Facility Maintenance Software: Why Expectations Fail to Meet Reality


By Patrick Sim

Software should make life easier. Sadly, that’s not always the case for many facilities managers. We have heard many stories of failed facility maintenance software implementations from Facilities Managers. According to reliableplant.com, 80% of CMMS software deployments fail.

Why has there been such a high rate of failure? We examine the reasons.

Reasons Why Facility Maintenance Software Disappoints

1. On-premise software

Legacy CMMS software required on-premise servers. Modern CMMS systems on the other hand, are generally cloud-based and delivered via a Software-as-a-Service model. Cloud-based systems have become prevalent for good reason. They support remote work. They can be easily upgraded and support mobile apps. SaaS software tends to be cheaper and easily scalable. Given advances in cloud-technology, there is little reason to choose on-premise software any more. Cloud software can even be made more secure than on-premise installations.

Facilities Managers who choose to implement on-premise software would face high installation costs and long deployment periods. In this day and age, Facilities Managers should simply stay away from CMMS systems that are not cloud-based.

2. Lack of upgrades

Associated with on-premise software is the difficulty to push out upgrades. Legacy systems used to be updated infrequently or not at all. Modern CMMS SaaS systems on the other hand, may be updated as frequently as every week.

Nowadays, most of us are used to software which is upgraded frequently. Think of the number of times the mobile apps on our phone require updates. To provide new functionality, address bugs, ensure compatibility with other system changes, support new integrations and improve the user experience, frequent upgrades are needed. For example, there are many IOT sensors that should be integrated to achieve automated fault detection.

So Facilities Managers should look out for CMMS software which improves frequently. Frequent updates are indicative of a strong and active development team backing the software. CMMS software which remains static will soon go out of date. More importantly, look out for CMMS software driven by customer-led product development. This means the CMMS software developer is more likely to be receptive to your suggestions for improvements and your new dream feature may actually become reality in the near future.

 3. Extensive training needed

CMMS software developers can adopt one of two philosophies in terms of how much training is needed to use the software. The traditional school of thought is that facilities management is a complicated field, and it is inevitable that formal training is needed in order to correctly use the software. Some software may even require paid training.

A newer approach is the belief that the onus is on the CMMS software developer to make the software so simple and intuitive that for basic usage, most users can pick it up naturally without any training at all; and for more advanced users, they can self-learn using available video tutorials.

CMMS software developers moving towards self-setup will focus on providing great UI / UX (user interface / user experience), timely in-app tips, developing a comprehensive knowledge-base which includes video demonstrations and iterative UX improvements based on actual usage activity.

If a cloud-based CMMS software strives towards having no formal “training” needed for most users, it naturally means a shorter deployment time, less implementation costs and greater usage by all parties. The availability of online self-help resources also means less reliance on customer support.

From the perspective of the Facility Manager deploying a new CMMS software, it is best to use a software where success can be achieved even without needing hand-holding from customer support, rather than risk being frustrated by slow customer support response.

In the Facilities Management industry, where some users may be less tech savvy, the emphasis in great UX is even more important. This can often be the difference between implementation success and failure.

4. Not Mobile

Being mobile is part of providing a great user experience (UX). If a CMMS software only has desktop web apps and does not support mobile apps, that is a clear indication of the lack of focus on UX. Facility Managers, technicians and requestors nowadays expect to interact on the go. This is even more important in COVID-induced remote working environments.

At FacilityBot, we have gone a step further. We feel that requiring requestors to download a new mobile app and log in causes too much friction and reduces usage. Building occupants already have too many mobile apps on their phones and would be reluctant to download a new mobile app just to interact with the facility manager. A much more natural behaviour is to support messaging. That is why we built FacilityBot to be messaging-first, where building occupants can message requests directly into the system where they will be ticketed, automatically assigned and properly dealt with.

5. Barriers to Integration

Smart Facilities Management systems need to be open to integration in order to support the growing availability of IOT sensors and connected building management systems. If you do not see publicly available API documentation for the CMMS system, it would be reasonable to believe that that CMMS system is not open to integration.

CMMS systems which are not open to integration means that there would be a barrier to automation. For example, asset information cannot be synchronised with an ERP system and equipment downtime sensors cannot automatically create a ticket within the CMMS system.

6. Hidden costs

A frequent cause of disappointment in CMMS implementation for Facility Management is where there are hidden costs in deployment. Hidden costs may take the form of set up, training and installation costs, often presented as “consultation” costs. Clearly, such costs are more likely for legacy on-premise systems which require high levels of formal training. Other typical hidden costs include fees to access APIs, termination costs or additional feature usage costs.

There tends to be less hidden costs in cloud-based SaaS systems. To avoid hidden costs, also look out for transparent pricing publicly listed on the website. Where pricing is not publicly listed, it is reasonable to suspect that the CMMS system vendor may be practising discriminatory pricing, and you may not be aware of the entire picture at the start.

Cloud-based SaaS software also has the advantage of being scalable. Pricing, for example, may be on the basis of the number of accounts required. This means that Facilities Management can start with a low cost subscription plan, ensure that deployment is easy, user experience is good, customer support is adequate and hidden costs are absent, before scaling up their commitment.

The Good News

We have heard too many stories of CMMS software implementation failure. We believe this need not be the case. The good news is that there are now cloud-based CMMS software which are feature-rich, easy to use and deploy and reasonably priced, which should delight rather than frustrate Facilities Managers. In fact, conversely, we believe that there should be little reason for Facilities Managers not to use CMMS software to digitize and automate their processes.

About the Author

Patrick SimPatrick Sim, Co-Founder of FacilityBot. My interests include creating a messaging-first facilities management system that facilities managers love and building other software systems.



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