The Evolution of the Facility Manager
The world was very different for facility managers 50 years ago. In fact, the job was a breeze! Back in the 1970s, a facility manager would only be responsible for on-demand and preventive maintenance on a building, and he (or she) would often work alone. Their tasks were simple - things like changing light bulbs, cleaning toilets and doing administrative work on pen and paper.
In larger buildings, a facility manager might have a handful of vendors specializing in HVAC systems, lighting or plumbing to lend a hand with more complex work. Those were the 1970s. Over the next two decades, as buildings and companies got bigger and more complex, so did facility management. Basic maintenance work became industrialized and outsourced to commercial providers. Companies started having multiple departments with varying maintenance needs - which meant way more work for the facility manager!
This meant that by the ‘90s, the facility manager title was no longer a low-skill, entry-level job. Facility managers stopped doing maintenance tasks themselves. Instead, they started overseeing teams of management personnel who did those tasks for them. That was definitely a step up for facility managers: they could now maintain specialized tools and equipment, oversee leases and contracts and create systemized approaches for various administrative tasks, instead of getting their hands dirty with every little maintenance task.
The technological innovation in the early 2000s brought with it even more facility manager responsibilities. Tasks spanning diverse fields like human resources, information technology and business operations were folded into the job.
Forward-thinking companies began to see the importance of the facility manager’s duties, and began realizing how top notch office management can affect employee productivity and property’s profitability. So what did they do? They developed specialized programs to train more effective maintenance staff.
The 2010s saw the advent of The Internet of Things. Nearly every industry began going online, and facility management was no exception. With the emergence of cloud technology, record keeping was no longer confined to pen and paper, or spreadsheets saved in hard drives. Records could be kept securely online, accessible to anyone, anywhere as long as they had an internet connection and the log-in credentials.
Real-time group messaging also meant that facility managers could delegate tasks and communicate with on-ground teams faster. Customized housekeeping and property management software was built and used by large corporations that could afford it.
As a result of all these changes, facility management is no longer a career path for people who just stumbled into it to pay the bills. There are now educational institutions with vocational curricula based around the profession, and facility managers now require more specialized skills than ever.
Superpowers for Facility Operators
Today, it’s not uncommon to see specialized job titles under the facility management umbrella, such as:
- Facilities Strategist
- Facilities System Specialist
- Facility Maintenance Analyst
- Space & Facility Management Specialist
- Space Planning & Logistics Leader
- Workplace Strategist
Of course, not every company needs or can afford to have such a specialized facility maintenance department. Finding talent alone is difficult enough. Training them to oversee teams is even harder. Thankfully, there’s now highly specialized software that allows smaller companies or even individuals to take on the multiple responsibilities of the modern facility manager from their smartphone--even with limited staff.
Facility management apps give anyone the superpowers they need to address all property maintenance work. These apps streamline task management, communications, maintenance schedules, and more. They turn facility management from just a service into a full-blown experience, which leads to higher customer satisfaction and lower costs.
What will the 2020s and 2030s bring to facility management?
With the current pace of technological innovation, we can expect facility management to continue evolving at a rapid rate. The huge changes in the last 10 years alone have proved that this industry will continue to play an important role in how properties operate and affect productivity on a global scale. And of course, Covid-19 has also impacted the profession, making it more necessary - and challenging - than ever before.
Software will make facility managers’ existing workload easier, while at the same time introducing capabilities that were beyond the scope of facility managers before. Here’s to a brave new world.