The production of buildings moves through a number of stages involving a large number of participants. At the early stages of a project key strategic decisions are made. The decisions made during the strategic or early design stages in the life of a project are seen as a critical factor in influencing the fundamental characteristics of quality, cost and time of projects. Research in many countries has identified the need for clients and their advisers to be aware of the importance of what can be commonly termed the project inception stage, where the strategic level of decision-making is focused. The authors consider that facilities managers have the expertise and capability to make a valuable contribution to the project inception stage. Blending their basic skills with a broader appreciation of the client organisation's direction can provide a value-adding service to an expanding range of clients. The authors believe that a range of critical factors needs to be taken account of in the design of a rigorous and successful project inception process and these can be summarised as: • recognition of the true nature of the organisation's business or facilities problemand that its environment is complex and fluid • strategic management needs to be integrated into the project inception process • stakeholder participation should be encouraged throughout the process, as it is essential to gain their views and opinions on the type and quality of the outcome they are committed to, whether it results in a building or a non-building solution • the decision to build and strategic management should be integrated to ensure compatibility of the built facility with the strategic direction of the organisation expressed in the business case.