Facilities Management Definition: Interdependencies and Critical Success Factors (CSFs)


Facilities Management Definition: Interdependencies and Critical Success Factors (CSFs)



Facilities or Facility Management or just FM as many refer to it is an industry that supports an organization to achieve its objectives and goals through optimizing cost savings and efficiencies within the non-core areas of the business. Although this multi billion-dollar global industry has been established, for over 30 years, it is still misunderstood by many and is unknown to others. The purpose of this article is to define FM, its purpose, role and Critical Success Factors (CSFs), including how it can support organizations in meeting their goals.

The following aspects will be addressed in this article.

  1. A definition for Facilities Management?
  2. Associated Facilities Management terms and definitions?
  3. Facilities Management functions and services?
  4. Facilities Management interdependencies and success factors?

Facility or facilities management (FM) is a paradox that many people outside the profession and industry do not fully understand. We are generally aware that FM aligns with buildings and outsourcing of the non-core functions within an organization but beyond this level of understanding, it remains somewhat of a mystery. Unlike allied professions and industries such as human resources, construction, engineering, surveying, architecture etc., which are established and understood, FM is a relatively new concept in historical terms. Indeed, FM has come into its own only in the last 25-30 years or so. In addition to the lack of obvious clarity around its purpose, its definition can also be a little confusing and broad in scope, to say the least, particularly when compared to the allied professions and industries.  In this article, we will examine FM, its definition, purpose, constructs, and its success interdependencies.

I have worked in the FM sector, since it became an industry in the UK in the late 1980’s. As a young graduate, cutting my teeth in construction on my very first project, the re-development of Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport, I was given the opportunity to take up a facilities management role with a leading international organization. At this time, the UK Government began replacing its Property Services Agency (PSA) and later Property Holdings (the departments responsible for maintaining Crown Premises), with outsourced models, The outsourced public sector contracts, under the ‘Compulsory Competitive Tendering’ initiative, were let to private sector organizations. This was how it all started in the UK and 31 years later, it has certainly matured from those early years.

Furthermore, I am an active member on the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) FM Technical Committee /T267, I continue to wish to contribute towards its development and I see a very exciting future for FM.

Facilities Management – Definition

Facility management (FM) “is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality, comfort, safety and efficiency of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology” (International Facilities Management Association, IFMA).

ISO 41011:2017 describes facility, facilities management, and FM as an “organizational function which integrates people, place and process within the built environment with the purpose of improving the quality of life of people and the productivity of the core business” (International Organization for Standardization, ISO)

Facilities Management Definition: Interdependencies and Critical Success Factors (CSFs) 1

Whilst ISO generally support three perspectives of FM (people, places, and process), IFMA supports four, with Technology being the fourth perspective.  I support the addition of technology as the fourth perspective. Some argue that technology is the matter by which the other three dimensions are shaped by or that technology is too loose for use in this context. I would agree that the term ‘technology’ needs to be further defined and qualified as a key aspect of its definition for use within the overall definition of FM. We can however be sure that the use of technology is an integral part of FM, whether it be as a CAFM system for automating processes and collecting data, for SMART building control and automation, to replace or augment traditional human processes such as project management, as an artificial intelligence function or indeed for advancement through machine learning techniques. Technology and FM are now inseparable.

Facilities Management Definitions

Whilst facilities, facility management or just FM may be interpreted in different ways, the aims, objectives, and overall purpose is consistent across the globe. Some of the confusion may be attributable to the literal interpretation and translation of English terms in different regions. For example, a facility may be considered by some as the actual campus, site or building concerned, whereas the term facilities, may be considered in terms of semantics i.e. considered in the singular or plural. Indeed, the term could be considered in terms of the facilities contained within a building e.g. building services and systems e.g. lighting, air conditioning etc. or it can also be considered in terms of the group of services associated with facility management e.g. building management, cleaning, security, waste, building maintenance, projects etc.

The terms are therefore referenced and used in different context and often interchangeably.

ISO has further defined several terms used or associated with facility management in its ISO Standard 41011:2017 Facility management – vocabulary, (ISO). Additional and associated terms and definitions from this standard are as follows: 

  • asset management – “coordinated activity of an organization to realize value from assets.”
  • built environment – “collection of buildings, external works (landscaped areas), infrastructure and other construction works within an area.”
  • demand organization – “entity which has a need and the authority to incur costs to have requirements met.”
  • end user – “person or organization which uses products or services from a supplier”.
  • facility – “collection of assets which is built, installed or established to serve an entity's needs.”
  • facility services  -  “support provision to the primary activities  of an organization , delivered by an internal or external provider.”
  • organization – “person or group of people that has its own functions with responsibilities, authorities and relationships to achieve its objectives.”
  • real estate – “immoveable property including structures, grounds and undeveloped land.”
  • service provider – “organization that delivers one or more facility services.”
  • core business – “entity from which needs are derived.”

Whilst writing, I should advise that the above standard is currently being reviewed and updated. Version 2 will be published in 2023.

Facilities Management Services

We have already established that FM covers the non-core element of an organization, and it encompasses people, places, processes, and technology, we also need to better understand how it delivers its objectives in addressing safety, quality, wellbeing and optimization of people (employees of the core business) within the workplace. This of course can be a very wide set of parameters if we consider FM in its broadest sense. Its therefore not surprising why organizations consider FM in different ways and have different framework parameters for FM within their respective organizations. This includes how services and functions are organized within the frameworks.

In theory, the following functions, services, and responsibilities can be included within the scope of FM:

  • Asset management
  • Business realization management
  • Business planning management
  • Change management
  • CSR management
  • Environmental management
  • Facilities management
  • Financial management
  • Resource management
  • ICT management
  • Innovation management
  • Health & safety management
  • Knowledge management
  • Legal management

  • Lifecycle management
  • Maintenance management
  • Performance management
  • Process management
  • Procurement & logistics management
  • Programme management
  • Project management
  • Quality management
  • Regulatory management
  • Resource management
  • Risk management
  • Service delivery management
  • Strategic, tactical & operational management
  • Sustainability management
  • Value management

Whilst definitions and the functions of FM can vary, one thing is generally accepted by all, FM is usually associated with outsourcing, headcount reduction and generally cost reduction of non-core functions and services within an organization. Today, outsourcing facilities services, to varying degrees is an accepted universal approach for the non-core business support functions, both in the private and public sectors. There are many reasons to outsource, but it is mainly concerned with cost savings or cost reduction. One or several functions or services are outsourced these days.


Facilities Operational Services

  • Washroom Services
  • Janitorial Services
  • Managed Services
  • Interior Landscaping
  • Specialist Cleaning
  • Catering
  • Maintenance
  • Compliance / Statutory H&S
  • Reactive works & projects
  • Grounds Maintenance
  • Security (Manned Guarding)
  • Reception/Concierge
  • Cleaning
  • Waste Management
  • Pest Control

Essentially, anything which is not core to the organization.

Indeed, since the early 1990’s outsourcing trends have developed and matured from single service, single site, in one location, through to all the non-core services across a complete portfolio of properties, often globally, especially for large corporates.

Outsourcing practices and approaches have certainly matured over the last 30 years. This maturity combined with an expectation of value-based services achieved through the outsourcing process has brought FM much closer to the core business.

Facilities Management Definition: Interdependencies and Critical Success Factors (CSFs) 2

In emerging from the pandemic, the core business will again turn to FM to provide both strategic and tactical guidance on how organizations can reduce or repurpose their buildings and to safeguard and optimize the performance of their employees.

Future workplace and property portfolio reduction questions and considerations arising from the impacts of the pandemic and the rapid advancement in artificial intelligence and machine learning opportunities, will be the key drivers to leverage value and new ways of working, FM promises an interesting journey ahead.

Facilities Management – Critical Success Factors

Having discussed the definition of FM, its purpose and intent, including FM functions and services, we also need to consider how FM adds value to the core business. This can be demonstrated by considering the cross-dimensional factors or Critical Success Factors (CSFs) that will underpin the true value of FM to an organization.

Best Value

The obvious one is the financial perspective. The expectation is that FM will continually drive down costs within an organization. Some organizations have unrealistic expectations however as you cannot keep driving down cost without some sacrifice. Whilst I would agree that FM should drive down costs as it is one of the key reasons that we outsource service contracts, along with buying in the right expertise and skill set. We should however be targeting ‘best value’ as opposed to ‘lowest cost’. Best value introduces service quality into the equation i.e. achieving the best service quality at the lowest price possible. It is about finding that fine line between quality of service and cost. A swing to either side would tip the balance one way or another. We will either end up with a cheap service that cannot deliver the scope to the required standard or pay for a ‘gold star’ service when it is not required. True FM will find the balance, the happy medium between price and quality.

Risk Mitigation and Compliance

Risk and compliance are also key prerequisites of FM. In 1974, the Health and Safety at Work Act was introduced in the UK as the primary H&S Legislation, this being one of the only H&S Legislation, along with the Factories Act. Since the 1980’s however, numerous H&S based regulations, approved codes of practices have been Legislated. Numerous risks exist within a business and buildings. Many of these have become the FM’s responsibility and typically include:

  • H&S risks – identification of hazards, & risks covering harm to people; reporting of accidents and near misses etc.
  • Financial risks – there will be many financial risks and/or decisions made that relate to FM related inputs or outputs.
  • Organizational risks such as reputational risks around sustainability and social accountability etc.
  • Operational risks such as statutory compliance of building assets and systems e.g., fire alarms & emergency lighting systems
  • There are also the risk mitigation strategies and plans to consider, such as business continuity planning and disaster recovery. Of course, these perspectives of risk would have been addressed during the pandemic.

Of course, these risks should also be considered in terms of opportunities too.

Facilities Management Definition: Interdependencies and Critical Success Factors (CSFs) 3

Performance Optimization

Organizational and resource performance completes the perspectives where FM can demonstrate value to the core business. For operational facilities services resources, Evbex has undertaken significant research in this area suggesting that operational facilities resources can be as low as only 50-60% productive. We developed a model (Quality-Value index) that addresses this area which is often overlooked. To prove this point, around 80%+ of most FM outsourced contracts pays the operational resources that deliver the required facilities services. An additional 20-30% output productivity can easily be achieved through evaluating and improving systems, structures, and processes concerned with human factors within the organization. Whilst it is difficult for FM to create a direct positive impact on core business resources, it can certainly influence the right behaviors of the organizations employees through improving the quality of life within the workplace and through positive user experiences within the workplace.

Post-pandemic, wellness within the workplace is becoming a major talking point. The WELL Building Institute’s certification programs include a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact health and well-being, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mindfulness.

Sustainability in Facilities Management

Sustainability is an increasing area of significance for FM. In my recent article ‘Emerging from the pandemic and meeting sustainability objectives – Facilities Management at a crossroads, chasing shadows or a bright new future?’ I considered the prospect of FM delivering the organizations sustainability agenda, including organizational goals and targets of achieving Net-zero and the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals.   In this context sustainability and its relationship with FM is considered as follows.

  • Sustainable Buildings – Energy and Environmental considerations
  • Sustainable Teams – People Performance and Wellbeing considerations
  • Sustainable Communities – Supply Chain; Organizational Responsibility & Accountability considerations

Closing Thoughts

Although FM is a relatively new profession and industry in comparative terms, it has certainly grown of age and responsibility over the last 30 years. The wheels of outsourcing will not be reversed, market intelligence leads us to believe that FM and the outsourcing trend will continue long into the future.

The International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has done well to promote FM into a global multi-billion-dollar industry and both organizations also promote a common definition of FM that clarifies its role and purpose.

Facility Management or Facilities Management or just plain FM is about supporting the core organization, its buildings, and its people to become compliant, productive, and profitable. The cost attributable to FM, either directly or indirectly is around 25-40% of an organization’s total costs, second only to salaries. FM belongs in the boardroom and should be at the heart of key decisions made by the Exec, not merely considered as a cost cutting commodity. FM has a bright future ahead.

Facilities Management Definition


I hope that this article has cleared up some of the myths and confusion around facilities management, facility management and FM. In addition to identifying a true definition, the paper also referenced terms that are associated or integrated with FM. Furthermore, the article considers perspectives and interconnected CSFs, associated with FM that should be applied to support the core business in the best way possible.

Evbex Services

Evbex is a facilities services management, advisory, consultancy, technology, and research company. It works with organizations across the globe in delivering value-based facilities management solutions. Our primary advisory and consultancy services include business transformation; strategic, tactical, and operational improvements. We also procure and tender FM services on behalf of all types of organizations, in the private and public sectors ranging from a few hundred-thousand-dollar contracts to global contracts valued at several hundred million dollars.

We have undertaken significant research across many areas of FM and apply the outputs of our research into our consulting and our technology services.

Our FM Navigate cloud-based SaaS FM platform has been built as a Facilities Enterprise Resource Planning System (FERPS) with many unique features for client-based organizations, purchasers of FM services and end users towards best practice-based FM services.

We hope to be listening to your challenges soon……and of course discussing our solutions to your problems.


  1. IFMA. What is Facility Management. https://www.ifma.org/about/what-is-facility-management [Accessed on 12/06.2021]
  2. ISO. ISO 41011:2017. https://iso.org/obp/ui/  [Accessed on 12/06/2021]

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