A Complete Guide To Facilities Management

what is facility management

The effects of good facilities management are something we experience every day. 

Each time you take a smooth elevator ride, walk into a properly heated office, use a clean public bathroom, and do not have to take a flashlight with you when going to a second floor for a quick smoke break – that’s facility management. 

The same applies when you go to the hospital or the gym and every piece of equipment there is working properly. Again, that’s facilities management.  

As humans, we’ve become used to seeing all the pieces fall nicely together. But what’s going on behind the scenes to ensure good facility management and who’s involved? In this article, we answer those questions in a series of targeted sections:

  • what is facility management
  • scope of facility management broken down into hard and soft facilities management services
  • the role of maintenance in facilities management 
  • how to build a facility management team
  • software solutions used in facility management
At the end of the article, we will leave a list of helpful resources in this space you can follow to learn more.

Let’s jump straight in.

What is facilities management?

When people are asked to define “facility”, their definition usually narrows around office buildings, factories, or high-tech industrial settings. But facility encompasses much more than that. It includes schools, churches, gyms, hotels, casinos, shopping malls, and all other similar establishments. 

An internationally accepted definition of facility management is given by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO): “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.”

In other words, facilities management (or facility management or FM) involves all that is going on behind the scenes to ensure a comfortable and productive physical environment for people to work and live in – in a sustainable and cost-effective way.

The scope of facility management

Facility management involves a broad scope of activities that fulfill a specific purpose. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Project management: Ensuring the successful flow of processes and taking steps to address concerns when they arise. For example, managing a cleaning team to ensure that all offices/rooms are cleaned according to a systematic process.
  • Communications management: Getting information across promptly so that everyone is on the same page about what needs to be done, how to do it, and when to complete it. For example, communicating with the grounds team about the new landscaping standards for a particular facility.
  • Human factors and ergonomics: Defining and maintaining acceptable standards of comfort that might include temperature, noise, sitting standards, and visual cues. For example, selecting specific chairs that guarantee employee comfort for desk workers.
  • Safety management: Ensuring that instructions regarding services, installations, and amenities are followed to avoid harmful incidents. For example, doing the necessary checks on a fire sprinkling system to see whether there are blockages, rust, adequate flow rate, and other factors.
  • Cost management: It would be fairly easy to keep a facility running smoothly with an unlimited budget. Since that is never the case, part of facility management is running all of the above (and below) listed activities in a cost-effective manner. 
Facilities management department has a huge range of responsibilities that can be divided into two important areas: Hard Facilities Management (Hard FM) and Soft Facilities Management (Soft FM)

soft and hard facilities management services

Hard facilities management services (space and infrastructure)

Hard FM services are concerned with spaces and infrastructure. In other words, they focus on the physical components of the built environment. As you will see below, most of them fall into the jurisdiction of the maintenance department. Here is a rough dissection of hard facilities management services:

  • Maintaining the plumbing system: This system plays an important role in transporting water to a building and removing waste from it. Over time, blockages can occur, pressure can build up, and fixtures/piping have to be replaced. When done correctly, facility management ensures the plumbing system is regularly maintained and that the possible issues are fixed as fast as possible. 
  • Maintaining lighting and HVAC systems: Heating/cooling and lighting are essential for human comfort. A facility manager will work with a team to check whether the lighting and heating fixtures need repair or replacement. In either case, the team should also decide which alternatives deliver the best solutions regarding energy savings, comfort, and functionality. 
  • Staying in compliance with fire safety regulations: Fire safety systems are a mandatory add on in most countries and should be regularly maintained and checked for compliance issues.
  • Maintaining mechanical & electrical systems: It is self-explanatory how the electrical system enables most other building operations. The same goes for mechanical systems such as elevators and water pumps. FM is here to ensure they work properly and do not cause safety incidents. 
  • Structural maintenance: Regular usage or even poor design can lead to structural issues over time. As a part of facility management, there should be a structural maintenance plan in place to identify, classify, and deal with possible structural problems. 

Soft facilities management services (people and organization)

Soft facility management is concerned with people and organizations. It includes services that create a more comfortable, healthier, safer, and visually appealing environment. 

Common examples include:

  • Waste management: When waste is not managed, garbage bins become overloaded and things become smelly. This is not the scenario one wants to see. Waste management ensures that garbage is put in the correct bins and sent away at regular intervals to satisfy regulatory requirements and prevent trash overcrowding.
  • Cleaning services: Cleaning teams are usually called at regular intervals to clean common areas and perform other janitorial duties. A lot of bigger facilities will have an in-house cleaning team, but it is not especially hard to find competent companies to outsource to.
  • Space planning: Space planning and management is an important part of FM. Whenever a business hires more people, expands to a new floor, buys new assets that take a big chunk of space, wants to do some remodeling of the existing space, and similar, facility managers are here to help organize the space in a way that it remains comfortable, safe, and functional. 
  • Landscaping: Well-maintained grounds improve curb appeal and signal proper property management. Facility management takes care of the seasonal and non-seasonal changes, such as planting flowers in the spring, trimming the grass during the summer, removing falling leaves during the autumn, or removing excess snow from the walkway in the winter.
  • Pest control: Facility management should be concerned with scheduling yearly pest controls and manage pest outbreaks if they ever happen.
  • Building security: Refers to having control of people going in and out of the facility. May also involve the control of restricted access areas inside the facility.

The importance of maintenance in facility management

Asset management and building maintenance are essential aspects of facility management. Without them, regular breakdowns and high maintenance costs become the norm. In today’s world where productivity and cost-saving are on top of everyone’s mind, these situations should clearly be avoided. 

But how?

The answer is very simple: proactive maintenance management. As we alluded to while listing hard FM services, all building systems and equipment should be on some sort of a preventative maintenance plan. This plan should specify when maintenance should be performed, which maintenance actions have to be executed, by whom, and when. 

A strategic and proactive approach to maintenance will not only ensure that all building systems work properly, but will also help reduce operational costs. Both come with a huge list of positive bonuses. 

To ensure facility management is done right, medium-sized and large facilities need a strong facilities management team with access to the right tools. We’ll discuss those next.   

Building a facilities management team

It should be obvious by now that facility management is not a one-man job. One person can only wear so many hats. A facility management team should include people with different competencies and inputs to perform all of the services we outlined earlier. 

A common challenge is keeping track of all required tasks and knowing whether it is better to do something in-house or outsource it. The answer is not simple, since it depends on the type of facility, budget, type of service, and available talent. 

While you can technically outsource everything to a professional facilities maintenance company, the most cost-effective approach is often to have a small in-house team of facility professionals to deal with routine maintenance and custodial services, while specialized tasks like random plumbing issues or fire safety testing can be outsourced to licensed service providers.     

If a business prefers to have full control over all operations due to security/privacy issues or just wants to avoid delays due to a service provider not meeting a particular deadline, it has to build an in-house facility management team. 

Depending on the size of the space and the number of people and assets that need to be managed, many hard and soft FM services we listed above can have their own separate teams. For instance, a maintenance department could consist of a maintenance director, maintenance supervisor, and several maintenance technicians and mechanics

Below are a couple of examples that showcase some of the many possible FM department organizational configurations:

facility management organizational structure
Image source
facilities maintenance organizational structure
Image source

Important software solutions for facility management

There are many useful software solutions that can make life easier for a facilities manager. Bigger facilities arguably can’t function properly if the facility management team doesn’t have access to these solutions. 

CMMS and Facilities Management Software

Maintenance becomes very challenging when complex machines and building functions are monitored manually. CMMS system and facilities management software make maintenance vastly easier by streamlining and automating all maintenance processes: 

  • streamline the submission of maintenance work requests
  • help schedule and monitor all maintenance work
  • help track spare parts inventory and forecast future inventory needs
  • help with asset tracking
  • save all important equipment maintenance history you can access at any time
  • and much more 


Let’s first explain the acronyms:

  • BMS = building management system
  • BAS = building automation system
  • BEMS = building energy management system
BMS and BAS are often used interchangeably because they serve basically the same purpose. They use a combination of hardware and software solutions to control different building systems like lighting, heating, HVAC, access control, etc. They can also be used to measure the performance and energy consumption of different devices like HVAC systems.  

Facility managers have to keep an eye on energy consumption because it accounts for a big chunk of their facility’s operational costs. Building energy management systems help them measure energy consumption across the whole facility and find problematic systems and assets. 

In some cases BEMS and BMS do come together, but they are usually standalone systems that are implemented separately. That being said, they do work very well together. BMS/BAM primary function is to control building systems and assets while BEMS primary role is to collect and analyze energy consumption data (it can track everything from device electricity usage to water, gas, and steam consumption).

For those who want to learn more, here is an article that discusses differences between these systems in more detail. 

Visitor management software 

Visitor management software comes in various forms depending on the type of application. From facial recognition to badge scanning, these solutions help to control who goes in and comes out of the facility. 

Where can you learn more?

Facility management is a broad subject and there are lots of resources available online to get more information. Some great places to look for more info include: 

  • International Facility Management Association (IFMA): An internationally recognized organization for facility management professionals. Offers training, latest information about facility management practices, and professional development courses.
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO 41011:2018): provides acceptable norms/definitions on facility management that can be adopted in a wide range of industries.
  • Buildings.com: Online publication that offers a wide range of articles and digital material on the topic of facility management.
  • Facilities Manager: A digital magazine that brings the reader the views and experiences of the people behind the facilities operations. Articles are written by facilities professionals for facilities professionals, giving readers practical and big-picture perspectives on issues and challenges shared across the profession.
  • The Facility Management Handbook: Offers insightful overviews, case studies, and practical guidelines that pave the way for successful planning, budgeting, real estate transactions, construction, emergency preparedness, security, operations, maintenance, and more.
Still curious to know more? If your question is in any way related to maintenance operations or how CMMS delivers sustainability and ensures business continuity, contact us directly.

For everything else, start a conversation in the comments below!

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