The answer should be straightforward, since an international standard, ISO 41011, which defines FM perfectly, has been in place since 2017. The difficulty arises when more than 55% of professionals in the sector state they are unfamiliar with this series of regulations. This issue is addressed in the report “FM awareness survey 2021” with over 2,300 responses from 89 countries. The rate of nescience may exceed 90% globally, if we take into account, firstly, that the channel used was LinkedIn, where we often mention the progress of standardisation work, and secondly, that there are thousands of professionals who are not on this network, and who are probably not even conscious of its existence.
My house, my rules
To understand what Facility Management is in practical terms, despite there being a standard definition, one must bear in mind that it depends on how it is interpreted and above all how it is applied. This is invariably dictated by each company, depending on its line of business and the knowledge it has of FM at a decision-making level.
Concerning the sector, it will always be more common to see it implemented in corporate office spaces rather than in industrial environments, although FM can be applied in all realms. These can include education, shopping centres or healthcare real estate. The focus will be different in every case, but there will always be a more or less advanced FM model.
The scope of knowledge that each firm, or rather each general manager, has of FM will determine which services remain in the area, what it is called or to whom the department reports following company hierarchy. This knowledge can also influence how services are grouped or ungrouped, the resources assigned to them and how competencies are distributed, executed in the same way as with the structure of other departments in the organisation.
Not everything depends on the company itself when it comes to the size of the department and the activities within the Facility Management area. The degree of maturity of each country is a determining factor. We work with more than 20 indicators to measure how advanced a market is, but in this case, those that best apply are legislation, the existence of suitable suppliers and the relevance of international companies which can establish a roadmap with their models. Whether the country has participated in the standardisation process is also factored in, since this may have helped spread the message among local industry professionals.
All this means that the way Facility Management is implemented may be different in two similar companies, even if the official definition of the discipline is the same. That will be the starting point for each firm, and one it must be aware of if it wants to evolve towards more advanced models. On that account, it is important to take all these factors into consideration.
What will become of Facility Management?
This is a difficult question to answer. After the recognition achieved through the pandemic, we must not be sidetracked by simple flattery during what is now known as “the fourth wave”. Technology is the future but for the time being, FM is not technological. That is not to say that suppliers are not laying the groundwork, which they are. The question is, who is going to make the decisions in companies? The scope and competencies covered by FM will not cease to exist, but the name and the professionals as we know them may. In this regard, universities and Facility Management courses fail to provide sufficient training. If the future of our profession currently lies in lecture rooms and other learning spaces, when these students finish their studies there will be others who are better prepared and who will occupy positions that require knowledge that the former have not acquired. It would not be the first time that the IT department, or until recently the computer science department, has overtaken us without us noticing.