10 questions to ask vendors when choosing facility management system software

Facility management system software allows you to coordinate and control multiple operational processes and workflows into one comprehensive automated system–a huge benefit that you’re likely itching to implement sooner rather than later.

But don’t let the desire to acquire such a dynamic transformational solution rush your decision-making. Not all FM software solutions are the same. Take the time to find your perfect fit by focusing on the answers to the following 10 questions:

1. What kind of functionality does the solution offer?

Before you ask this important question you should already have a rough idea in mind of what you want the answer to be. Meaning before you even start your research, it’s a good idea to have clearly defined goals about what you want to accomplish with a facilities management solution. The best platforms offer a flexible suite of configurable tools:

  • Work order management, including labor tracking
  • Asset management
  • Preventive maintenance
  • Inventory management
  • Vendor management
  • Key management
  • Space planning
  • Reporting and analytics

Keep an open mind to learning about each vendor’s solution–you may discover a tool you want to consider adding to your wish list.  Also make sure to find out if the platform integrates with other systems that your company currently uses.

2. Does it include a mobile app?

Increased efficiency is one of the main motivations  to automate your facilities management. When you add in the ability to use a mobile app for real-time communication and access to databases, the efficiency factor skyrockets.

Field mobile solutions allow users to create work orders, close them out, and enter their labor hours and the materials used to complete the request on the spot. In addition, without ever getting in front of a desktop computer, technicians can manage preventive maintenance tasks and review important asset information including transaction histories, manuals and warranties.

Most mobile apps will be available for Android and iOS devices–but make sure you verify that the solution will work with the type of device your department uses.

3. Can the solution be customized?

While every facility is unique, most of a facility manager’s needs turn out to be consistent across the board. With that in mind, you should easily be able to find solutions that can be configured to your specific preferences and workflows–whether you’re managing a single building or a portfolio of campuses.

It’s also helpful to find out if the vendor has other customers in your industry–whether that’s education, government, healthcare, hospitality, food service, manufacturing or property management.

4. How easy is the solution to use?

The answer to this question ought to be “very easy.” You should always arrange to see a demonstration of a solution’s  functionality before your conversation with a vendor gets too far along. One of the primary reasons that companies end up feeling that their CMMS purchase was a failure is poor adoption rates. If the folks who are meant to be using the software don’t use it, then you won’t realize the return on investment you should.

If you have to be a “techie” to understand a provider’s solution, mark that one off your list. Every employee, from maintenance techs all the way up to C-level managers, should be able to navigate the CMMS on a daily basis.

A CMMS is only as effective as the quality and quantity of data that you put into it. If the data entry process is too frustrating or confusing, employees may not be thorough with the job of data collection and errors are likely to occur. You could risk a critical piece of equipment failing simply because essential information was missing from the system.

This doesn’t mean that training on the system won’t be necessary, but the solution should still be intuitive with a user-friendly interface.  You’ll also want to be able to control levels of access and permissions.

Here’s a tip: find out how many support calls the provider usually fields from new clients in the first few months, this will be a pretty good indicator of how user-friendly the solution actually is.

5. How long will implementation take?

Depending on how many sites are undergoing transformation and how many applications your chosen package includes, implementation varies from a few months to well over a year. Other factors will also impact the time it takes to get you up and running, such as the integrity of your existing data, the manpower you have available to devote to the project, and how quickly your own team is able to learn how to effectively use the system.

Beware of vendors with estimates that are significantly different from the other estimates you’ve received or that your gut tells you are unrealistic.

6. Is your solution web-based or installed?

A cloud-based CMMS solution (also known as Software as a Service or SaaS) is usually hosted and managed by the vendor on their own hardware in their own facilities. It is accessed on the Internet through either a website, software solution, or an app. Typically web-based solutions are less expensive and come with a higher level of support.

There are some CMMS users who prefer to have more control over the system and fear their data isn’t as secure in the cloud as it would be on their own server. They may choose to have the CMMS installed and hosted on-site at their own facility where they can manage it themselves.

However,, CMMS providers generally have high standards for security, so their storage is most likely as secure as hosting on your own hardware.

7. Is the software scalable?

You’ll want the software you choose to accommodate unlimited users–those who need to use it now and those who may be added to your workforce in the future. But that’s only one way the application should be scalable. Make sure it can grow with you as your business expands. If you add buildings, equipment and other assets, or change maintenance tasks, can the facilities management software handle the increases and new challenges?

During your vetting process is the time to verify a solution’s expansion capabilities, so you can be confident that the software will evolve as your company grows.

8. How long have you been in the facilities management software industry?

Check out each vendor’s history and reputation. A reputable provider is going to showcase satisfied customers on their website’s testimonials page. If you don’t see that information on their site, read reviews on social media. If all the reviews are glowingly over-the-top that may be a red flag indicating the reviews aren’t from actual customers.

9. What do you offer in terms of training and ongoing support?

It’s highly unlikely that an FM software provider is going to sell you a solution and leave you to figure out how to use it on your own, but it’s best to know upfront what training includes:

  • Will they train you on how to set up your databases, input the data, schedule preventive maintenance plus the ins and outs of work order management and all the tools you’ve selected?
  • Is the training included in your monthly fee or the setup fee?
  • If not, what is the cost for the training?
  • Is the training hands-on in front of a computer?
  • Will the training take place at your site?

Regarding ongoing support, get the details:

  • How are you supposed to contact support–through email, phone or chat communication?
  • Are there specific hours that support can be reached?
  • What is their response time?
  • When you call support, will you reach their technicians or is support outsourced?

10. What does the cost include?

In today’s competitive marketplace organizations need an edge, and a CMMS delivers that and more. Although facilities management solutions are expensive, they should be considered an investment in your company’s future.

Don’t make the assumption that all vendors’ fee structures are the same. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you will receive for the money you spend.

Usually setup is handled in two different ways. By choosing to set up the system yourself you’ll save some money. If you’re considering going this route, make sure you have someone with the technical know-how to tackle the project before you commit to self setup. Also keep in mind that web-based systems are easier to implement.

If you don’t have someone with the time and skill needed to complete the implementation yourself, the wise choice in the long run is to pay to have the vendor assist with implementation.

It’s helpful to know from the beginning how many users you expect to allow access to the new application. Some vendors charge a flat license fee that includes unlimited users. Others may charge more as you increase the number of users–which brings up a question of how the vendor defines “user.” Do they consider anyone who simply accesses the system a user, or is it a person who is able to make work order requests.

Conclusion: Become an expert

As you research the benefits of facilities management software, talk with colleagues in the industry and compare providers, you’ll be armed with the information you need to make a wise choice when it comes time to select a CMMS.

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