By October 13, 2011 0 Comments Read More →

Is Facility Management Really That Different Between Countries?

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I saw an Interesting comment about my FM Pie diagram recently. Someone from the United Kingdom made a comment that it didn't really apply in the UK.

Given that the FM Pie included the full range of responsibilities involved in managing a building of any kind, imagine my surprise that things might be so different in the United Kingdom.

After seeing more discussions on the LinkedIn groups, I realized that there are some perceptions and preconceived notions about the differences between facilities management in various countries. The tendency is a ‘we’re different’ or perhaps even a ‘we’re better’ approach.

It's clear to me that the basic functions of Facility Management are the same no matter where you are. The difference is sometimes are simple as the terminology that's used or how the various roles and responsibilities are divided up between individuals within a facilities management group.

A simple example is that in North America, we tend to use the singular word facility, while in the UK and some European countries, the plural term facilities is used. In one discussion, somebody tried to suggest that this meant a different way of doing business in Facilities Management.

In fact, the differences in what people consider facilities management within a country can sometimes be just as different as between countries. For instance, the term property manager is frequently used in North America as a title for somebody who looks after a commercial building, whether it's an office, retail or industrial building. In fact, this role is a subset of the full FM pie and usually focuses on the physical aspects of the building structure itself along with some of the main common services for the building , such as landscaping, snow removal, janitorial, waste and recycling and of course maintenance.

And then you might have a facility manager who works for a corporate organization that simply leases their space from someone else. In this case, the facility manager usually focuses on the occupancy related roles and responsibilities of the FM pie, and are not involved in the physical or structural aspects of maintaining and managing a building. The responsibilities are typically related to managing space, managing moves, dealing with furniture requirements and standards for instance, and of course interfacing with the landlord usually represented by a property manager.

Then you come to the facility manager responsible for a building that their company owns and occupies. This facility manager would usually have much more of the full FM Pie under their responsibility. Even so, there may be other positions and the role is divided up. That’s especially true with larger portfolios.

This division of responsibilities is what I most commonly see in North America, but regardless of how you slice it in other countries, the full and complete range of responsibilities identified in FM Pie are part of the facility management profession. It also doesn't matter whether they're performed in-house or by an outsourced FM service provider. Either way, they're part of the full range of responsibilities.

So, what might be the real differences between countries?

In my experience working in countries with a well developed facility management profession, as well as working on projects in developing countries where the facilities management profession is just emerging, I see it more as a difference between managing facilities and maintaining facilities.

In many emerging markets, the full scope managerial type function is not very prominent. The focus is more around maintenance of the facilities with less emphasis on some of the occupancy related aspects, capital renewal, planning, lifecycle and more. That doesn't mean it's the same everywhere, just that it's more likely to be a focus on basic maintenance.

In developed markets, there is certainly focus on the things I mentioned above, however the occupancy element is much more prominent. The role is more about management and leadership.

In looking back at this issue, I think it has a lot to do with the cost of labour and real estate. When real estate and labour is relatively cheap, you'll put less focus on how much space your organization uses, how efficient and productive the staff who occupy the space are or even how carefully you manage the asset as a long-term investment.

To make a long story short, the Facility Management Profession, as far as scope and responsibility goes, is much the same no matter where you are. It’s simply how you slice the pie, and what you call the pieces. And the ‘definition’ you use simply doesn’t matter.

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