The FM Professional

Facility management services: Outsource or keep in-house?

Nick Mason
February 8th, 2022

Facility management services are critical to any organization’s success. Building management might not sound sexy, but it’s actually key to productivity, cost savings, and employee well-being. 

Hybrid work is here to stay and the desire for more flexibility at work is growing. The pandemic has made it clear that the rules and regulations for using a workspace can change on a dime. 

Companies therefore need well-managed facility services more than ever. Many companies are also now considering outsourcing these duties. 

In this article, we explore facilities management services, along with the pros and cons of outsourcing facilities management. 

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What is facilities management?

At the most basic level, facilities management is about maintaining and optimizing the daily operations of a company and its building(s). The main goals are typically to improve efficiencies and sustainability. As well, goals include creating a safe and comfortable environment that helps improve employee experience and, ultimately, the bottom line. 

Facility management services traditionally focus on physical elements of your business, such as HVAC maintenance, building management, and preventative maintenance. Cleaning and janitorial services, waste management, fire safety, food service, landscaping, property management, and any other physical elements critical to facility operations all typically fall under this umbrella.

Of course, the built environment is no longer the only concern for workers. Employees now have to navigate a digital workspace as well as a physical one. This means that facility management is increasingly concerned with the digital aspects of using and optimizing an office space as well. 

What is the difference between facility management and property management?

Because of their overlapping domains, it’s easy to conflate facility management and property management. 

Property management is focused solely on the building, covering issues like rent, maintenance, and the landlord’s real estate portfolio. Property management focuses solely on the building itself. Facility management focuses on how the building serves the people using it.  

facilities floor plans

Who provides facility management services?

Facility management services are typically maintained by a facility manager, or FM. 

Organizations can opt to outsource their facility management to outside FM providers. 

Alternatively, they can hire their own FM, or assign different facility management duties to different team managers. 

When handled in-house, companies and FMs need good facility management software. This is often in the form of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or, preferably, an integrated workplace management system (IWMS).  

The roles of FMs are changing in the modern workplace

Thanks to changing workplace demands, increased competition, and the Internet of Things (IoT), facility management services now extend well beyond simple building maintenance. That means FM responsibilities are changing as well, whether outsourced or managed in-house. 

FMs may now find themselves responsible for occupancy tracking, project management, and predictive maintenance. This is in addition to supporting employees in multiple, ever-changing locations. 

This can include the full scope of managing assets and property (usually with an eye towards sustainability and managing operating costs), move management and sometimes request management, and, more recently, supporting remote working as well as the hybrid office in general.   

Many offices are now turning to flexible seating arrangements. As a result, FMs may also find themselves managing and optimizing a variety of desk booking and room booking systems as well. 

In short, FMs are responsible for the holistic well-being of both their physical and digital workplaces, as well as their people. 

That’s why they’re increasingly embracing better workplace management software to manage the workspace, improve space utilization, and meet the needs of the workforce. 

fm benefits

What are the benefits of hiring an FM company?

Given the complexities involved, many companies look to outsource their facilities management services. 

In fact, according to the CBRE, we’re currently seeing an ‘outsourcing evolution’ in facility management services. Outsourcing is set to reach $1 trillion by 2025. 

Outsourcing is often driven by what are seen as potential cost savings from outsourcing facilities management. Although, as we’ll cover below, in-house options can actually be more affordable. Especially in the long run. 

Otherwise, there are two main ‘pros’ to outsourcing facilities management. 

First, companies dedicated to facility management may be able to offer more robust services and specializations than some companies can afford in-house. Second, depending on their size and organizational strengths, some companies may simply require a hands-off approach to facility management, at least for the time being. 

What are the drawbacks of outsourcing facility management?

There are many drawbacks when it comes to outsourcing facility management. 

Of course there are the regular concerns that come anytime companies consider outsourcing.

Namely, unless you find just the right company, you risk becoming an afterthought. 

This is why so many companies wind up with ineffective and potentially dangerous building automation systems (BAS) security, for example. On paper it might seem easier to outsource complex operations to an outside company. But outside companies may not be as dedicated to your needs as you would be. 

Outside companies also won’t have the same organizational knowledge that in-house teams can offer. Without intimate knowledge of the company and its departments, it’s inherently more challenging for outside companies to effectively plan for space management or handle moves. 

And in the long run, outsourcing FM may not be as cost-effective as companies expect. 

Yes, in theory, outsourcing may seem cheaper than hiring a full time, in-house FM. 

But full time, in-house FMs are in a much better position to collect actionable analytics that they can use to improve space utilization and make better decisions that impact the long term sustainability—and operating costs—of an organization.  

You also lose the ability to have your FM team collaborate with other departments such as IT and HR. 

All said, outsourcing facility management can hinder your ability to streamline your services, as well as to fully embrace hybrid work and all its interconnected and moving parts. 

How to find the right personnel to perform FM duties

When hiring a full-time facility management professional, it’s critical to find someone who shares your company’s values and who can be trusted to prioritize employee well-being along with long term sustainability. 

Thanks to the rapid change in the workplace since the pandemic, coupled with the rise in new hybrid work models and new ways of using the office, FM hires should also be able to take on leadership roles within their organizations. This will help to drive and optimize new technologies, procedures and change management overall. 

Specifically, your facility management skills list should include:

  • Effective communication skills
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Strong financial skills, including the ability to budget and grasp your company’s financials
  • Project management skills
  • Predictive and preventative maintenance skills
  • Real estate and property management experience 
  • Ability to use data to drive decision making

Overall, FMs need strong people skills, coupled with the right mix of technological and operational experience. 

And of course, being incredibly organized and a stickler for detail doesn’t hurt. 

fm software

An alternative solution for facility management: better software

Clearly, there are many benefits to hiring a dedicated facilities management professional

But a full-time FM is not the only solution, especially for companies concerned about streamlining and keeping FM services costs from snowballing. 

When you want to keep facility management in-house, you have a second option: integrating FM duties into a variety of other existing positions. 

Assuming you are using good facility management software, you can share facility management responsibilities across departments, without adding too much of a burden on anyone. 

HR may be able to handle seating and moves, for example, while your administrative team tracks maintenance property management. 

Meanwhile, your IT team may be primed to track space management, manage IoT sensors, and better support the hybrid workforce. 

And your executive team can take analytics data and use it to inform decision-making

Again, assuming you have the right software, all these tasks can be easily managed by existing staff, with minimal training or extra time investment. It’s a win-win solution: facility management stays in-house, as does all the insights that good facility management entails. 

What should effective facility management software include?

Like the name suggests, facility management software is what FMs or other team members can use to manage and optimize all aspects of facility management. When it’s used properly, it provides data and insights that can streamline all aspects of a company, from energy efficiency and sustainability to who gets to book what rooms, when. 

Of course, different companies will have different software requirements. This will be depending on things like the age of their building, their goals for the workspace, and their operation costs. 

That said, in order to be maximally effective, facility management software must include the following functions:

  • Space management and space planning capabilities
  • Interactive floorplans to increase visibility
  • Stack planning and scenario planning
  • Asset management to track and make assessments of things like hardware, furniture, and equipment
  • Request and work order management
  • Cost and spend tracking
  • Procurement and vendor management
  • Desk and room booking, as well as the ability to accommodate flexible seating and hybrid work
  • IoT integration 

Integration and accessibility

Like we’ve already covered, these features should be part of an integrated system that also collects and provides reports and analytics data. Either FMs or other team leaders can use this data to make better decisions. 

Ideally, it will also integrate with communication and collaboration software your team is already using. This could include software like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or your Zoom meetings calendar

And especially if it is being used by multiple people throughout an organization, it’s best if all this information is easily accessible and available on a mobile app as well as on desktop.    

Finally, given our experience with the pandemic, we now know it’s best when facility management software also includes features that make it easier to maintain social distancing in the office and to stay compliant with ever-changing health rules and regulations. 

Ultimately, when a company opts for robust software with all these features, whether they have a dedicated FM team or disperse these duties across departments, they are better able to maximize their triple bottom line—people, planet, and profit. 

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Facility management for a future-proof office 

It doesn’t matter if a company has the hottest new product or best-in-class services. Without good facility management, companies simply don’t have the tools they need for long term success. 

Meanwhile, companies that put thought into FM solutions—whether they’re in-house or outsourced—are putting themselves in the perfect position to weather current and future storms. 

From large facilities like those in healthcare, government, manufacturing, and education, to plucky startups and small local businesses, the better they handle facilities management, the more future proof their organization will be. 

OfficeSpace offers robust software that makes facility management services a breeze. Reach out for a free demo. 

Photos: LinkedIn Sales Solutions, Daniel McCullough, airfocus, Startaê Team, Christin Hume