management Best Practices
- Facilities Management Maintenance Goals
- Facilities Management Equipment Checklist
If you’re looking for a next step, we sat down with 30-year operations and facilities management leader, Robert Gregory, in a recent webinar, 5 Ways to Achieve Operational Excellence in Facilities and Maintenance Management.