In today's increasingly complex work environment, facility managers play an ever-growing role in ensuring that organizations have access to the tools and services that they need to function at their best, especially when it comes to the return to the office. If you've met or spoken to the facility manager at your organization, you may have noticed they're one of the hardest people to get a hold of. The truth is that facility managers’ plates are always overflowing—whether it's coordinating cleaning and maintenance for the building, implementing socially distanced workspaces, or managing meeting room bookings—a facility manager spends their day making sure there’s business continuity.

Facility management software is one of the best ways these skilled professionals can automate daily processes, manage workspace, facilitate communications, equipment tracking, payments, budget and other pertinent information. Continue reading to learn more about the discipline of facility management and how the latest software is helping facility managers drive the efficiency and productivity across the organization.

What Is Facility Management?

Facility management is a multidisciplinary profession whose goal is to enhance and optimize the functionality of built environments through the integration of people, places, processes and technology. The International Facility Management Association (IFMA), the world's most widely recognized professional association for facility managers, defines it as "the practice of coordinating the physical workplace with the people and work of the organization."

Facility management has also been defined by the International Standards Organization (ISO), who released the most recently updated version of its international standard for facilities management in April 2017. ISO 41011:2017 defines facility management as "organizational function which integrates people, place and process within the built environment with the purpose of improving the quality of life of people and the productivity of the core business."

In a 62-country job task analysis conducted by IFMA to determine the core competencies associated with the facility management profession, 11 core competencies were consistently reported in the survey as being crucial to the daily performance of facility management tasks, including:

  1. Communication
  2. Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity
  3. Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability
  4. Finance and Business
  5. Human Factors
  6. Leadership and Strategy
  7. Operations and Maintenance
  8. Project Management
  9. Quality
  10. Real Estate and Property Management
  11. Technology

The IFMA was able to use the results of this landmark study to establish educational and examination materials that accurately reflect the interdisciplinary skills and knowledge that are most important for effective facility management.

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What Do Facility Managers Do?

Effective facility managers have numerous responsibilities that they must carry out, day in and day out. From a strategic standpoint, facility managers have to be able to effectively communicate with the clients, customers, and users of the buildings that they control, helping them understand the impact of different decisions on the allocation of space and services in the facility, as well as cost and risk. From an operational standpoint, facility managers are responsible for the ongoing maintenance of a safe corporate atmosphere that allows building occupants to function effectively in their roles.

Here are some examples of activities that would fall under the scope of facility management:

Supporting the Return to Work

Completely remote, in-office or hybrid, whatever the working model, facility managers must be able to support the accommodations of all employees to ensure business continuity.

According to building security company, Kastle Systems, only about 32% of workers are back in large office buildings. But staffing firm LaSalle Network confirms via a survey of 350 businesses that 70% of employers plan to have employees back in the office in some capacity by the fall.

To support this transition, facility managers are going to need the right tools to do so. Making sure they have the ability to schedule sanitation, support PPE supply requests, open and close access to various sites, buildings and floors, and more will be critical for a successful and seamless return to work.

Gartner® predicts “adoption rates for three of the applications (seat reservation systems, space utilization tracking, and workplace applications) are expected to grow between 146% and 250% between January 2021 and the end of 2022.” Gartner also predicts “Building management applications, portfolio management technologies, room scheduling systems, and lease management technologies had the highest rates of adoption at the start of 2021, with adoption rates anticipated to reach as high as 90% by the end of 2022.” 1

Getting these technologies in place sooner than later can help facilities managers make sure business continues, no matter the working model.

General Upkeep & Maintenance of the Building

Facility managers are responsible for coordinating tasks associated with building maintenance, including:

  • Contracting a cleaning service to wash carpets and mop floors during building off-hours
  • Contracting cleaners to clean bathrooms during building off-hours
  • Ensuring that consumables available in the building (toilet paper, paper towel, facial tissue, etc.) are in-stock and replaced throughout the facility in a timely fashion
  • Ensuring that the procedures and contractors are in place to effect waste removal and disposal from the facility in accordance with the local waste pick-up schedule and legal requirements
  • If the facility offers catering or a cafeteria, ensuring that a contract is in place for catering to be provided
  • Managing reactive response to any issues associated with building maintenance, such as a broken or malfunctioning air conditioner or furnace that affects work in the facility

Managing Building Access & Security

Facility managers are responsible for regulating access to the facility, including the restriction of admittance to the facility to authorized personnel. This could include:

  • Contracting a security service to regulate entry to the facility
  • Instituting and maintaining a system of regulating access (keys, electronic cards, RFID chips, or other), and administering the system such that only authorized persons can gain access to the facility
  • Allocating parking spaces in and around the facility to manage the availability of parking and ensure that certain persons that must be present at the facility have access to parking when needed.

Space Allocation & Changes

Organizations and offices may change layouts frequently, especially if organizations will be adopting socially distanced workspaces. An office building could house many different tenants, and the facility manager would be responsible for coordinating new tenants moving in or tenants moving out of the building. Facility managers also bear responsibility for maintaining aspects of building condition that could change as office configurations change, such as:

  • Ensuring that workers have an adequate amount of space, or that there is adequate space per staff member reflected in the floor plan for a particular building or office
  • Ensuring that the layout for the building is in keeping with fire safety regulations
  • Ensuring that signage posted is appropriate for directing residents, employees, and guests in the facility to the appropriate resources, such as fire exits or elevators
  • Maintaining control of temperatures in the building, including ensuring that office spaces are sufficiently comfortable for the organizations that occupy them, and that infrastructure like server rooms are kept at the appropriate temperature
  • Ensuring ventilation systems are functioning adequately and that the indoor air quality does not represent a safety hazard for building residents or employees

Equipment Maintenance

Facility managers may also be responsible for managing IT resources and equipment in the building. If a photocopier, computer, or other piece of equipment must be repaired or replaced, the facility managers would be responsible for replacing the item in a timely fashion to avoid business interruptions.

In addition to managing all of the above-mentioned aspects of the facility (plus more), facility managers are also responsible for managing the contracts for each service that the building needs, managing invoices and receipts, handling budgets, and ensuring that contractors are adequately paid and that service continues in a way that prevents business disruptions.

A facility manager could also be responsible for bringing in contractors for critical repairs if the building is damaged by a flood or a storm, and ensuring that businesses housed in a facility have a business continuity plan in place, in the event that a major business disruption occurs and the residents of the facility must move to another building.

What Are the Best Practices for Facilities Management?

To ensure the maximization of productivity across the organization, facility managers can consult and adopt industry-leading methodologies. Here are some of the current best facility management best practices:

Effective Space Management

Space utilization is one of the core concerns of a facility management, and effective space management within a facility can help an organization save money on real estate, minimize walking steps, optimize productivity, earn more revenue, reduce utility bills, and improve employee retention—that's a lot of benefits for just a small part of a facility manager's role.

To optimize space, facility managers need to start thinking outside the box. Instead of measuring rooms in square-feet, measure them in cubic feet looking for opportunities to stack things and maximize the space. Count the number of workstations—not the number of rooms. Facility managers need to understand square-feet per person and the impact it has on productivity, and project head counts at facilities into the future to plan accordingly. Getting a grasp on space utilization will be especially helpful when it comes to the return to work and maximizing space effectively – and safely.

Follow ISO 41011:2018

In 2018, the International Standards Organization published a document called ISO 41001:2018 that details global standards and best practices for facility management systems. The document discusses leadership, planning, support, operations, performance evaluations, and the need for continuous improvement in facility management systems. Organizations that need to demonstrate effective and efficient delivery of facility management services that meet the demands of the customer should adopt this standard, and all facility management professionals should at least be acquainted with it.

Prioritize Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is another best practice whose benefits are almost too many to number. Organizations that strategically schedule and carry out preventive maintenance benefit by avoiding the large and unexpected costs of things going wrong, along with improving employee retention and job satisfaction, and avoiding business interruptions.

Preventive and routine is so important that cutting janitorial staff from five days a week to just three days a week was considered to be one of the budget cuts that would cause the most problems in a facility. An emerging best practice is the use of facility management software to schedule, manage, and track routine maintenance costs and their budgeting impacts.

Streamline Customer Communications

Some facility managers are still using email and phone calls to facilitate communication with customers, but this practice is quickly being replaced with facility management software that provides a single platform for communication between facility managers and the demand organization.

Facility management software helps automate simple to relatively complex facility management tasks so that customers can serve themselves, maintains proper records of conversations between facility management staff and customers, and ensures business continuity in case of staff turnover. It also ensures transparency and accountability throughout Incident Management and can help track metrics to facilitate improvement in customer service. This not only supports improvement of facility operations, but also provides for a much better employee experience.

What Are the Benefits of Facility Management Software?

The most effective facility managers are using specialized facility management software to help them stay organized, automate recurring tasks, and streamline many of the routine processes that are associated with managing a building. Facility managers have a lot of responsibilities, and the ability to manage them on a centralized dashboard that creates a "single source of truth" allows for more transparency between the facility manager and other stakeholders, along with service delivery that's more reliable and simply better. Here are some of the key features of facility management software:

User Portals That Facilitate Communication Between Facility Managers & Building Tenants

Effective facility managers need to establish and maintain open lines of communication with various customers and stakeholders. Facility management software offers a user portal feature that lets members of an organization communicate with the facility manager directly. In the past, someone might search for the facility manager's email in the company directory and send a query to their inbox. Queries were not tracked and sometimes overlooked or lost.

User portals streamline communications, providing a common platform where users can initiate work orders and communicate effectively with the facility manager, who can now see all their pending work orders and requests in one convenient dashboard.

This functionality is especially useful for managing building access—users can request key cards, security clearances, parking, special after-hours access, and other services that can be managed and automated through the software.

Project Management That Manages Resources

Project management is a feature of facility management software that enables users to visually and intuitively organize projects that involve multiple stakeholders. Facility managers can define and track the deliverables for the project, manage communication between project stakeholders, allocate responsibilities, manage meeting minutes, and track budgets for the project.

In the past, facility managers would have to track project data using pen and paper—notes that could easily be lost or damaged. A software solution for project management is the best way to ensure that budgeting and expense records related to building management projects are being sufficiently tracked.

Space Management Tools That Optimize Floor Plans and Save Space

Facility management software can be used to provide real-time information about how space is being used in the facility, including the number of personnel using the space, what business assets are present in the work environment, and how the space is arranged. This high-level overview of the way a building functions can be used to optimize processes—the facility manager can propose space management solutions that make the best use of the space available and optimize workflows for various functions in the building.

Growing organizations may believe that they need to relocate for more space, but an effective facility manager might be able to optimize the space to help avoid leasing or purchasing additional facilities. The best solutions integrate with Building Information Management (BIM) software, allowing users to view floor plans in 3D.

Asset Management That Ensures Optimal Allocation of Resources

Asset management forms a significant portion of the job role of any facility manager. Organizational assets must be tracked and accounted for, and facility managers need to know where they're located, what departments are using them, what departments need them and how frequently they are used. Facility managers are also responsible for scheduling maintenance and repairs of equipment and for planning the replacement of outdated assets, requiring them to project capital expenses into the future.

Facility management software provides a convenient dashboard from which the facility manager can monitor the repair and usage status of any equipment the organization owns, ensuring that equipment can be allocated wherever needed throughout the organization.

How Can I Get Started with Facility Management Software?

If your organization is still tracking important asset data, work orders, and requests using email and spreadsheets, it could be time to upgrade to a facility management software that can streamline your processes, introduce automation for routine tasks and improve your organizational efficiency.

Facility management software can also play a role in business continuity planning. Maintaining a single dashboard for all things related to facility management ensures that if your current facility manager leaves the company, the next person can pick up where they left off thanks to complete records of projects and organized work orders. When you track assets and work orders in spreadsheet and email, it can be difficult or impossible for your company to sort out what needs to be done after a personnel change.

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Facility Management Software is a Must for Modern Organizations

Facility management software is the best way to maximize the impact of facility managers at your organization. User portals facilitate direct communication between facility managers and other members of your organization, ensuring that work orders and requests can be completed in a timely fashion that keeps your business moving. You'll also be able to easily automate recurring tasks like cleaning and maintenance, manage physical assets with greater accuracy and keep secure records of payments, invoices and budgeting. Not only is this critical for overall optimization of operations, but essential for a smoother return to the workplace.

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1 Gartner, 11 Space Management Technologies to Watch in 2021 and 2022, Tammy Shoham, 10 May 2021 
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