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What is Facilities Management? The True Definition


As recent as 40 years ago, the question of “what is facilities management?” may have been a puzzling concept. Even considering that at this point of time most offices, stores, factories and schools were in fact, running a form of facilities management, this lesser known name was simply referred to by different titles.

During this origin period, when something needed to be updated, fixed or replaced within any given facility, a custodian would typically be called. And being a one-man show, he would get around to it when he could. He had to know the nuts and bolts of plumbing, electrical systems, grounds-keeping, painting and much more.

But now, in 2020, Facilities Management has come a very long way. Hundreds of institutes of higher learning offer advanced degrees in the subject.

“Facility Managers are now strategic executives on the corporate team who are integral to a company’s success.”

Whether you refer to it as Facility Management, Facilities Management or simply FM, the industry has rapidly evolved from a catch-all, afterthought of maintenance activity into a sophisticated professional management discipline.

It’s a common misperception to think that property management and facilities management are one and the same. Although there is some overlap between the two, property management focuses more on the buildings themselves as revenue-generating assets.

A property manager acts as a liaison between the building’s owner and tenants, handling lease activities, collecting rents, and coordinating maintenance tasks and renovations.


Contrary to what it sounds like, facilities management actually focuses on processes and people more than on buildings – although maintaining buildings is certainly a big part of FM.

A good place to start unpacking the concept is to take a look at how it is defined. According to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), facility management is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process, and technology.

Another helpful definition of FM comes from the The International Organization for Standardization (ISO): The organizational function which integrates people, place, process and technology within the built environment with the purpose of improving the quality of life of people and the productivity of the core business.

Both definitions are similar and refer to the “built environment” which makes sense, because we are talking about managing facilities (any man-made structures used for living, working or playing). But the ISO definition adds an element of customer service which is a trend we’re seeing more of in 2020 and beyond. 

The ISO’s expanded definition carries with it the notion that facilities management is no longer just a cost of operation but has value as a strategic service to support an organization’s core business and increase revenues.

In today’s marketplace, facilities management is a huge umbrella term, covering areas as different as equipment maintenance and concierge services. 

Basically, facilities management is the efficient coordination of all the activities related to keeping physical spaces and infrastructures operational, from single buildings to complex campuses used for offices, retail, healthcare, education, manufacturing, recreation, government and a host of other revenue-generating businesses.

Keeping a facility operational includes making sure the environment – from parking lot to top floor suites – is safe by meeting relevant regulatory mandates, consistently well-maintained, and most notably, organized in a way that promotes productivity and the well-being of all users.

To break it down further, facilities management generally is divided into two categories: hard services and soft services.

Hard Services

Hard services are related to physical structures, the parts that can’t easily be removed. They are usually required by law to ensure the health and safety of workers or occupants:

  • Building maintenance
  • Maintenance of HVAC systems
  • Energy and water management
  • Elevators and escalators
  • Lighting
  • Fire safety
  • Plumbing and drainage

Soft Services

Soft services are related to keeping the workplace more comfortable and secure. Some services are not absolutely necessary and can be added or removed when needs change:

  • Housekeeping and custodial services
  • Security
  • Parking lots
  • Pest control
  • Waste disposal
  • Recycling
  • Furniture and equipment
  • Information systems
  • Document management
  • Mail management
  • Space management
  • Grounds maintenance and landscaping

Many smaller organizations may still manage their facilities internally, but the number that outsource to facilities management companies continues to grow. Businesses of all sizes are depending on outsourced FM to handle functions that go beyond the above lists of hard and soft services. 

The burgeoning trend in the industry is to offer bundled services. Known as Integrated Facilities Management, this comprehensive scope of services adds value and drives better quality. Some of the specialities an integrated facilities management company may offer are listed below.

  • Move management (churn)
  • Meeting room services 
  • Business risk assessment 
  • Catering services 
  • Business continuity planning 
  • Vehicle fleet management 
  • Contract procurement 
  • Concierge and front-desk services 
  • Emergency response and preparedness
  • Utility management

In addition to freeing their own personnel to focus on goals more closely aligned with their core business, companies that outsource to a facilities management company that bundles these ancillary services benefit in several measurable ways.

  • Improved efficiencies: A single point of contact and the elimination of duplicate functions streamlines communication and workflow processes.  
  • Higher productivity: Facilities management includes maintenance strategies to prevent breakdowns that too often bring production to a halt.
  • Increased expertise: Outsourced FM employees already have the technical know-how, saving companies from expending unnecessary time and resources on training in-house.
  • Reduced costs: In addition to spending less on training, companies save on staffing, employee benefit, payroll expenses, inventory and more.
  • Better quality control: with proven systems already in place, FM ensures consistency and reliability.


Like almost every industry on the planet, smart technology has accelerated the field of facilities management. To stay competitive in today’s marketplace, facilities management, whether it is handled internally or outsourced, needs to include a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) complete with a mobile application.

Cloud-based automated solutions reduce the hours of wasted time spent on manual processes and eliminate downtime that results from human error.  A CMMS can revolutionize work order processes, preventative and predictive maintenance tasks, and the management of assets, vendors and inventory.


A typical work day for a Facilities Manager is anything but typical. If there is any vocation that calls for wearing the proverbial many hats, it is this one. 

The IFMA lists 11 competencies a Facility Manager should possess: communication; quality assurance; the use of technology; operations and maintenance; human factors; business and finance; emergency planning and business continuity; leadership and strategy; real estate and property management; and environmental stewardship and sustainability. 


Facilities management has become a critical  factor in a company’s growth. From maintaining equipment to creating an environment that supports the company culture, facilities  management adds value on a daily basis and for the long term. High performing businesses understand the necessity of prioritizing this aspect of their operations and expect facilities management companies to offer solutions based on cutting-edge technological trends.

If you’re not already using an automated solution to manage your facilities–work orders, maintenance, assets And more–that’s a good place to start. Here at NETfacilities, we offer intuitive and flexible solutions to help you transform your organization. Reach out if you have questions, or better yet, take a look at what we can do with our no-obligation, free demonstration.

Schedule a demo today!