What is facilities management?

Facilities management encompasses a range of disciplines and services to ensure the functionality, comfort, safety and efficiency of a built environment — buildings and grounds, infrastructure and real estate.1

It includes:

  • Operations and maintenance
  • Communications management
  • Emergency management and business continuity
  • Environmental stewardship and sustainability
  • Hospitality
  • Human factors and ergonomics
  • Project management
  • Real estate and property management2

Facilities management is divided into two basic areas: Hard Facilities Management (Hard FM) and Soft Facilities Management (Soft FM). Hard FM deals with physical assets such as plumbing, heating and cooling, elevators. Soft FM focuses on tasks performed by people such as custodial services, lease accounting, catering, security, grounds keeping.3

Facilities management also refers to facilities management systems and software. Vast amounts of data — often called Internet of Things (IoT) data — are generated by built environments through sensors, meters, gauges and smart devices. IBM is enabling facilities management departments to take advantage of this data by infusing analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) into its Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS). These technologies deliver cognitive capabilities that analyze and learn from data, enabling facility managers to achieve real-time visibility, perform predictive maintenance and create more productive, cost-efficient environments.

A series of articles from WIRED Brand Lab demonstrates how data and cognitive are reshaping how buildings are built, managed and experienced.

Transforming facilities management with cognitive IoT

ISS is transforming the management of more than 25,000 buildings worldwide using Watson™ IoT with IWMS. The result is buildings and environments that are more personalized, intuitive and easy to use.

Why is facilities management important?

Facilities management can…

  • Reduce costs and optimize investments
  • Improve operational utilization, availability and flexibility
  • Address environmental standards and concerns
  • Maintain regulatory compliance
  • Enhance safety and reduce risk
  • Provide engaging, productive environments

A few examples:

  • Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting represent the largest energy costs for businesses. IoT sensors and meters can collect energy use and occupancy information to track efficiency, create predictive maintenance plans and monitor real-time status. These capabilities help control operating costs, gain insights into utilization and develop future space and use requirements.4
  • Commercial real estate in the US accounts for 12 billion square feet of covered area, but only 67 percent is utilized.5 An IBM customer found that it could consolidate more than 20 facilities in the United States down to one — for an annual savings totaling more than $30 million. An IWMS helps the company track vacancies and conduct what-if scenarios for underutilized sites.6
  • According to the National Real Estate Investor, organizations may face significant challenges preparing for new lease accounting rules.7 Consolidated, configurable lease accounting capabilities built into facilities management solutions can automate and integrate standards enforcement to help organizations comply without crippling productivity.

Demo -- look inside facilities management

People spend 87 percent of their time in buildings. See what goes on behind the scenes. Improve operations for space optimization, lease accounting, capital projects, energy management and maintenance.

Key features of effective facilities management

According to IBM: “In today’s world, everything is connected. The distinction between physical and digital infrastructure is increasingly blurred. This is most prominent in facilities management, where buildings and workplaces are major generators — and consumers — of data.”8

Effective facilities management depends on an organization’s ability to transform this data into insights that enable better decisions and actions for people and the environments they occupy. To do so, organizations are looking for facilities management solutions that are comprehensive, integrated and intelligent.

A comprehensive system uses all aspects of building and facility management. It allows for IoT monitoring of space, water, energy, utilization, indoor air quality and more.

The data collected is part of an integrated system of facilities technologies that communicate and understand each other. Data is analyzed and tagged by location or asset type and associated with business rules. Rules trigger algorithms to not only detect but predict and respond to anomalies.

The solution can then intelligently identify opportunities for efficiency and predictive maintenance; uncover root causes and deliver recommendations to human personnel; or adjust assets and devices by itself.

Beyond these capabilities, lies the opportunity for facility managers to create rewarding even aesthetically pleasing environments. The IBM Institute for Business Value found that “76 percent of Chief Operating Officers reported that increasing automation in facility and asset management will have a positive impact on operational efficiency. Although cost-control measures and flexibility remain key objectives, creating compelling, emotionally rich experiences is the new frontier.”9

Facilities management resources

Streamline and automate lease accounting processes with IBM TRIRIGA

Improve strategic management of lease portfolios and ease compliance for Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) standards.

Building intelligence into buildings

As artificial intelligence is integrated with building systems and IoT devices, it has the potential to improve occupant experience, increase operational efficiency and optimize space and asset utilization.

Select the right solution for integrated workplace management

This buyer’s guide outlines the features and capabilities of an effective IWMS.

Case studies

Carnegie Mellon University

This university launches the first smarter buildings partnership to save nearly $2 million annually on utilities for its Pittsburgh campus facilities.

Dow Chemical

An integrated workplace management system streamlines facility planning, resulting in $200 million in cost avoidance on a single relocation project.


One of the world's leading infrastructure operators and facilities services companies, Ferrovial reduces lifecycle costs, enables efficient collaboration and eliminates hundreds of hours of manual work for large-scale infrastructure projects.

Product spotlight


An integrated workplace management system (IWMS) that can increase the operational, financial and environmental performance of facilities and real estate.

IBM IoT Building Insights

Monitor, analyze and predict building behavior to make informed decisions, reduce complexity and isolate costs.

IBM NextGen Campus Networks

Pervasive, high-density wireless coverage for venue connectivity to deliver a superior user experience.


1. What is Facility Management, International Facility Management Association (IFMA)


2. Facility Management, Wikipedia


3. The Complete Guide to Facilities Management Career and Paths Advancement, smartsheet


4. Intelligent Connections: Reinventing enterprises with intelligent IoT, IBM Institute for Business Value, January 2018


5. The Economy of Things, Extracting New Value from the Internet of Things, IBM Institute for Business Value, June 2015


6. Implementation guide for integrated workplace management systems, IBM Software, Thought Leadership White Paper, December 2013


7. Heavy Lifting Begins on Lease Accounting Changes, Beth Mattson-Teig, National Real Estate Investor, May 31, 2017


8. The true value of an integrated workplace management system, White Paper, Watson IoT, IBM Corporation, May 2018


9. Building intelligence into buildings, ExpertInsights@IBV, IBM Institute for Business Value, March 2018