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Do You Need A Facility Manager, Project Manager, or Both?

Although the responsibilities of the facility manager and project manager differ, there are times when you need both.

Q1 2022
Delegation is one of the most important tasks of any manager — be they a C-suite executive or a line manager on the plant floor. However, the ability to delegate competently is far more complex than expected. The issue of whom to choose for which job or task, when and where needed, can be challenging because not all work is easily “demarcated.”

This issue of whom to delegate for what purpose is a dilemma across all industries. A study conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found that 46 percent of companies surveyed had a “somewhat high” or “high” level of concern regarding the ability of their workers to delegate effectively. It could be said that this is one of the most underrated competencies in the management field.

The ability to properly distinguish between the facility management and project management functions is a good example of this delegation issue. The purpose of this article is to provide a clear understanding of both the facility manager and project manager, including their differences. It will also provide insight into the specific instances in which both professionals may be needed.

The Facility Manager

It is worth noting that facility managers are in high demand at this time, given that there is a skills shortage across the entire facility management field. All the more reason for organizational leaders to understand exactly what the primary responsibilities of the facility manager are. They typically include: Facility managers are in high demand at this time, given that there is a skills shortage across the entire facility management field.
  • Control over and management of all physical maintenance on a site, whether directly involved or overseeing the outsourcing to competent maintenance professionals, particularly regarding:
    • Lighting/illumination, including security lighting;
    • Mechanical and electrical systems, including elevators, water pumps, and relevant piping systems;
    • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems;
    • Plumbing systems;
    • Fire safety systems and regulatory compliance; and
    • Structural integrity, including load-bearing walls, staircases, access ramps, etc.
  • Oversight regarding the overall well-being and functioning of an entire facility, plant, or building, which may include cleaning services and landscaping;
  • Ensuring that the lifespans of all physical assets, such as machinery and equipment, are optimized; and
  • Being an integral part of a site’s occupational health and safety management system, including its procedures, work instructions, internal audit, and other relevant systemic processes where required.
There are also important management-related functions that the facility manager usually fulfills, including:
  • Real estate management — often in conjunction with the property manager.
  • Occupancy management — with the use of data and analytics to ensure that operational costs are minimized, and the use of space is fit for purpose and maximized.
  • Asset management — ultimately, the life-cycle of all assets is under the aegis of a facility manager.
  • Financial and performance management — specifically regarding utilities, inventory, and maintenance costs.
The Project Manager
The role of the project manager cannot be underestimated, especially as U.S. and global markets become more complex, competitive, and demanding. In fact, Northeastern University has predicted that employers will be needing 87.7 million project management professionals by 2027. It is an industry that has already seen a 15 percent growth rate since 2007.

Northeastern University has predicted that employers will be needing 87.7 million project management professionals by 2027. The term “project management” makes the principal role of the project manager very clear: the management of a particular project and its related activities. Other typical responsibilities of the project manager include:
  • Creation and planning of the project, including its intent and objectives, intended milestones or similar stages for the project, and required deadlines, both during the project and the final deadline or date of completion;
  • Day-to-day scheduling of the project, including milestones/sprints/stages thereof, and any alterations thereto;
  • Management of the project team, including motivating team members and ensuring adherence to their prescribed roles and responsibilities specific to the project;
  • Creating/planning, maintaining, and re-assessing a budget throughout the lifespan of the project;
  • Problem-solving, coupled with adaptability and flexibility in decision-making, as issues arise during the course of the project; and
  • Monitoring the ongoing progress of the project, particularly concerning predetermined deadlines or milestones, budgetary considerations, and resources required to fulfill the project.
Furthermore, communication is a multi-faceted and key (and too often overlooked) aspect of the project manager’s portfolio, encompassing:
  • Communication within the project team that is open and collaborative;
  • Required feedback and communications with management and the executive team regularly;
  • Liaison with clients, whether internal or external to the organization; and
  • Open and forthright communication with all the project’s stakeholders, particularly on large projects that may have an impact on local communities or other interested and affected parties.
Probably the most important difference between a facility manager (FM) and a project manager (PM) is that the role of a FM is permanent, long-term, and multi-dimensional within the entire facility or organization, whereas a PM typically works on specific one-off/temporary projects for determined periods of time and with finite outcomes.

Not only would a project manager clearly be needed for a large-scale build, but the inputs of a facility manager could prove invaluable. When Both Are Needed
There may be instances where both a facility manager and project manager are needed. This could occur, for example, when the scale of a project demands it. This is often the case for a large construction project. Not only would a project manager clearly be needed for a large-scale build, but the inputs of a facility manager could prove invaluable. The facilities professional would be able to advise on factors such as electrical installations, HVAC, and illumination, particularly from a regulatory and risk management perspective, especially in terms of safety and security. McKinsey warned in 2020 that construction, which is the world’s largest industry, is in a global crisis due to persistent time and budgetary overruns. All the more reason to have necessary players on board, particularly for high-capex, deadline-sensitive projects.

Another example where both facility and project management professionals may be needed is when the specific mandate of a project requires it. For example, not only large-scale construction projects require the inputs of a facilities team. Smaller-scale projects may also necessitate the expertise and insight provided by facilities management. A good example of this is during renovations or extensions to an existing building, facility, or installation, for which the facility manager will obviously have invaluable insight. In turn, the project manager can facilitate and manage these inputs within the realities and time restraints of the project.

Furthermore, the company structure itself may require both management functions, such as when the project management function falls under the direction of the facility department.

Ultimately, an organization’s leadership needs to fully appreciate the unique attributes of the facility and project management functions, as well as where the two may need to intersect. These two management functions are not mutually exclusive to each other nor should they be managed as such. Instead, they should be recognized for the critical, pivotal roles that they play in many organizations, with a flexible, intelligent approach to both.

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