Why FM

Most companies that own their buildings have facility management (FM) or corporate real estate (CRE) departments. Companies that lease space but retain responsibility for physical plant maintenance and operations are also likely to have an FM or CRE group. Because facility management involves such a broad range of functions, many companies outsource skills and expertise they do not have in-house. The most typical FM clients manage office or multiuse facilities.

In the past, client organizations were relatively stable, manufacturing the same product or providing the same service for twenty years or more. In that environment the role of the design and construction industry was to respond to change as it related to space. Facility management consulting services most often addressed planning new space or reconfiguring existing space, as well as tactical assistance with building operations and maintenance and general office services. Most companies viewed their facilities and their FM/CRE departments as an expense.

In the past 10 to 15 years business cycles have shortened, the pace of business has rapidly accelerated, and real estate values have cycled up and down dramatically. More clients have come to understand the need to manage their facilities as an asset or a means to an end. In-house facility managers are challenged to respond instantly to continual company change, whether it stems from innovation, restructuring, or reorganization.

In the current business environment, client organizations must manage change effectively through strategic facility planning. There is a growing need for FM services to help develop facility strategies that can contribute to the achievement of corporate objectives. As an example, the facility objectives of many organizations now include maximizing productivity and flexibility and attracting and retaining personnel, as well as minimizing operations expenses. Flexibility is particularly important, as it permits organizations to respond more efficiently and economically to future demands.

Many clients today are moving away from hiring a number of different consultants for short-term projects. Instead, they are seeking to lower costs and increase efficiency through long-term relationships with consultants who can help them manage their space over time. In this climate, architects have the opportunity to reestablish themselves as integrators and trusted advisors—roles they played in many companies before the demise of the corporate architect and the emergence of predominantly leased business space in the 1980s.

The market for consultants providing strategic facility planning as part of FM services has enormous potential for growth because of the value it can add to client organizations. Architects and architecture firms that offer such planning services will be in a good position to provide clients with related FM services, as they will have an unusually thorough understanding of clients’ needs. Related information management services can provide a client with continually updated data that assist in ongoing management decision making. At the same time this new version of facility management is developing, the more traditional market for facility management services is continuing to expand. Opportunities abound for architecture firms offering real estate, building design and construction, building operations, maintenance, and general office services to clients that may or may not have made the transition to strategic FM practices.

The FM field traces its origins to the increased need for interior space planning that came with office automation in the early 1980s. Now the trend toward team-based work processes, and the fact that teams tend to shift with each new project, is driving office planning in many organizations. As one facility manager explained, “Our job is to make it as easy as possible to form teams.” According to a 1996 International Facility Management Association survey, other issues of client concern include ergonomics, sustainability, recycling, emergency response, telecommunications, smart buildings, and sick building syndrome.

Services to help a client minimize operating expenses continue to be of great value and in demand. Benchmarking is a service provided by many FM consultants, including both business management and design consultants. Benchmarking evaluates people, processes, systems, and information flow and makes comparisons to industry benchmarks or to goals set by a particular client. For example, one firm moved its accounting department out of the headquarters complex when it found the cost of headquarters space was more than twice the industry benchmark for an accounting function.

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