By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing
A bookkeeper keeps the books. A salesperson makes sales. You wouldn’t say “bookskeeper” or “saleperson,” adding or dropping the plural—it’s not how we talk. So why are “facility manager” and “facilities manager” interchanged so frequently? What are the differences between facility management and facilities management?
For the uninitiated, it might seem like writer’s preference, but there’s actually guidelines for using one over the other. Knowing when and why is the key. Here’s what you need to know about facility vs. facilities in the context of managing them.
A question of semantics
Looking at facility management vs. facilities management from a purely grammatical standpoint, the difference is obvious. It’s singular vs. plural. That’s the basis for understanding correct usage of both words.
- Facility management involves one aspect of the broader facilities. Painting the break room, repairing the elevator, and repaving the parking lot are all examples of facility management—one task, focused on one part of the greater facilities.
- Facilities management pertains to your complete facilities. Changing the entire building’s light bulbs to LEDs, installing an access control system, and stack planning are all examples of broad facilities management. They affect the entire building.
It’s easy to get confused. For example, if you change the desking concept on the fourth floor, is it an act of facility management or facilities management? That depends on the context—if you’re viewing the task holistically or in isolation.
Wondering how and when to use the singular vs. plural form? If you’re referring to a specific area of the facilities, use the singular; if it’s encompassing, use the plural.
- “We’re upgrading our facilities by installing motion sensor lighting in the hallways.”
- “Adding a smartboard to Conference Room A is our next facility project.”
Can you use facility and facilities interchangeably without too much confusion? Sure. It’s not going to cause a lot of trouble and most people won’t likely notice. If you’re a stickler for grammar and want to set an authoritative, professional tone, you’ll want to make the distinction.
Read more: What is Facility Management?
Is there any real difference?
While there’s a clear semantic difference in the two terms, they’re conceptually the same thing. Whether you’re engaged in facility or facilities management, you’re improving the building in some way. Case in point: there’s no deciding between facility management software and facilities management software. They’re one in the same. Whether you’re dealing with a specific aspect of facilities or addressing them as a whole, you’ll use the same software.
The only time semantic difference really becomes important is at a macro scale. If your business spans multiple facilities, facility vs. facilities has larger ramifications. Saying “we’re going to reinvest $100,000 in our facility” has a different meaning than “we’re going to reinvest $100,000 in our facilities.” In this example, $100,000 in upgrades means much more in the context of a facility than across several facilities.
What about property managers?
To make things more confusing, many companies throw the word “property” into the mix. They mean facility manager and say property manager. Unfortunately, these two aren’t the same, and it goes beyond a simple semantic difference.
- A facility or facilities manager coordinates support services to ensure buildings meet the needs of the people using them. They’re in charge of building workplaces to support workers and maintaining the building to ensure productive use. Think of a facility manager as serving the needs of people.
- A property manager oversees real estate operations from a day-to-day perspective. They work for the building owner to ensure the building maintains its safety and value, and that tenants’ needs are met. Think of a property manager as serving the needs of the building.
The peripheral nature of facility managers and property managers causes a lot of confusion for businesses. A company may work with one or both of these professionals.
The distinction here is even more important to make than between facility and facilities, because there’s an entirely different objective involved. Facility managers see the employees within a building as an asset; property managers see the building itself as the asset. Both professionals understand the importance of working together, but their focuses differ.
Distinctions are important
Still not sure what distinguishes facility from facilities in the context of management? The simplest way to remember the correct usage is to think about plural vs. singular. Are you managing one aspect of your facility or overseeing changes that affect all facilities? The distinction may be simple, but it’s important.
Keep reading: How to Select Facility Management Software.