What is FM?

About the Facility Management Profession

Facility management is the practice of coordinating the physical workplace with the people and work of the organization. It integrates the principles of business administration, architecture and the behavioral and engineering sciences.

Although the facility management profession has been in existence since the evolution of the office, only in recent years has it received worldwide recognition. Business entities have come to realize that maintaining a well managed and highly efficient facility is critical to success. New technologies, environmental consciousness and health concerns also have had a major impact on the importance of and need for facility professionals in organizations.

Facility professionals must be equipped with a tremendous amount of knowledge and the ability to cope with and solve a multitude of complex problems and challenges. Their numerous job responsibilities can be categorized into the following major functions:

  • Facility strategic and tactical planning
  • Facility financial forecasting and budgeting
  • Real estate procurement, leasing and disposal
  • Procurement of furnishings, equipment and outside facility services
  • Facility construction, renovation and relocation
  • Health, safety and security
  • Environmental issues
  • Development of corporate facility policies and procedures
  • Quality management, including benchmarking and best practices
  • Architecture and engineering planning and design
  • Space planning and management
  • Building operations, maintenance and engineering
  • Supervision of business services such as repro graphics, transportation and food service
  • Telecommunications
  • Code compliance


A Facility Manager Wears Many Hats

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at something worth doing.” Certainly the chance to offer a safe office environment, make workspaces accessible to those with disabilities, be the voice of calm and organization during a disaster and put your company in the forefront of technology are all worthwhile endeavors. To perform all of these duties well requires hard work. To perform all of them in just one day requires the knowledge and finesse of a facility manager.

Just what is a facility manager? A facility manager is involved in coordinating all the details related to planning, designing and managing complex facilities, including systems, equipment, furniture and people. A facility manager is a Jack of all trades, a juggler of many duties, a wearer of many hats. She or he must understand the principles of business administration, architecture, engineering and human behavior.

The International Facility Management Association (IFMA), the professional association for facility managers, has grouped these responsibilities into several major functional areas:

  • long-range and annual facility planning;
  • facility financial forecasting;
  • real estate acquisition and/or disposal;
  • work specifications, installation and space management;
  • architectural and engineering planning and design;
  • new construction and/or renovation;
  • maintenance and operations management;
  • telecommunications integration, security and general administrative services.

Why would anyone want to become a facility manager?

There are many reasons, but the preceding description characterizes its appeal. With so many variable responsibilities, the workday of a facility manager is anything but routine. For example, over the course of several years, one facility manager may deal with emergencies ranging from raw sewage coursing through the executive dining room, to earthquakes, to vigilante rats trying to take over the building. Another facility manager may jet around the country securing real estate space and supervising the construction of temporary facilities for a company that moves around a lot. Another facility manager may set up communication systems for national and worldwide events.

Most people don’t think of those kinds of responsibilities when they think of facility management. Traditionally, managing a facility was only associated with operations and maintenance duties. Today, a vast array of responsibilities have come to be associated with the facility management profession. That opens up opportunities for ambitious facility managers who are on the cutting edge of this career’s changing outlook. For example, a conscientious facility manager might discuss with the CEO the dual benefits of the decrease in overhead costs and increased productivity associated with alternative officing strategies. This integrated approach is necessitated by the ever-changing business climate in which companies are continually trying to cut their costs. Facility managers who work as a team with other professionals in their company can help reduce operating costs and enable a company to commit more resources to generating revenues.
The impact on a company’s bottom line isn’t the only thing a facility manager considers, however. Facility managers have witnessed an increase in their responsibilities for providing a safe and effective workplace for employees. For example, facility managers have instituted programs for better building air quality. Expanded knowledge of violence in the workplace has prompted facility managers to upgrade building security measures. The passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1991 has compelled facility managers to come up with innovative ways to make workspaces more accessible to people with disabilities.

As the role of facility managers expands, their numbers continue to increase. More colleges and universities are offering course work and degree plans in facility management. For example, George Mason University in Virginia offers a professional certificate in facility management. Michigan State University in East Lansing has a master of arts degree in interior design and human environment with a concentration in facility design and management.
In an effort to increase respect for this growing field, IFMA has instituted a certification program for facility managers. This program tests the knowledge and experience of facility managers through a comprehensive exam that focuses on eight competency areas. After becoming a Certified Facility Manager, individuals must take part in continuing education and professional development activities to maintain their certification and ensure they stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and strategies.
Whether a facility manager works for a large multi-building corporation or a small company experiencing growing pains, facility management offers the chance to work hard at something worth doing.