Incident IQ

K-12 Workflow Management Blog

Should Your School Outsource Facilities Management?

Illustration of a woman surrounded by and pointing at several charts.

Energy use, health and safety, assets, building occupancy, cleaning and maintenance—these are all just a few of the core business areas that fall under the umbrella of facilities management.

With such a variety of tasks to oversee, many school districts outsource some or all of these responsibilities to an external facility management company. Doing so has a number of benefits, including cost savings and establishing long-term competitive advantages by working with professionals with key facility management competencies. Other schools keep their facilities management in-house to maintain full control over their operations.

Regardless of whether your school trusts a third party with facilities management or handles it internally, Incident IQ’s facilities management platform can empower your school leadership to meet goals, improve project management, and track facility tasks. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of outsourcing your facilities management, dig into recent facilities outsourcing trends, and explain what role school facility management software has to play.

Are You For Outsourcing? Or Against It?

There is no one-size fits all answer for facilities management. What’s most important is that schools—and facilities managers—have a smooth-flowing process that works best for them. When managed with a combined facilities and asset management platform, both outsourced and in-house teams can be effective options.

With the growing prevalence of digital learning and the ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT), a modern facility management system involves much more than facility maintenance for electrical and HVAC systems. Schools must seek out either in-house facilities teams with extensive knowledge of technological developments or service providers who have training in a variety of fields, including technology.

Outsourcing is also cost-effective. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a full-time facilities manager is just under $98,000. Many schools partner with outside providers and save on what they would pay an in-house employee. However, outsourcing involves sacrificing a certain degree of control, which, for some schools, is not worth the cost savings.

How Outsourcing Facilities Management Services Works

As already described, there are several areas where facilities managers can outsource efforts. Commonly outsourced facilities management services include:

  • Maintenance tasks
  • Kitchen services
  • Building security
  • Landscaping services

Some schools outsource all of these tasks with one or more third-party companies, while others choose to outsource only one area and keep the others in-house. In either approach, optimizing the performance of each of these areas is essential to the success of your school.

Should you decide to pursue outsourcing, the process might look something like this:

  • Depending on the scale of your project, publish a request for proposal (RFP) or contact a provider directly.
  • Review project bids and estimates.
  • Present bids to relevant leadership, such as administrators and school board members, for approval.
  • Have the service provider make an on-site visit to review the necessary work.
  • Monitor and oversee the outsourced tasks and provider performance.

When partnering with an outsourcing provider, remember that you are not making a lifetime commitment. If you are dissatisfied with the vendor’s work down the line, you can seek a new one.

Pros: Advantages of Outsourcing Facilities Management

In the past, the primary draw of outsourcing facilities management boiled down to financial savings. While that remains an important factor, other benefits have also come into play. By outsourcing, your school may have the opportunity to:

  • Work With Expert Providers – When schools outsource their facilities management, they gain access to experienced, knowledgeable professionals who have received ongoing education in their fields.
  • Benefit the School Budget – Cost savings can manifest in several ways when you outsource facilities management. You will not be paying full-time benefits for outsourced employees, and experienced external providers may have access to more efficient resources and methods that reduce the school’s overall operating costs.
  • Flexibility to Focus on Priorities – School leaders have long to-do lists, and they often include facilities management tasks like ordering supplies, ensuring regulatory compliance, and overseeing staffing and assignment of work orders. Assigning some or all of these jobs to a third-party support service can allow administrators to focus on other priorities that increase student learning and improve teacher satisfaction.
  • Access to Various Service Types – Hiring an in-house team position often means searching for a “Jack of All Trades” who has the skills and experience to serve your school in multiple capacities. If you outsource, you can easily access every potential service type to meet all of your facility needs.

Cons: Disadvantages of Outsourcing Facilities Management

Although outsourcing facilities management has clear advantages, it also has notable drawbacks that are worth considering.

  • Outsourced Partners Lack Organizational Knowledge – In-house facilities management teams and leaders often have long-term, detailed knowledge of the unique features and quirks of your facilities that outsourced staff will lack. They also won’t be as aware of the structure and culture of your school.
  • Opportunity for Poor Quality of Work – In some cases, outsourced contractors may view the job as a one-time project. As a result, they may think they can get away with providing low service quality.
  • Loss of Control Over Operations – Outsourcing removes much of the day-to-day responsibility from your school administrators’ plates, but maintaining some level of oversight and communication is important. If you blindly trust vendors, the result may be subpar work that doesn’t meet your standards for safety, sustainability, and cleanliness.
  • Potential for Controversy – When you partner with a service provider, you associate your school with that company, and their behavior and choices may reflect on you. If the vendor becomes embroiled in a scandal or hires workers without properly vetting them, your school’s reputation may become collateral damage.

The field of facilities management constantly changes in response to growth in technology, global events, and economic swings. These developing trends are making waves in facilities management and offering new reasons to consider outsourcing.

To make processes more efficient, some schools have begun integrating related services, such as maintenance and energy management. This reduces the number of people involved in making critical decisions, which makes the decision-making process faster and less complicated. One effective method of integrating services is looking for outsourced providers who can simultaneously cover all of these areas at once.

Improving Your Overall Workplace Strategy

Facilities management may sometimes seem like a technical matter, but it has very real, day-to-day implications for students and staff. The design, upkeep, and environment in your school can affect students’ mental health and academic performance. In recognition of this fact, some school leaders have begun to pay closer attention to certain issues, such as the layout and cleanliness of classrooms and social spaces like cafeterias and recreation rooms. While this may initially increase the cost of facilities management in the short term, the long-term benefits, including lower teacher turnover and greater productivity, often outweigh the financial investment.

Aiming for a Higher ROI

With such limited budgets, every school can benefit from finding ways to improve its return on investment. Investing in high-quality technology, for example, may require substantial funds at the outset, but it can pay off in the long run if the equipment doesn’t require frequent maintenance, technician visits, and repairs. Likewise, when schools decide to outsource facilities management, rather than immediately accepting the cheapest bid, they should consider the value of investing in a slightly more expensive provider who will contribute value and expertise that lower costs over time.

Using Technology to Your Benefit

Both established facts and emerging trends in the field show that outsourcing may offer substantial benefits to your school, but only if it aligns with your organizational structure and needs. No matter whether you choose to work with an outsourcing provider or maintain an in-house team, using Incident IQ’s digital facilities management platform can make processes easier and more efficient. There are many advantages for using a comprehensive solution, including: 

  • Streamlining and maintaining oversight of all tasks and work orders
  • Providing historical details of past maintenance work for relevant new tasks
  • Automatically inserting relevant details for all new tasks as provided by the user who submitted the work order/request
  • Monitoring task completion data and workflow KPIs

Procurement of a platform that includes a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) allows you to easily develop and stick to a preventative maintenance schedule for your school, which is essential to cutting costs, optimizing work efficiency, and keeping students and staff safe. Request a free demo to see how Incident IQ can not only keep your school’s assets and facilities operating smoothly, but also benefit your school budget long into the future.