What is FM

Facility management, commonly abbreviated as FM, is still a fairly new business and management discipline in the private sector. In the public sector, however, it has been practiced as post engineering, public works, or plant administration for many years. In leased property, the profession is called property management or building operating management, although most of the required skills are the same as those needed in owned property. FM functions were often subsumed deep in the administrative structure of both private and public sector organizations, if practiced at all. Growth around the globe has heightened the awareness that sustainment of facilities is required for longevity and efficient use.

The most recent definition of facility management is “a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process, and technology.” It is interesting to note that this newest definition highlights the importance of technology, which was lacking previously. Similar definitions from the European Union and other areas point to the need for standardization of the industry. An International Standards Organization (ISO) project is currently underway at this writing, to establish FM standards for use around the world. This attempt should help not only to standardize the definitions and meaning of facility management, but also to bring broader awareness of the field and its value.

Defining the many FM functions becomes very important because they form the framework for maturity in the industry and its professional development, research, and professional competency testing. For example, IFMA has organized the functions into “competencies” around which it designs all of its professional programs. These eleven competencies form the basis of standardization and encapsulate all of the many functions required in FM. These competencies are

  • Communication
  • Emergency preparedness and business
  • Environmental stewardship and sustainability
  • Finance and business
  • Human factors
  • Leadership and strategy
  • Operations and maintenance
  • Project management
  • Quality
  • Real estate and property management
  • Technology

International standardization is one step that may help to bridge understanding and business opportunity. Facility management embraces the concepts of cost-effectiveness, productivity improvement, efficiency, and employee quality of life. In practice, these concepts often seem to be in conflict. For example, many facility managers find themselves sinking in the quicksand of diminishing knowledge worker productivity, placed at the precipice of office air-quality problems, or embroiled in waste management issues that predate their employments. Providing customer responsive services balanced with unrelenting cost cuts is a monumental challenge. Employee expectations and concerns almost always come before clear-cut technical or financial solutions. Often there are no set answers—only management decisions that must be made. It is this constant yin and yang of FM: to balance the needs of the organization against the financial restrictions required to allow the operational units of the business to expand and grow.

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