Facilities management was traditionally regarded as some interrelationship between property, architecture, engineering and the construction sectors because it was seen in the old-fashioned sense of caretaking, cleaning, repairs and maintenance. Today it is more complex encompassing property management, health and safety, financial management, change management, contract management as well as engineering services maintenance.Facilities Management is not easily defined or clearly understood in the property industry in general because of the lack of training and education in a defined discipline. Despite the industry being much more developed in places such as the UK, the situation is not much different. People generally enter the Facilities Management discipline from diverse backgrounds and training.
Facilities Management should be understood at four levels, corporate, strategic, tactical and operational. We are most familiar with the operational level where the facilities manager is responsible for the operation and maintenance of buildings and for the delivery of services. The facilities manager would be expected to regularly interact with the core business in order to understand the requirements. At a tactical level, the facilities manager would have to implement risk management strategies and ensure service quality. This should include the ability to benchmark by having access to industry data. A tactical approach will ensure a fair understanding of what operational costs should be rather than inviting bidders to present the lowest price option for a service.
In a corporate environment the strategic role would be defined around effective business planning of the facilities services including the leadership of the facilities team and the submission of proposals for developing facilities in line with business needs. The facilities manager would also be expected to keep abreast of changes and development within the facilities management discipline. In a property investment environment, the strategic level may also be focused on managing the asset to provide a return on investment. As facilities is integral to the ability of a business to perform its function, at a corporate level, senior managers with responsibility for facilities would have to undertake scenario planning, service planning and policy formulation. This would require an understanding of how the business functions as well as the corporate culture and responsibilities and authority. As one progresses from the operational level, facilities management becomes more complex and cannot function in isolation to the business strategy hence the pressure for facilities management function to be directly represented in the boardroom by a facilities executive.Since the 1980’s, facilities management has gradually gained a foothold as a discipline within the property and construction industry and we have seen the establishment of professional facilities management institutions around the world. Institutions such as IFMA in the USA, JFMA in Japan, BIFM in the UK, FMA in Australia and even SAFMA in South Africa seek opportunities for collaboration wherever possible in order to advance the industry.The industry is seen to span other professional disciplines such as architecture, quantity surveying and engineering disciplines and it is important to understand the theoretical framework on which this body of knowledge is being developed. Most recently the British Institute of Facilities Management has defined facilities management as the integration of multi-disciplinary activities within the built environment and the management of their impact upon people and the workplace. Most definitions assume that the workplace is a building in which offices are contained. It must be emphasised that the perceptions of a professional service can be highly subjective as various recipients of the service may assess the quality differently. The outputs of the facilities management service is a well functioning facility – the efforts to achieve this are not always obvious to end users. As legislation becomes more onerous and workplace demands increase, there will be a continued demand for more experienced facilities management practitioners and will help drive this industry to define its professional status.