01/04/20 | Rebecca Drewett
Whether investing in CAFM for the first time or thinking about changing vendors, it’s important to select the right system for your needs as a mistake can be costly. FSI Business Development Manager, Val Henry, joins FMJ's panel of experts advise on the factors involved in a successful CAFM procurement.
Head of Techniche EMEA
One of the first mistakes people often make when embarking on CAFM procurement is rushing to make a wish list of features and functions. This approach is doomed to fail as other factors such as user buy-in, training and vendor chemistry are often overlooked. How a system works (not just what it does) and who you will be working with are both critical factors in your final decision.
It’s important at the outset to clearly define what you want to achieve and which maintenance problems you’re looking to solve. A strong starting point is to state the reasons for investing in CAFM, including: the goals or KPIs you need to measure and achieve; the main sources of complaint from customers or employees; and what you would improve in maintenance if you could. Feel free to challenge your existing working practices as this is an opportunity to change things for the better.
To help narrow down your vendor shortlist, some requirements gathering is invaluable at this stage. Establishing some common goals across your business is key, and to do this successfully you’ll need to consider:
- Identifying and engaging with all stakeholders
- Using workshops to drill down and understand different users’ needs
- Evaluating and analysing the results.
Once you understand what you want a CAFM system to achieve, you’ll need to take a closer look at how they work and the user experience, and ask questions of the vendors. The best method is to arrange a demo – CAFM is too complex to have a free trial. Not only will you learn about the system, you’ll gain an understanding of whether the vendor is a strong fit. Don’t underestimate the value of chemistry. You’re likely to have a long partnership, so it’s worth making sure they have a team you can trust.
Key questions to cover in the demo include: will it give us the insight and visibility we need to manage maintenance better? Is it flexible enough to easily map on to our business? How quick and easy is it to use?
CAFM platforms should integrate easily with other systems, such as finance, HR or BIM, so you’ll want a modern web-based platform with an open API (application programming interface). This makes it easier to integrate with such systems today and in the future. They should also work across all mobile devices.
Implementation best practice
CAFM vendors should be able to inform you of their implementation best practices and highlight which measures ensure a smooth roll-out and acceptance from staff. This will include how to set up a project management team, appointing CAFM champions for each department, and creating a communications plan to launch your new system.
You also need to consider what type of ongoing relationship you want with your CAFM vendor. An engaging, ongoing partnership can help drive a successful implementation by assisting in change management and system adoption and proficiency long after the software has first been installed. Your CAFM supplier should also be able to provide a wide range of training courses, too. Don’t look to save budget when it comes to training, it’s a false economy. The more familiar your people are with the system, the more value you’ll get out of it.
CAFM systems are not simply ‘plug and play’, so be prepared to invest time and resources to achieve a successful procurement. It’s a strategic move which will improve the efficiency of your business, so you need to get the decision right. You’re effectively appointing the vendor as a long-term partner – it’s not just about buying software. So look beyond the technology and consider if the company has sufficient knowledge, experience and resources you can call upon over the next five to 10 years or more.
While it’s important that the CAFM solution can cover all bases, it’s other vendor competencies such as professional services, future innovation and helping you drive maximum value from the system that all need to be carefully considered too.
CAFM soft ware has become an essential backbone to the FM industry, giving facilities managers an operational and strategic advantage with the potential to manage thousands of assets, resources and operatives through a single interface. Even emerging technologies such as the internet of things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR) can be handled and utilised more easily with the strong foundation of CAFM.
Every organisation is different. Selecting the best CAFM system to meet requirements can seem challenging and time-consuming, but armed with the right information this process can be greatly simplified.
Any CAFM software project should begin with a feasibility study. This not only makes sure that the business is ready to invest in a system before the project advances too far, but also helps identify the organisation’s key requirements and ensure a solution is chosen to match. For example, is self-service relevant to your company? Does the system need to cover planned and reactive maintenance?
Are mobile devices needed to speed up job resolution? Should the system be able to fully integrate with BIM? It is important to create an efficient selection process so that you are not wasting time talking to suppliers who will not match the need.
When considering the purchase of a CAFM system, it is important to select a list of key criteria against which fair comparisons can be made. This goes beyond the functionality required in a system (such as resource scheduling or space management) and should focus on strategic requirements, including number of users required now as well as consideration for potential business growth and product scalability.
Any supporting IT infrastructure requirements should be addressed, for example, whether the system will run on the organisation’s own server or if a cloud (hosted) solution is more appropriate. The business should also consider its financial requirements at this point, such as a budget for the system as well as any additional allowance for training or future system maintenance.
When individual systems are not integrated, elements have to be operated separately and by way of a manual process, which can be time-consuming and can potentially introduce errors. When scaled up across a large organisation with multiple sites, complex operations and large volumes of data, the downside of non-integration is enormous. Organisations should speak to CAFM vendors about how their software can integrate with other products. API is the recommended connection, but some vendors also have the capacity to map data for different interfaces, meaning any number of applications can be connected with the CAFM system.
Building a multiskilled project team is an important factor in the success of the potential project. Consider building a dedicated team with members across the business in order to clearly communicate the requirements and resources of different areas. Involve the users, or a group of representatives, in the selection process.
These are the people who will use the system on a daily basis, and they will provide valuable input on what they require the system to achieve; involving them will secure their buy-in. The identification of a senior project sponsor and a defined project manager is important, involving them early in the process to secure their buy-in. Finding synergy with your FM software vendor is high on the list of priorities too. Choose a vendor with experience who can offer relevant advice and not just take your literal requirements.
When considering what type of supplier is preferred, the business needs to look at whether it is buying low-cost software or a long-term solution with ongoing quality support and assistance. Is the supplier financially sound and what level of resource do they have? Do they have industry-specific experience? Can they provide continued help and guidance if this is needed? Can their software be customised to reflect the organisation’s development? It should be as much about the company and type of long-term partnership you expect to develop as the soft ware itself.
The reality is that sometimes the right selection is not always the most functional software, but the combination of vendor and product that will be the most effective at achieving the objectives set at the beginning of the selection process.
Business Development Manager, FSI
The FM industry is evolving at speed, and providers need the tools to keep up. Relying on paper, spreadsheets, job cards and other outmoded forms of data collection no longer suffice – in today’s technologically-driven world, access to a CAFM solution is fast becoming essential.
While numerous organisations remain hesitant to bring this technology on board, whether that is due to costs, concerns over integration, or simple resistance to embracing change, every year more and more FM providers are reaping the benefits of CAFM solutions.
However, not all CAFM systems are created equal. So, what should potential buyers be aware of?
Investing in an effective CAFM system and applying it correctly presents many advantages to FM teams, including:
- Reduced downtime
- Better control over data
- Higher productivity
- Happier employees
- Environmental sustainability
- Greater savings over time.
But those considering this software should be discerning when determining the right system for them. First, you should leave a good period of time to research, purchase and implement the system. A year (or at least six months for smaller departments) will give you time to ensure you locate and install a system that meets your needs.
It’s important to know what to look for in a quality CAFM solution (and supplier). This will vary from team to team, but in most cases you’ll want to consider the following:
Ease of integration. Will the system easily integrate with others in your facilities? Your CAFM solution should comprehensively cover your FM responsibilities and link seamlessly with your invoicing, purchasing, financing and other software.
Access to apps. As FM becomes increasingly mobile, an effective CAFM solution should provide access to a variety of apps designed to streamline workflow, manage maintenance tasks and support employee wellbeing on the go.
Agile systems. As technology and facilities continue to evolve at pace, having a CAFM system that can easily bolt-on additional modules is crucial to ensuring your software is always up to date and never static.
Industry experience. Does your supplier have experience within your industry? Ideally, they will have tangible examples of how their solution has benefited others in your position to give you reassurance.
Responsiveness to feedback. Your supplier should recognise the value of listening and reacting to client insight. This ensures future developments stay in line with the shifting needs of the industry.
Support network. Your supplier should be capable at handling the installation and integration of your system, and readily available when you require support.
Forward-thinking supplier. Does the vendor have a department focused on mind-mapping current and upcoming innovations like IoT and smart buildings? A forward-thinking supplier will be dedicated to constantly growing their system in accordance with industry standards.
Demonstrable ROI. Make sure your supplier can demonstrate an acceptable return on investment. This will help to make the business and financial case for investing in CAFM.
In the coming years, expect to see a more future-focused approach to procurement. Currently, buyers tend to prioritise a system that covers the core needs of reactive and planned maintenance, then return to their provider to further expand this with so ware and applications associated with wellbeing, space management, smart buildings and so on.
With the growing realisation of CAFM’s potential as a true enterprise system, introducing more all-encompassing solutions from the outset should be prioritised moving forward.
Product Specialist, IDOX (CAFM Explorer)
Facilities management is an operational business, with compliance and service delivery being two key drivers prompting companies to invest in a CAFM system. When researching the right product, one of the most important considerations comes down to cost – yet companies should look far deeper than this. Making sure you choose a system that offers value for money means looking beyond initial purchase cost.
CAFM packages can vary significantly, so it’s essential to really scrutinise the long-term cost of the product – not just the initial outlay. For example, is there a charge for additional modules? What about upgrades? Are there limits on data storage before you incur charges? Ideally, look for providers who don’t charge extra to scale the product, and ensure there are no hidden licence or implementation costs.
Configurability should also be considered; any costs saved during purchase will be quickly negated if teams have to spend a significant amount of time customising it themselves. Find out if the time to configure is included in the initial purchase cost; will vendor support be provided to tailor the product to your organisational needs?
Essentially, a great CAFM system is one that can evolve seamlessly in line with the needs of the company. The financial implications of this should be explored thoroughly during selection. The benefits of implementing the right CAFM solution are huge – but so are the costs of implementing the wrong one.
Investment in technology can feel like a leap into the unknown. That’s why it’s crucial to surround yourself with good people, who are experienced and have a long track record in deploying CAFM systems.
Ideally you should partner with a vendor who can help you take a proactive approach to facilities management. Therefore, once you’ve looked into the actual product, look into the company providing it. There’s nothing more valuable than experience and reputation – find a partner who has the knowledge to help you achieve your FM goals, and can offer support and guidance whenever you need it.
Versatility is king
Facilities management is extremely diverse – every estate is different, with contrasting challenges and needs. Therefore, versatility is king. That’s versatility in the product itself – its ability to be moulded and fit in with your current systems – and versatility in the provider, by having sufficient cross-sector experience to offer the right support at the right time. Look for providers who have a broad track record across sectors, as this usually indicates that their product can flex easily to suit a wide variety of industries.
A collaborative relationship between provider and customer leads to better outcomes. Your voice should always be important, so it’s wise to ask prospective CAFM companies about ongoing product development and whether this is informed by actual customer feedback. Finding a provider that hosts regular user groups or forums can be a real asset, and shows a genuine commitment to collaboration.
While features like a reliable helpdesk and reporting functionality are crucial, so too is the ability to access these out in the field. Finding out how well the product works remotely is essential, even if you don’t intend to launch mobile working straight away.
Being able to grant access to key personnel such as contractors means they can manage their own workload, report back on completed tasks and work far more e iciently. Keeping business moving is vital if companies are to achieve their financial and productivity targets – and the right CAFM system can be pivotal in realising these goals by mobilising your workforce.
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