At an IFMA conference we attended recently, the speaker asked how many in the audience of about 1,500 had studied Facilities Management in college or had a degree in Facilities Management. Less than a dozen hands went up. It is an interesting aspect of the Facilities Management industry that most facilities managers come to the field from other career paths. We have come to call this phenomenon the “Accidental Facilities Manager”.
Many Paths Up the Mountain
When you meet a typical Accidental Facilities Manager, you will often find that they started on the front lines and came up through the ranks of the organization or perhaps were promoted into their position from another business line. They may have experience as an engineer, planner, tradesman, or finance professional. They likely do not have any formal training in Facilities Management.
The whole notion of Facilities Management as a profession unto itself is a rather recent concept. Unlike professions like surveying, engineering, accounting, and even project management, the professional organizations that would establish best practices, documented bodies of knowledge, and professional certifications are in their fledgling stages for facilities management. While solid organizations like IFMA and APPA are doing great work, their influence on the overall industry is still modest if growing.
Many Pieces to the Puzzle
Another challenge to the Accidental Facilities Manager is the extremely broad range of topics that they need to have a working knowledge of. The typical facilities manager must have a basic understanding of structural engineering, space management, building systems operations, utilities infrastructure, condition assessment and capital planning, information technology, budget and personnel management, procurement process, environmental compliance, and safety and security among many others. They also need to be able to understand the strategic and tactical impacts of these systems and processes on the overall mission and goals of their organization and be able to communicate these impacts clearly to upper management.
As software vendors to the facilities management industry, the characteristics of the Accidental Facilities Manager are always on our minds. We understand that these individuals need to continuously aggregate and make sense of a broad spectrum of information. We know that they need to communicate their insight and management intent clearly and quickly both to their upper management and to the folks on the front lines. We want to ensure that our software products provide maximum value to all that interact with the facilities of the enterprise.
Our experience tells us that in order to provide maximum value, our solutions must be simple to use, easy to understand, and that their implementation must have minimal impact on other existing enterprise information systems. To these ends, we have found that a simple map-based interface makes it easy to understand how information from many different sources relate to one another. Using location as a de-facto unifying index allows us to harvest information from a wide variety of sources with minimal impact on existing enterprise IT systems. Focused business web applications deliver the right information to the right groups in ways that support their daily workflows.
One of our most important goals is to provide information tools to the Accidental Facilities Manager that help them do their job more effectively. If you are an Accidental Facilities Manager yourself, we would love to hear about your journey. What have you learned on your path that might be useful to others like you?