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By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist
It takes a concerted effort to manage facilities—especially as they become larger and more complex. It’s why facilities management breaks down into specific facilities services, many of which get contracted out to vendors and craftspersons under service-level agreements (SLAs). But what is facilities services in the context of how they impact employees and visitors to the building?
The functions of facilities management are broad. Facilities services can include something as simple as trimming the shrubs in front of the building, or as complex as a complete remodel of the fourth floor. No matter the simplicity or complexity of the task, facilities services are important because they set the tone for the experience people have with their work environment.
Services that keep facilities running
Facilities services keep facilities running, from top to bottom. They span all segments of facilities management, including the building itself, IT, landscape and property upkeep, emergency systems, and just about anything else incorporated into the building. With such a diverse scope, SLAs become essential to ensure every aspect of facilities get their due attention.
To make broad facilities management simpler, facilities services break down into subgroups, depending on what they are and how they’re managed. There are two types of facilities services: hard services and soft services.
A breakdown of hard services
Hard services pertain directly to the building itself. They’re inseparable from the building and typically considered capital expenditures. They often require specialized expertise to service and maintain, and are highly practical candidates for life cycle management. Some examples include:
- Heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC)
- Plumbing and plumbing fixtures
- Lighting and electrical systems
- Mechanical systems outside of HVAC
- Emergency control systems, such as sprinklers
It’s easy to plan for hard services and put maintenance on a timeline. It’s also easy to react to unplanned issues with these systems, since the scope of work is generally covered under an SLA.
The major downfall of hard services is that they’re inherently expensive because they involve the very building blocks of the facilities. These are also systems that, when down, dramatically affect workplace quality and interrupt operations. You can’t ask employees to work in the dark or bake in triple-digit heat!
A look at soft services
Unlike hard services, which are built into the property, soft services augment it. Soft services primarily improve the wellbeing of the people within facilities and allow them to make the most of their time in them. These services are less specialized, but still contracted because they’re often situational. It’s easier to form a partnership than execute these services in-house. Some examples include:
- Cleaning and janitorial services
- Waste management and haulage
- Interior decorating or furnishing
- Building security and surveillance
- Landscaping and property management
While it’s easy to plan these services—such as a weekly landscaping schedule—they’re subject to more variability. For example, that landscaping SLA may dictate different services performed depending on the time of year.
One of the biggest issues that arises when managing soft facilities services is quality. Quality and price tend to operate in tandem, which can mean settling in one respect for the other. The budget for soft services also isn’t generally as robust as for hard services, since they’re not as “essential.” It’s up to a good facilities manager to find the balance of superior service, affordable cost, and highest return on investment for soft services.
Integrated facilities management
More and more, facilities managers are opting for a consolidated approach to facilities services. This practice, called integrated facilities management, narrows the number of total SLAs and gives more responsibility to fewer craftsmen and contractors. It’s a smart way to consolidate hard or soft services, or to even combine them under one SLA.
For example, instead of separate plumbing and HVAC providers, a facility manager may award a single contract to a company that handles both. Or, they might fold a broad scope of hard and soft services into a single property management contract that saves money without compromising service. Integrated facilities management offers more opportunities for SLA management, which can lead to vendor simplification, cost savings, and enhanced results.
Facilities services create the experience
Facility management is a sliding scale, where people tend to only recognize the extremes. It’s only when facilities are falling apart or when they’re flawlessly accommodating do people notice the vastness of facilities services. More often than not, good facilities management goes unnoticed. Why? Because the many services that keep a building functional operate silently and effortlessly in the background.
A seamless experience is what every facilities manager should shoot for as they organize facilities services. From perfectly-pruned shrubbery, to an HVAC system that’s always comfortable, to interior décor that feels welcoming, it all culminates in the “facilities experience.” Well-orchestrated facilities services are the defining characteristic behind that experience.
Keep reading: Facility management software buyers guide.