Anniversary Retrospective: 20 Years of Facility Management
Depending on perspective, 20 years can represent a blip in the annals of time, or it may encompass the whole of one’s career. For Today’s Facility Manager (TFM), the past two decades saw the launch of the magazine’s followed by its maturation and growth. The same can be said of the facility management (FM) profession which has been served by the TFM staff since 1988.
Originally titled Business Interiors, this magazine has evolved in synch with the needs of facility managers (fms), whether that means reporting on developing trends or revisiting the issues that have been present since facilities first were managed. In that spirit, the editors have asked members of the current Today’s Facility Manager Editorial Advisory Board to share their professional experiences from the past 20 years along with their thoughts on what may be in store for the next five or 10 years. Often, their responses corresponded, but as each organization and facility has its own “personality,” there were certainly differences of opinion regarding some areas of FM.
The Good Old Days?
“Twenty years ago, we were still a society of the hard copy written memorandum,” says William Coleman, associate vice president for facilities at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. “You would receive correspondence in the daily mail, read it, contemplate your response, type a draft response, proof it, draft the final response, sign it, have copies made, and place it in the outgoing mail for the next pick up, which was normally the following day.”
Coleman, who began in FM at Edinboro in 1986, continues, “In today’s world, we have people calling to ask, ‘Did you read the e-mail I just sent you? What do you think?'” As the pace of society in general has increased, so has the speed at which many fms are required to act in order to meet their goals.
Victoria Hardy, CFM, CFMJ, chief executive officer of Star Island Corporation in Portsmouth, NH, says, “In this [age] of e-mails, voice mails, BlackBerrys, and VOIP, not only do you hear faster about issues, but your constituents expect immediate answers, even if they are not available.”
Furthermore several specific societal changes have had an effect on FM in that time. As a large portion of baby boomers, including many more women than in years past, entered the workforce during the 1970s and ’80s many organizations were expanding their workforces. Consequently, many organizations needed to expand their facilities.
A few other forces were in play as well, as Tim Springer, Ph.D., president and founder of HERO, inc. in Geneva, IL, notes, “A lot of things happened in the early 1980s that gave shape to a perfect storm in every sense of the term. There was the advent of the personal computer for one. Also, white collar workers surpassed blue collar workers for the first time in terms of numbers, [along with the huge number of baby boomers entering the workforce].
“As a result, churn was a huge problem, and that gave rise to the need to stay on top of organizational and technological changes. This increased the workload and the value of FM to organizations. Up until that time, offices weren’t changed all that much, and the computer systems that were in use were mainframes with TSO (time sharing option) terminals. The turmoil that occurred with the advent of the personal computer and some of the space planning and space use changes that occurred allowed organizations to explore different ways of handling growth and, consequently, of handling space.” As the fm role became increasingly necessary in many organizations, the tasks of this post varied from facility to facility. However, the definition of FM as stated by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) is: “A profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process, and technology.”
Says Ward Komorowski, facilities management director for Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, WI, “My goals always have been connected to reducing operational costs, ensuring effective maintenance, and keeping tenants comfortable, safe, and productive.
“That’s still the same today, although there are added pressures,” continues Komorowski, who started working at Johnson Controls as a draftsperson 26 years ago. “More than ever, companies need to show how a productive, energy efficient building contributes to global corporate financial, environmental, and social goals. So my job today involves a lot more communication-to employees, to management, and, quite often, to the hundreds of visitors to the building who want to see our best practices in action.”
Neal Angrisano, AIA, deputy director of facilities management for Johnson County, KS for the past seven years, says that leadership has increasingly become part of his role as an fm. “Clients, building users, and constituents are placing more value on the quality, life cycle, and environmental responsiveness of their facilities,” he explains. “I feel that I am now much more of a leader than a manager.”
Same Work, Different Year? Not Quite
As the pace of society in general has increased, so has the speed at which many fms are required to act in order to meet their goals. The complexities of today’s world demand fms fulfill the “traditional” role of FM while adapting to changing the organizational, budgetary, regulatory, and countless other issues affecting facilities. Several of the fms interviewed for this article acknowledged the additional pressure of having more tasks under their purview and the speed with which they are often expected to accomplish them. These professionals also stated that, while technology has played a prevalent role in speeding up the demands, it has also enabled them to succeed at their jobs.
Jim Elledge, CFM, FMA, RPA, facilities manager for Summit Alliance Corporation in Dallas, TX and a 24 year industry veteran, says, “Being able to publish and then instantly change or modify documents related to facilities is very useful. Company changes, whether from remodeling or relocation, staffing or acquisitions, can now be documented and distributed instantly.”
When asked what has made his work easier over the past 20 years, Coleman also names electronic file management systems as a contributing tool. “Having the ability to move documents, drawings, and contract specifications electronically between users is, without question, the one thing that has made my work easier,” he says. “In general, the advances in microtechnology have given us the ability to capture data easily and make decisions based upon data.”
As fms have become part of the strategic planning process at more and more organizations, access to data is crucial to managing effectively and securing the funds so often necessary to that goal.
“Fms are increasingly required to provide the financial justification and analysis for the projects they wish to undertake, even for standard operating expenses,” says Maria Vickers, operations manager at Workscape, Inc. in Marlborough, MA.
“[Compared to years past] the underlying goal is still the same—do more for less,” continues Vickers who has been at Workscape for four years and in FM for more than 15.
“But, it is this goal which has driven the need for financial analysis. It can be proven that spending money can actually save money, and it is increasingly up to fms to prove that case. Because of this, whereas my ‘early days’ may have been spent out in the general office areas looking for creative ways to do things and provide services more efficiently, I am now spending more time in my office, isolated, attempting to make the numbers work.”
Since the issues that fms deal with in their facilities very often reflect what is happening in the larger world, it is no surprise that TFM Board Members listed energy, other environmental concerns (including regulatory requirements), security, and changing technology as areas on which they are increasingly focused. They also expect these subjects to remain at the forefront.
Says Coleman, “Trying to contain energy costs has been an issue since before Ebenezer Scrooge berated his freezing employees on Christmas Eve for requesting an extra bucket of coal. I believe trying to contain energy costs will continue to be a key issue.”
In order to navigate the realm of energy in an ever changing marketplace, fms may need to consider how they currently operate. Elledge suggests, “Employees are looking for relief on their commuting costs. Energy costs will play havoc with current budgets. And, if shortages develop, then companies may need to address their current operations. For instance, do data centers actually need to be 24/7? Or can certain platforms power down on weekends or holidays? Can companies shift to four day work weeks? Will buildings shut down after hours to reduce their energy usage?”
Angrisano also thinks that organizations need to look at the situation with a fresh perspective. “I sincerely believe that in 10 years, our buildings will be very different in the way that they employ heating and cooling, lighting, and other energy using systems,” he says. “Economics and environmental concerns will make this a necessity.”
While energy issues have dominated the headlines the past few years, facility security is at the top of the FM list of concerns as well. Commenting on his experience in recent years, Elledge says, “It’s not just brick and mortar security, but monitoring of assets-laptops and mobile devices, for instance-and the corporate data they contain.”
Vickers adds, “Today, safety and security are more directly related to employee and client retention than ever before, and they are evolving into issues with a direct effect on the bottom line. We undertake no expansion or construction [project], large or small, without paying attention to the security infrastructure and the protection of our resources and assets. Our clients are highly attuned to security issues as they relate to their business relationships with us, and they require us to prove and certify our security measures and processes. That burden of proof is falling increasingly on [the fm’s] shoulders.”
Komorowski agrees that energy trends and environmental issues (namely regulations) will remain central areas of focus, but he notes that developments in information technology (IT) are crucial as well. “Computer, critical facilities and environments, and information systems are the lifeblood of almost any business,” he says. “Fms have to keep on top of the technical, integration, and energy issues related to IT that impact their buildings.”
Additionally, Hardy, who has been in the FM profession for over 30 years, notes the increasingly complex regulatory environment many fms must navigate. “We have 27 agencies we must work with!” she says.
The Evolution Continues
An fm who has been in the profession for even just one year most likely recognizes the multitasking and many hats the job demands. Beyond their own organizations, fms can find supporting resources at industry associations and publications, as well as suppliers and government groups.
Still, many fm positions require juggling several areas of responsibility, and Springer suggests the profession may even diverge along the lines of types of responsibilities. “Not everyone agrees with this,” he says, “but I see a bifurcation of the profession, in that there will be a division between facility operations and facility management. I think the day to day management of the operation of the facility is different than the longer range planning.”
However the profession evolves, there will continue to be facilities to manage. Cultivating the next generation of fms is a relevant issue to keep in mind.
“I still meet so many people who get FM responsibilities by default,” says Springer. “There isn’t a clearly defined career path, and there is not a clearly defined set of skills, because it is so across the board.” He notes that as many of the first generation of fms leave the industry, changes, whether good or bad, should be expected.
Coleman observes, “This is an issue I believe those of us maintaining an internal workforce are facing. For instance, the mechanical systems we use are becoming more and more technologically complex. Every renovation or new construction project adds an additional level of complexity to the building control systems. We are creating high tech buildings with a workforce that is unprepared to maintain these systems.”
The changes that have occurred in the FM profession since 1988 may have affected some in the field more than others. However, one thing is a constant for all fms-there will always be one more thing to get done by the end of the day.
This article was written based on responses provided by Angrisano, Coleman, Elledge, Hardy, Komorowski, Springer, and Vickers.
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