Facility management is the systematic approach to ensuring an organization has the physical resources it needs to meet its goals. Although it often works in the background, facility management is critical to both short- and long-term success.
Because of the value facility managers can deliver to an organization, leadership needs to understand their role and responsibilities, professional qualifications, and the software solutions that best support them.
What is facilities management?
Because the scope is so broad, industry organizations tend to cast a wide net when creating a definition of facility management.
According to "the world's largest association for facility management professionals," the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), facilities management pulls principles and techniques from a variety of fields and roles to meet a long list of goals. According to the leading industry organization, facilities management is "a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality, comfort, safety and efficiency of the built environment by integrating people, place, process, and technology."
The International Organization for standardization (ISO), the organization behind the ISO 5500 standards, presents basically the same definition of facilities management; it's "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."
The bottom line: it's everything an organization does to create and maintain the physical environment it requires to reach its goals.
What does a facility manager do?
Another way to think about this question is to ask, "How does an airplane get from Point A to Point B?" The simple answer is "the pilot." But that misses a lot of the critical work that makes the pilot's contribution even possible.
Long before anyone could fly the plane, someone had to look at the numbers and justify the purchase. Then they were responsible for all the planning and organization that went into the selection process. They also established the processes for every aspect of owning the plane, including determining who would maintain and repair it.
But there's always more than just the plane. There's all the physical infrastructure it requires, including runways and terminals and a properly staffed air traffic control tower. Without all these buildings, assets, and equipment, your plane is never leaving the hangar. In fact, it won't even have a hangar.
Let's land this back where we started, with the question "What does a facility manager do?" The answer is, they make sure organizations have the assets they need in place to succeed. They do the behind-the-scenes work critical to keeping things from falling out of the sky.
Additionally, they do it with a close eye on the bottom line. It's not enough to keep the physical environment, assets, and equipment online. A facility manager needs to develop processes that are effective and sustainable but also efficient.
According to IFMA, facility managers support organizational goals and cut costs by:
- Managing risks to both personnel and assets
- Tracking regulations and best practices work to ensure compliance
- Supporting the productivity of both systems and personnel
- Finding and implementing new efficiencies
The last item on the list is critical: a good facility manager is always looking for ways to get more work done for less money, which is why an important part of their job is tracking and generating reports. Once they have a sense of the big picture and where they spend their budgets, they can start to look for places to make strategic cuts.
What is the scope of facility management?
Based on the definition, it makes sense that the scope is fairly broad. Facility managers have many responsibilities, including managing:
- Real estate and occupancy
- Maintenance and repairs
- Assets and equipment
To better understand the role, it's helpful to divide the responsibilities into two categories, hard and soft facility management services.
Hard facility management covers spaces and infrastructure. Examples include:
- Mechanical and electrical systems
- Fire safety and suppression systems
- Plumbing, lighting, and HVAC
Even a cursory examination of the list shows each item is critical to an organization's success. You can't accomplish even the most basic tasks without reliable electricity and plumbing. People can't work in dark, cold buildings.
Soft facility management, though, covers services focused on ensuring facilities are comfortable, including:
- Space planning
Hard services ensure people can work. Soft services ensure people are comfortable so they want to work.
What are common facility manager qualifications?
Because the scope of the job is so broad, so is the list of qualifications. The ideal facility manager has the right combination of interpersonal and organizational skills.
Facility managers must be:
No two days are the same, so facility managers need to be able to move seamlessly between roles. The morning might see them working with a third-party fire suppression testing and maintenance crew, while in the afternoon they're helping organize new staff, including assigning desks and rearranging furniture to accommodate additional workstations.
And those are just the scheduled tasks. In between, they're fielding calls related to everything from requests for better lighting in the staff kitchen to people trapped in a broken elevator.
Even though it's impossible to know how each day will play out, a good facility manager needs to make solid predictions about the organization's future needs, including everything from ordering extra chairs and desks to installing new emergency exit signs in preparation for new regulations.
But success in the field comes down to more than just personality.
A facility manager needs the right set of skills for the job. Facility managers must excel at:
Working with and analyzing numbers
An important part of the job is working with data, so facility managers need a good head for numbers. They need to understand business finance, financial reports, and budgets. It's not about being able to add large numbers in your head. It's about being able to see the story the numbers tell about the organization's finances.
Researching and applying new information
Every industry has sets of ever-changing local, state, and federal laws organizations need to navigate. A good facility manager can understand and comply with the laws and regulations that affect their facilities and workforce, including everything from local fire codes to OSHA regulations.
What are the popular facility management certifications?
Facility management used to involve a lot of trial-and-error and on-the-job training, but these days industry organizations offer various opportunities for professional development.
Certified Facility Manager (CFM)
International Facility Management Association (IFMA) trains workers on the technical side of facility maintenance and also leadership and operational concepts. The organization offers many different educational opportunities.
Facilities Management Professional (FMP)
IFMA offers a degree program for facility management professionals focused on improving both hard and soft skills. The four modules cover finance and business, operations and maintenance, leadership and strategy, and project management. The organization describes it as the "must-have credential for facility professionals."
Essentials of Facility Management
Another program from IFMA, this one is better suited for professionals closer to the start of their careers. The ten modules cover the basics of FM, helping build a strong foundation in key concepts that pays off throughout their careers.
Certified Plant Engineer (CPE)
The ProFMI Commission, which include Stormy Friday and Stan Mitchell, offers this credential covering the "24 things every FM professional should know," including concepts such as operations and maintenance and how to manage assets, risk, and business.
What is facility management software, and how does it make life easier for facility managers?
There's more than one kind of facility management software, and the two main types differ in terms of focus. Computer-aided facilities management software (CAFM) helps facility managers get the most use out of spaces, while computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) helps maximize asset uptime.
Hippo is a CMMS, so let's look at how it works and how it makes work easier for facility managers, primarily related to hard (as opposed to soft) facility services.
Centralize, capture, safeguard, share data
Facility managers delegate and track work through work orders, so anything that improves the process boosts efficiency and cuts costs.
CMMS software streamlines and strengthens work order management at every step.
At the core of modern CMMS software is a central database that lives in the cloud, making it accessible from any Internet-connected device. Once you have all your data in the same place, there is a ripple effect that improves data capture, security, and sharing throughout the organization.
Instead of having to run back to the office every time they need to hand in or pick up paperwork, maintenance technicians can now access their assigned work orders from any mobile device. In the past, technicians often worked from scribbled notes on easily lost pieces of paper. Today's CMMS software safeguards all the data safely in one spot.
The first step to improving a process is standardizing it. You need maintenance technicians to perform the same tasks in the same ways to collect reliable data on what works and what doesn't.
Modern CMMS software helps organizations standardize work by simplifying the process of including detailed notes with work orders. Instead of technicians trying to work from scribbled notes, they have instant access to work orders packed with everything they need to do the work properly every time, including:
- Step-by-step instructions
- Customizable checklists
- Digital images, schematics, O&M manuals
- Associated parts and materials
A facility manager can create a template for common maintenance and repair tasks, which they can then use to generate future work orders.
Quick, concise summary of this post
Facility management is critical for success. Facility managers ensure your physical environment facilitates and supports your organization's goals. They look after everything from maintenance on large assets to purchasing and arranging office furniture. There are two main focuses for facility management: hard and soft services. Hard services, like electrical and plumbing, ensure people can work. Soft, which include elements such as landscaping, ensure they want to work. Facility managers need to be flexible and proactive. They also need a good head for numbers and be able to learn and apply new information quickly.
A lot has changed in the field. Industry associations now offer new opportunities for professional development. Facility managers can also take advantage of new software solutions that help automate and streamline critical workflows. CMMS software, for example, increases efficiency by centralizing data, making it easier to work with and leverage into actionable business intelligence.