Maxwell Stephens

Does an FM need to know about both Hard and Soft Services? - We asked the professionals...

Maxwell Stephens posted the above question via LinkedIn recently and we had some interesting comments from FM professionals. Copies of which are below:

“Peter, without wishing to debate the various definitions of FM, I’ll attempt to answer your question by saying an FM must be able to manage and deliver the INTEGRATION of both hard and soft services. If we are not bringing together the differing strands and services in order to deliver a more efficient outcome, then we are single service managers. Others may disagree…..” Soft Services Manager @ University College London(UCL)


“Absolutely! Without the understanding of a particular service delivery we are unable to manage effectively and have to rely on trust and partnerships. Whilst I spend a lot of my efforts fostering relationships, I also think that too much faith is placed in prescriptive documentation that is not wholly tailored to individual businesses due to lack of understanding. This is my opinion and born from experience rather than text books and models. It is unreasonable to think that a nuclear establishment would have similar practices to those of Council offices.” – Account Manager


“Plain and Simply …Yes. The days that an FM just looked after either hard or soft services are gone. We need to demonstrate a full and varied understanding of business management and all support activities. Everything from travel management to the Return and Flow of a cooling system. We should be proud that we are in an industry that gives us the ability to demonstrate management in so many areas.” – Group Head of FM @ Cushman & Wakefield, MBIFM


“One of the main issues I have with our industry at the moment around the globe is the use and definition of a Facilities Manager. If we are to expect the industry to be taken seriously and gain recognition. In many cases individuals are actually Contract or Maintenance manager. To be recognised as a Facilities Manager the skill base should include a knowledge and understanding of both Hard and Soft services along with the commercial and legal aspects of managing property. In my experience particularly in the Middle East many FM’s have no or little understanding of Service Charge for example.” – Facilities and Property Asset Manager


“I believe that each employer Facilities Managers work for place a different requirement of Facilities skill set on the FM depending on the nature of their business and to what extent services are outsourced or kept in house. Either way, there is always a crossover of both hard and soft services, so an ‘appreciation’ of both is necessary if either to manage directly or input to its successful delivery.” – Lead Facilities Manager @ Cushman & Wakefield


“I have just joined this group and have read with interest the various comments. Coming from a diverse background encompassing multiple arenas (commercial, public sector and military) I am more often disillusioned in that organisations currently look at purely soft or hard facilities and not as a totally encompassing support and operational activity in its own right.


There also does seem to be an overwhelming reliance on qualifications and not diverse or in-depth experience.”


“Peter the answer to your question in short is yes! but to be honest with you in my experience I have come across very few so called F.M. professionals. I can as an F.M. manager through my experiences relate to a lot of comments mentioned above, unfortunately the F.M.’s that I have done business with tend to be ”a master of one trade and or profession and kind of just get by with the rest. As far as I am concerned, when it comes to successfully delivering a fully integrated F.M. service it is not about an individual’s input and efforts but rather that of a well balanced team.”


“It’s a given that FM’s must operate in both the Hard & Soft arenas. A true FM must encompass multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the whole built environment, this includes having a detailed understanding of physical plant assets and the associated infrastructure but also being required to provide a safe, clean, productive working environment. This “soft side” includes not only the housekeeping & security operations but also down to catering, porterage, reprographics and many other non-technical services……sadly most of today’s FM’s struggle with this skill set.” – VP, Head of CPRES


“I agree, Alex. Peter, to use “hard-soft” classification is not a must, but the trick is to have clear understanding of all core and supportive processes within organisation (including buildings and related infra as number 1) Such knowledge forms the basis for the success in Facility field” – Facility Management Executive


“In answers to the initial question the answer is yes! However the FM now must also be more aligned to the wider aspects of not just service delivery, but also commercial awareness, leases, HS, actual awareness of the business and sector they operate in, CSR and the ever increasing environmental demands. I would also suggest as muted by others the clue is in “Management” we all have certain skill and knowledge attributes that relate directly to say mechanical or electrical on hard provision or BICS, SIA on soft, it however the bringing together, multi-tasking, key stakeholder interaction, customer engagement that a good FM will excel at. As one further point to this lively debate it could be argued that Soft FM managers engage and interact better than their Hard FM colleagues with customers and stakeholders as they deal perhaps more frequently with perception and touch point issues, dirty floors, complaints with food etc (Appreciate A/C is huge touch point) whereupon Hard FM’s find themselves more project, asset and capital driven protecting key assets etc, just another viewpoint anyway!” – Facilities Management @ ESH Facilities


“An FM must have an understanding of how a property functions in all aspects of the word.” – Director Operations @ QBG Facilities Management


“Totally agree with comments thus far. Short answer is yes – FM’s must have an understanding & good working knowledge of both Hard & Soft Services.” – Director & General Manager


“A basic (at least) underpinning knowledge of hard & soft FM is essential to enable informed & effective decisions to be made. My two penneth worth.” – Facilities Co-ordinator @ Virgin Media


“Definite yes and I would even lean towards a greater understanding of the hard services as I have always found them to be the stronger FM. Having said that, a manager is a manager and any manager worth their salt should be able to manage anything with the right team on board.” – QHSE Manager MENA @ Mace Macro International


“If Facilities Management is going to be taken seriously as a discipline then questions like this should be unnecessary (although it is a good question as it has invoked discussion) as the scope of the title should already be defined. To be a Facilities Manager in today’s environment a FM should not only have an understanding or Hard and Soft services but all the intrinsic parts of the role including, but not limited to (you can tell I work in the legal environment)


– Health & safety
– Leases
– Service charges
– Finance


The core business of the company they work for (as without it you cannot ensure that the services you are providing meet the needs of your client)


– Project Management
– Environmental
– Energy Management
– Landlord and Tenant Arrangements
– Real Estate/Property
– Construction/Structural


The Facilities Manager of today is expected to manage all these aspects and more and the only effective way of doing that is to have a good basic understanding of all of the issues. Although a manager is expected to manage and may have specialist to deal with certain aspects you do need an understanding to enable you to manage effectively. If you know nothing about cars could you get the best out of a team of mechanics?” – Head of Facilities Management @ ChapmanBDSP

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