Complete Guide to Facilities Management

Facility management professionals carry out a range of activities to ensure all types of buildings and properties remain safe, orderly, productive, and efficient.

Without facilities managers, the world as we know it would quickly cease to exist. It would start small. Light bulbs would burn out, machines would overheat and fail, eventually buildings would crumble and fall. Facilities managers and maintenance professionals keep their organizations running by ensuring properties and equipment always remain in peak condition to keep employees safe and productive and ensure customers are always satisfied. 

What if facilities management didn’t exist? 

As humans, we occupy space, and we are accustomed to our spaces working for us, not against us. We need these areas to be safe, functional, and comfortable. And there’s a lot to that. 

When everything goes to plan, this means that your job as a facilities manager is less stressful. No emergencies, easy-to-manage workloads, and fewer incidences.  A boost in productivity and reductions in absenteeism, downtime and wastage, not to mention the lack of accidents. 

It’s clear how important it is to have a well-maintained facility, but what if you don’t? What happens if you don’t have the resources you need to make it happen: adequate staffing, budget, training, equipment, etc.?

The impact on the Company

Your facilities management team is responsible for the overall well-being and functioning of the entire facility. You touch each and every department. Without you, equipment lifespans are reduced, inventory controls can fall by the wayside, bulbs can burn out, machines can overheat. Even worse, problems can get so bad that they bring your revenue-generating activities to a screeching halt. Facility safety also becomes an issue. You manage the security systems, fire systems, ventilation systems, and tricky and often risky elevator systems. If something is out of order, people’s safety is at risk. If someone gets hurt, that bill the company receives is going to hurt.  Depending on the situation, that bill could come in the form of a lawsuit, an expensive settlement, fines from a regulatory agency, and a whole lot of bad PR….or all of the above. It’s not worth the risk. The workspace becomes a non-working space very quickly. 

The impact on the Employee

No employee wants to feel unsafe or uncomfortable at work. Imagine working in an organization that has recurring equipment failures, or worse yet, extremely high incidents of injury at work. That would be terrible, but the same is true If employees can’t do their jobs because there is no space to work, the building is too hot or too cold, and the network keeps failing.  If these issues go on for long enough the company would have a hard time keeping employees too.

The impact on the Customer

Employees are not the only ones who suffer from poor facility management. Customers notice things, too. If buildings are in bad shape, equipment breaks down more often than it works. Orders can get delayed, the quality of your products and service decreases. Injuries become a regular occurrence. Your customers are going to pick up on this.  Their user experience will not be as good as it should be. Your brand, your reputation, and your source of income will be destroyed very quickly. Get it right, and your customer satisfaction jumps up too.

Which facilities require maintenance and management?

All types of facilities require dedicated management programs to function as efficiently as possible.
facility management functions

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  • Industrial facilitiesFactories, warehouses, manufacturing facilities, power plants, refineries, chemical plants, etc. 
  • Commercial facilities: Offices, retail stores, hotels, restaurants, conference centers, banks, entertainment venues, etc. 
  • Residential facilities: Apartments, condominiums, retirement facilities, dormitories, etc. 
  • Recreational facilities: Fitness centers, golf courses, arenas, amusement parks, etc. 
  • Institutional facilities: Schools, hospitals, religious institutions, government buildings, etc.

Types of facilities management

Depending on the type and size of your organization and its properties, facilities management could mean a range of 

  • Facilities maintenance: Management and maintenance go hand in hand, ensuring that all facilities are suited to serve their function. 
  • Asset management: Working alongside maintenance teams, facilities departments oversee the upkeep, repairs, and replacement of assets like equipment and vehicles. 
  • Real estate management: In collaboration with property managers, facilities professionals keep buildings safe and ensure repairs are all up to date. 
  • Occupancy management: Managing facilities includes using advanced data analysis to optimize space management across built environments to maximize employee well
  • Financial and performance management: Platforms like Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) help consolidate budget and performance data to generate detailed reports and drive better decision making and elevate the role of facilities professionals as strategic advisors. 
  • Building systems management: Each facility includes a range of systems and subsystems, including those for fire safety and building security. 

Hard facility management services vs. soft facility management services

How do businesses keep all these various services and systems straight? Many break the vast world of facility management into two smaller categories: hard and soft facilities management. 

hard and soft facilities management services

Hard facilities management services (space and infrastructure)

Hard FM services focus on the physical components of the work environment and infrastructure. Most of them fall under the maintenance department. Here is an overview of hard facilities management services:

  • The plumbing system: This system plays an essential role in bringing water to a building and removing waste. Over time, blockages can occur, pressure builds up, and fixtures/piping must be replaced. As the Facility Manager, it’s your job to ensure that the plumbing system is regularly maintained and that the possible issues are fixed as quickly as possible. 
  • Lighting and HVAC systems: You will work with your team to see if the lighting and heating fixtures need repair or replacement. It’s up to the team to decide the best solutions for cost and energy savings, comfort, and functionality. 
  • Fire safety regulation compliance: Fire safety systems are required in most countries and must be regularly maintained and checked for compliance issues.
  • Mechanical & electrical systems: Keeping the electrical system running well to keep up with other building operations. The same goes for mechanical systems like elevators and water pumps. You and your team 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. When it comes to buildings, weather and other elements can start to take a toll on the structures. Wind, sun, salt, and extreme temperature changes all play their part. As a part of facility management, there should be a structural maintenance plan to identify, classify, and deal with possible structural problems. 

To successfully schedule, track, and manage all maintenance activities and work orders, facility management teams will often seek the help of computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) or Computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) software. We will discuss available software solutions in more detail towards the end of the article.

Soft facilities management services (people and organization)

On the flip side, soft facility management focuses on people and organizations. It includes services that create a more comfortable, healthier, safer, and visually appealing environment.  Common examples include:

  • Waste management: If waste is not managed, garbage bins become overloaded, and things become smelly. This is never a good thing. Waste management gets the garbage into the correct containers. It sends it away to make sure that you stay within regulatory requirements and prevent trash overcrowding.
  • Cleaning services: Custodial teams come in to clean common areas and perform other janitorial duties. Many companies will have their own janitorial staff, while others will choose to outsource.
  • Space planning: Space planning and management is an important part of facilities management. Whenever your company hires more people, expands to a new floor, buys new assets that take a big chunk of space, and wants to remodel the existing space, they will turn to you to help organize the space so that it remains comfortable, safe, and functional. 
  • Landscaping: Well-maintained grounds improve curb appeal and signal top-notch property management. Your team 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: These fall under your domain, be it scheduling seasonal pest controls or managing pest outbreaks if they ever happen.
  • Building security: Having control of people going in and out of the facility is something that almost every building these days requires. It can also involve the management of restricted access areas inside the facility.
  • EHS compliance: Defining and maintaining acceptable standards of comfort that might include temperature, noise, seating standards, and visual cues is imperative in every company. For example, selecting specific chairs that guarantee employee comfort for desk workers. Depending on the industry, EHS standards can differ widely. In a typical office setting, they may seem relatively tame. Still, in a pharmaceutical company where employees may be handling dangerous substances, standards will be different. EHS standards will change from business to business depending on the needs of the company. 

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What do facilities managers do?

Simply put, facilities management professionals are responsible for managing all the operations that help ensure an organization’s physical locations are in a suitable condition for supporting their core functions. All types of organizations leverage the services of in-house or third-party facilities management teams for tasks ranging from preventive maintenance to disaster planning to custodial services. 
Maintenance manager skills

You have to be a jack of all trades to do this job well. The support of a great team and the right software will help take you to the next level of your career.  A facilities manager can have a dozen balls up in the air on any given day. As a facility manager, you touch so many areas: 

  • Property strategy: What’s the current property portfolio of the company? Do you lease or own? As the world turns, more and more companies are adopting remote work policies where employees can work from home at least some of the time. How your company approaches this major shift in the culture of work will also impact your needs for employee-occupied space into the future.
  • Space management: To piggyback on what was said above, are employees required to be in office? If not, there’s room for some creativity in space management. Perhaps changing to an “open office” layout where employees can “check out” a workspace as needed is a solution your company considers if employees work in a hybrid format.
  • Communications infrastructure: We’re talking phones (no pun intended), network cabling, server storage, and beyond.
  • General building maintenance: Depending on if your company leases or owns the building, maintenance responsibilities may shift. Many commercial building owners push a lot of maintenance responsibilities to the lease-holder, not everything and not all the time.
  • Testing and inspections: This is a part of routine maintenance. You regularly check in on assets and alarms to ensure that everything is up to code and working correctly. You also need to make sure that you are compliant with OSHA and other regulatory agencies (like FDA, if applicable to your industry).
  • Contract management: You have several service providers, and those contracts and relationships need to be managed. It’s your job to make sure these are kept up. Using Lmble makes managing vendors and their contracts easy!
  • EHS(environment, health, safety): Health and safety live with you, and it’s your job to make sure that the workplace is safe for everyone in it. 
  • Security: Be it the locks on the doors, the security monitoring team or cameras, and any other part of security, these all fall under your jurisdiction. 
  • Facility Maintenance planning: Predictive and preventative maintenance are best practices to keep your organization’s assets in working order. The planning of these is a crucial part of your role. Using Limble, you can plan, schedule, and report on your maintenance and use this information to collaborate with Finance on budget forecasting.
  • Managing renovations and refurbishments: The workplace is ever-changing. Offices get bigger or smaller, paint colors change, boardrooms are built. Renovations and refurbishments sit squarely with the facility professionals to manage. The same is true for capital projects. You will work with teams to build new facilities and expand the campus.
  • Inventory management: Knowing what you have and what you need, and the value of your inventory is an integral part of maintenance and cost management. Limble makes it possible to see the value of your stock at the click of a button, and the customized reporting helps you break it down any way you need to.

And in case you wanted more, you’re not done yet! You are also responsible for: 

  • Advising businesses on measures to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the facility.
  • Supervising teams of staff across different divisions.
  • Dealing with emergencies as they arise.
  • Managing budgets; Planning for the future by forecasting the facility’s upcoming needs and requirements.
  • Helping with office relocations.
  • Drafting maintenance reports.

Tips for building and managing your facilities team

  1. Develop clear and detailed job descriptions: The titles and brief descriptions above are just suggestions. You should make sure the roles, responsibilities, and the chain of command are all tailored to your unique facilities. Once you’ve got these in place, ensure all facilities team members always know where they fit in. 
  2. Offer up-skilling opportunities and detailed career paths: You’ll boost both performance and engagement by ensuring team members have opportunities to cross-train, learn new skills, and expose themselves to different sides of the business.
  3. Emphasize the role of technology: The right time- and cost-saving solutions can improve engagement and job satisfaction across your team. Take care to loop end users in whenever you’re making tech selections and always emphasize the ways the right tools can augment their capabilities and empower them to do their jobs even better. CMMS tools in particular offer useful integrations with other solutions, automations for core processes, and features for real-time data analytics
  4. Balance in-house and third-party FM resources: Depending on the size of your organization and the scope of your facilities management needs, you’ll rely on a blend of both internal and external resources to make your full FM program possible. 

Software solutions that make facility management simpler, better, and faster

There are a lot of software solutions out there to help you plan and execute facility management. Let’s walk through some of the better options out there so that you can make an informed decision about the one that’s right for you, your team, and your organization.  Don’t be worried if you do not see a clear difference between some of them at first sight. They do have a lot of overlapping features.

As with every other software on this list, different software vendors offer different levels of functionality. It makes more sense to look at the exact features you need than to focus on labels like IWMS, CMMS, or CAFM.

CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System)

A CMMS is at the top of the list.  Using a CMMS like Limble can be a great way to help keep all your ducks in a row. You’ll be able to track workflows, report on repairs, easily keep an eye on the budget and find ways to cut costs if you need to.  Imagine how great it will be to be called into a meeting last minute and easily give feedback on the FM team’s work. It makes maintenance vastly easier by streamlining and automating all maintenance processes.  Use your CMMS to: 

Organizations that use Limble CMMS for facility management When it comes to managing pure maintenance work, no one does it better than mobile-enabled CMMS software. In our (only slightly biased) opinion, Limble is the best option out there. Our customers have seen drastic reductions in downtime, increases in productivity, and saved lots of money and time.

CAFM (Computer-Aided Facilities Management)

CAFM is software that helps facility managers execute core functions. CAFM technology combines business administration, behavioral science, architecture, and engineering concepts to optimize the functioning of your organization. It can be helpful to think of computer-aided facility management as a comprehensive commercial facility or building maintenance tool with many different facets and functions. It uses several different models to cover:

  • Information management
  • Maintenance management 
  • Physical building administration
  • Floor plans and space management
  • Leasing and real-estate management
  • Asset lifecycle management
  • and administrative support

The core difference between a CAFM and CMMS is that a CAFM focuses on the physical space and things. In contrast, a CMMS focuses on the management of maintenance.  If you need more from your CAFM, you can combine it with a CMMS to give your team more support. 

IWMS (Integrated Workplace Management System)

The easiest way to describe it is that it usually offers everything you can find in a CAFM software, and then some. You can think of it as an all-in-one solution for facilities management. Aside from the CAFM features listed above, IWMS can also include:

  • Flexible real estate and lease management features
  • Project management features
  • Environmental management features
  • Mailroom management features
  • Visitor management features

On its own, this software solution would be lacking. But when paired with another more comprehensive tool, implementing an IWMS has the potential to be powerful.


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 the same purpose. They combine 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 HVAC systems and other assets.  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.  While BEMS and BMS can come together, they are usually standalone systems, implemented separately. That being said, they do work very well together. BMS/BAM primary function is to control building systems and assets. 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). Want to know more? Here is an article that discusses the differences between these systems in more detail. 

Building security systems

Security systems also come in different forms and offer a lot of diverse functionalities. You can use them to detect risks, record incidents, and perform risk analysis. They offer visitor management features ranging from facial recognition and badge scanning to video surveillance and capacity and occupancy tracking. As with most things, different software offers different functions. Rather than looking at the labels, think about the exact features you need and use those to help you decide what’s best for your team and organization. 

Facility professionals: titles, roles, and responsibilities

The shape and structure of your facilities management department will depend on a number of factors, but here are a few of the titles you’ll see on just about any multi-person employee roster. 

  • Facility manager: These professionals oversee facilities management programs and assign duties to teams of technicians and operators. Depending on the size and type of facility, they may have a large team of specialized operators and technicians working under them. In addition to specialized education, professionals at this level may bolster their credentials with certifications like Facility Management Professional (FMP) or Certified Facility Manager (CFM), issued by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA). 
  • Maintenance manager: Your facilities management team may work alongside a separate maintenance department or include maintenance pros among its ranks. Managers typically oversee teams of operators and technicians, assigning tasks, tailoring the work order system, and reviewing performance. 
  • Maintenance technician: Technicians make up the foundation of facilities management and maintenance units, putting in the most wrench time and executing on work orders in the most hands-on way. 

Across all roles, the core competencies of facilities management professionals include familiarity with specific machinery, communication skills, and problem-solving savvy. More senior professionals typically blend these attributes with project management and leadership skills.

Small organizations may operate with facilities and maintenance departments as small as a single person. As organizations grow and their facilities take up more square feet, the department may take various different forms and employ a host of different strategies. Some organizations delegate responsibilities based on zone, with certain employees responsible for specific facilities. Others take a service-specific approach to assigning tasks, reserving specific types of work for specific employees or teams. 

Why are facilities management strategies important? 

Effective FM strategies empower employees to perform to their full potential by keeping the workplace safe, orderly, and conducive to excellence. Over time, taking the right approach to facilities management has effects that you, your employees, your partners, and your customers will feel. 

Benefits of strong facilities management programs

The top- and bottom-line effects of well-managed facilities are numerous. 

  • Reduced operating costs: A more strategic and proactive approach to facilities management ensures teams plan and schedule maintenance tasks, repairs, and other important work for maximum cost effectiveness. Reducing excess maintenance costs and avoiding unplanned breakdowns ultimately boosts the profitability of facilities and organization-wide operations. 
  • Safer, more productive properties and workspaces: Safe, comfortable, and accessible facilities are essential for productivity. Minimizing risk and liability helps keep excess costs low and reduce the likelihood of unexpected breakdowns or labor shortages. 
  • Ensuring compliance with legal regulations: Taking a forward-thinking approach to maintaining assets and facilities keeps your team 
  • Greater energy efficiency: More strategic maintenance and facilities management can play a key role in making sustainability more than a buzzword. Poor visibility and a lack of direction can often keep businesses from making progress against their green objectives. A management program can help address both these obstacles, ultimately reducing excess energy consumption and emissions across your full portfolio of facilities.   
  • Improved employee experience: Better planning and a more productive workplace leads to improved overall satisfaction. Your team will thank you for enabling them to spend less time on reactive repairs and more time contributing to high-value projects.  

Facilities management vs. property management vs. building management 

How does facilities management differ from property management and building management? While the three terms sound similar and the concepts overlap, they aren’t quite the same thing. Facilities management programs cover the most ground.

  • Facilities management refers to the wide variety of activities related to keeping facilities operational, safe, and maximally efficient. FM programs involve buildings as well as all of the assets and systems included within those buildings. 
  • Building management typically focuses on the physical structure of buildings. Tasks related to roofing and painting, for example, may qualify as examples of building maintenance. 
  • Property management programs are broader than building management, taking into account exterior spaces and encompassing services like landscaping. 

Facilities management: today and tomorrow 

How are facilities managers leveraging cutting-edge tools to overcome common challenges and confidently entering a new era? We surveyed more than 250 professionals from maintenance and facilities management departments to learn which strategies they’re employing. Check out the report and dive deeper with our webinar on strategies for facilities managers.

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