International Facility Management

By Kathy O. Roper

Kathy O. Roper discusses the growing field of Facility Management and charts how it has evolved over the last 25 years to become a vital component of any business. She details how organizations with a good FM department benefit from increased productivity and loyalty from worers – as well as improved processes and costs.

A critical component of business today, facility management (FM) is defined as the “Integration of processes within an organisation to maintain and develop the agreed services which support and improve the effectiveness of its primary activities.”1 Similarly, the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) defines FM as “a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology.2 As noted in the recently published book, International Facility Management, although still considered a relatively new profession since its start in the late 1970s, FM today is undergoing dramatic change in its nature and value, causing FM to become more strategic and more valued as important partners in business decision-making and support.3

No longer do most facility organizations only respond to orders to resolve problems within facilities, but facility management professionals have moved “from the boiler room to the boardroom,” aiding strategic location planning, determining optimum business support systems, reducing operational costs, and helping to attract and retain the best and brightest employees in a productive and sustainable environment. The value has shifted from an almost exclusive focus on cost reduction to a more holistic viewpoint on adding productivity and support to enable the organization to operate at maximum efficiency. The decision points today are vastly different from even ten years ago, with mobility, distributed work styles and ever increasing pressures on businesses to provide options for employees to gain life balance. FM is the second largest expense in most organizations, following employee salaries/benefits. Therefore, FM has major impacts on costs and also strong influence on the productivity of those salaried employees, making FM professionals valuable contributors to any organization’s senior management team. Successful organizations are focusing on life cycle costs and include non-financial metrics like worker satisfaction and productivity in evaluations of overall facility success.

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The critical evolutions within FM are globalizing. With numerous professional associations around the world sharing information and best practices, the FM world is shrinking. The industry also has seen a consolidation of services in the last 15 years to provide more multinational facility service companies as well as better contracting and performance standards between in-house and outsourced facility professionals. As this consolidation occurs, additional responsibilities move into the FM realm, creating a broad array of specializations required of most facility organizations. FM has grown in areas of expertise, value to the organization and value to society.

Emergency preparedness, business continuity, sustainability initiatives, and continued efficiency measures for operations and maintenance of facilities ensure that FM continues to gain importance in supporting these initiatives within organizations. Following terrorists incidents over the last decade, businesses are much more focused on how to ensure safety, security and business continuity. The facility manager must work across all levels of the organization to enhance preparedness and ensure continuity of the business in times of emergency or disaster, whether natural or man-made. Increases in voluntary and regulated sustainability measures require that facility professionals adapt new guidelines and track improvements. It’s not just the budget that is being scrutinized in today’s world of Triple Bottom Line accounting and Global Reporting Initiative reporting. Facility professionals contribute to improvements in all these areas and can guide and improve business from the support roles required. Sustainable buildings are no longer considered an additional expense, but a wise way to save continuously during the life of a facility, leased or owned.

Impacts of the global economic recession coupled with changing worker expectations for mobility and flexibility have forced FM to reevaluate the workplace itself. As a long-term investment, whether owned or leased, facilities have a substantial impact to the organization supported. Image, productivity and of course, cost are all tied into workplace decisions which last for many years at high costs. These decisions are major issues for facility management professionals, but may not be day-to-day issues in many FM departments with existing facilities and little need for expansion. The more traditional operations and maintenance roles never go away. Office “churn,” the movement of staff from location to location within the facility, is another ongoing responsibility for FM. Efficiencies are being found in new workplace designs that provide multiple options for work spaces for staff, and at the same time, incite more collaborative working. Today’s knowledge workers need meeting and quiet spaces, so the provision of unique designs to offer flexibility and choice in the workplace meet with employee success and have been shown to increase worker satisfaction and productivity.

Despite emerging and developed economies differences, a holistic and global perspective of FM career management is now being undertaken by the industry to strengthen the FM framework and elevate the profile of the profession. Current efforts are underway to establish an International Standards Organization (ISO) facility management classification that can be utilized worldwide. Certifications for facility professionals are in place with the Certified Facility Manager (CFM®), Facility Management Professional (FMP®) and Sustainability Facility Professional (SFP®) designations through the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and its partner associations. There has been a marked increase in the number of FM university degrees at both undergraduate and graduate levels in countries around the globe. The accreditation of FM degree programs by the IFMA Foundation currently reflects more than 25 degrees in worldwide locations. The interest by students is high and the FM industry is facing a critical shortage of experienced or educated professionals in the near future in many developed nations. Expansion of the understanding of FM, its value to business, and the career paths for FM workers is needed to meet expected demand in the near future. The FM associations and higher education are reaching down into primary education programs to introduce FM as a career choice, and help guidance counsellors learn about this “new” profession which incorporates so many diverse areas. Improvements in FM software, along with developments in how projects are managed, require more coaching and people skills for the new ways of working with knowledge work and mobile workers. Education and re-education are expected to continue to grow within FM.

One important way to benefit business as well as the development of the FM industry is to link students and industry more directly through internships and opportunities for students to see the diverse, real world of facility management. Coordination with a local school can provide this opportunity. It has been shown in other industries to benefit not only the student but the internship hiring organization by having it think through its processes, as well as having fresh young eyes looking at issues in new ways with potentially new solutions.

International Facility Management also describes a global region by region comparison of major differences in the political and industry climate impacting facility operations, as well as related cultural, governmental and educational issues. In developing economies, the FM practice is still typically seen as primarily focused on operations, just as the FM industry in developed economies was 20-25 years ago. However, the global sharing of information is enabling these growth areas to quickly catch up and even surpass the developed nations in many cases. Education more rapidly leads to professional careers in FM. New technologies are more readily adopted since there are no sunk costs invested in older technologies. Mobility is commonplace, with many countries never having fully built traditional communications infrastructures, but leap-frogging into the latest technologies. For these reasons, more rapid advancement of FM is anticipated in these developing countries over the next several years. Current state-of-the-art and prospects for facility management as a formal profession within each region are also discussed.

One chapter provides an analysis of FM consultancy and the client-provider relationship. With the increase in outsourcing of facility services, the facility professional can be either an in-house staff member or a service provider staff. Many organizations have a wide mix of in-house and third-party facility services providers. With increasing use of contracts, the in-house facility manager must also become an expert in contract negation and relationship management. This adds to the professionalism of the industry and keeps facility management associations, educators and the FM professionals in a constant learning mode to stay abreast of the latest best practices and methodologies.

Other chapters address efforts to measure the value and benefits of FM services with a focus on the ultimate users of the facility and their satisfaction, with additional details on specific industries with unique demands such as healthcare, education and the public sector. Finally, the primary driver of workplace change has been, and continues to be, technology. Today, technology quickly improves workers’ information gathering and processing, anywhere or anytime. Workers are changing and the workplace is changing. Technology also changes buildings and how they are designed, constructed and operated. Change management, robotics, augmented and virtual realities, and other new technologies will impact the management of the built environment in ways that we cannot even imagine today. Embracing change and working to stay current on changes is required for effective facility management in the future.

Overall, the impact of facility management has long been undervalued, but today is becoming recognized as the supporter and provider of facilities that bring competitive advantage and inspire employee loyalty. Not every organization needs a unique design, but all benefit from enhanced systems and support from knowledgeable facility management professionals.


About the Author

Kathy O. Roper is Professor of Facility and Property Management at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta Georgia and teaches in the areas of graduate sustainable facility and property management, facility planning, project management, benchmarking, and corporate real estate. Prior to coming to Georgia Tech she practiced facility management and corporate real estate for corporate, government and not-for-profits for over 23 years.



1. EN15221-1: 2006 Facility Management – Part 1: Terms and definitions, available at:

2. IFMA website at:

3. Roper, Kathy and Borello, Lisa, International Facility Management, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, U.K., 2014, p.1.




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