Increasing competition, economic demands, tight margins, and technological changes are some of the reasons why an increasing number of companies have made the move to automated maintenance management systems during the past decade. It's not surprising that the facility management software marketplace has also become more crowded.
With so many maintenance management vendors vying to meet the wide range of needs of customers, software systems are available in different levels of sophistication from bare-bones basic to those that are highly complex. Today, users have more options than ever before: cloud-based platforms, multiple devices, and mobility compatibilities as well as interactive applications such as scanning, just to name a few. However, with the host of available options, users may also face some challenges when making choices that are right for them. Let’s look at the most common ones.
Challenges facility management software users face when selecting an automated maintenance management product
1. The high cost of facility management software
Facility management software systems are an investment in terms of financial outlay, time and resources. When it comes to the actual cost of a system, potential buyers will find that facility management software comes with different price tags based on the number of users and facilities, the scope of system options, supports and services, and system platforms. The range in system cost is from $3,000 for a basic cloud-based system with limited users to $46,000 for a full option on-premise system. The key differentiating factor in determining the overall cost of a system is whether it’s a cloud-based platform that comes with a yearly subscription fee or a stand-alone on-premise system. The latter accounts for the highest upfront costs when purchasing a system while the former has considerably lower but ongoing yearly costs.
2. Choosing between cloud-based versus on-premise software
Apart from the initial capital outlay for a facility management system (remember: on-premise systems are considerably more expensive), there are other costs and considerations to keep in mind when making a selection. A major benefit of a cloud-based system is that it is completely maintenance-free because it is the cloud-based vendors who are responsible for all regular maintenance and upgrading. And since cloud-based systems can be accessed by customers from vendors’ servers, there is no need to invest in any special hardware. Users can simply use their own devices. Many of the supposed benefits of on-premise systems are based on myths. However, with these benefits come the added need for an in-house tech person and a server to house the system. The in-house tech person’s role is to maintain the system and troubleshoot as well as train staff in its use.
3. Difficulty and expense of updating and maintaining on-premise software
When using an on-premise software system, any upgrades and maintenance must be done by an in-house tech person. These both require time and money. To avoid unnecessary system shutdowns, upgrades and maintenance must take place during off-hours, which are typically nights and weekends. These off-hour services add to overtime costs. On the other hand, cloud base systems generally do not interfere with company operations.
4. Long time to implement
Most companies attracted to maintenance management software have considerable assets to monitor. Consequently, considerable time is usually needed to record assets and inventory into the system database. While the process of data entry is generally straightforward and requires minimal skill, many asset managers either do not have the time or desire to take on this task. In this case, system vendors offer add-on supports. For those customers who already have existing databases, they may consider enterprise software that makes migrating data relatively easy.
5. Errors in data entry
In the IT world, the phrase “garbage in, garbage out” refers to errors that occur within a system’s database and resulting data processing. If the data is not entered correctly, the software cannot produce meaningful output. This means that each item of data must be entered into its proper category using its proper format. For example, equipment model numbers must be entered correctly, as well as the date of the last servicing, along with repair codes, etc.
6. Adding new data
Rarely do things remain stagnant in any business. Over time, changes in a company’s asset management strategy will occur because equipment is added, replaced, or upgraded with new parts. Supplies may also be added or replaced. For the software to work effectively, all additions or changes must be made to its database.
7. Difficulty using the software
Maintenance management software developers strive to make their systems user-friendly. Most systems require no special technical skills beyond users simply pointing and clicking on a computer or tapping on their mobile devices. However, there are some systems that are highly complex that require more than basic computer or mobile device operating skills. For these, the learning curve can be much steeper and a challenge for users who are not tech-savvy. With these systems, customers need to be aware that part of the onboarding process will require a more detailed training component focused on mastering the required technical skills.
8. Employee resistance to using the software
Making changes is not always easy since many of us prefer to continue doing what is most familiar, even if it isn’t the most efficient way of doing things. Motivating employees to embrace change by making the shift to an automated maintenance management software system can be a challenge. Resistance for some may be rooted in the commitment required for training, while for others, it may simply be fear of the unknown or failure.
9. Challenges with reporting
A maintenance management system is only valuable when it’s used consistently and when it’s used well. No matter how sophisticated, the software cannot be expected to perform well if it is not used as it is intended. Apart from correct data entry, all maintenance activities from initiating a work order until its completion must be entered into the system. Failure to do so will result in inaccurate summaries of maintenance reports and could negatively impact a company’s ability to review its overall maintenance costs and make reliable projections.
10. Staff changes
Staff changes are a reality in any company. When a new employee is hired, there is always a period of adjustment, which may include the redistribution of tasks and responsibilities across an entire team. For new staff unfamiliar with maintenance management software, the adjustment may be a bit daunting. To ease new staff into their position and ensure continuity in the proper use of the software system, onboarding must include software training as one of its components.
How to overcome facility management software challenges
You may be wondering, with so many of the challenges just described, is it even worth it to consider an automated maintenance management system? The short answer is “yes” because there are ways to eliminate or minimize many of these challenges. Here are some things to consider when deciding on a facility management software system.
Understand your needs
Begin by taking a hard look at your company’s size and operation by answering the following questions:
- Do you have many employees?
- Do you operate one business or several?
- Are you housed at one facility or at multiple sites?
- Can you envision the growth trajectory of your company, and if so, what will this look like in five or ten years?
Once you have considered these variables, then deciding on the scope of a system can be made more easily. If you have a large operation with many assets and/or more than one facility, it will be preferable to select a maintenance management system that is more robust. It will be one that not only allows unlimited users and/or facilities but also one that has more sophisticated functions. Company owners with smaller operations and limited users will likely prefer more basic software packages. Schedule demos to understand what the software offers and how you can best customize it for your needs.
Figure out your budget
Finances are always critical when making decisions. This holds true when selecting a maintenance management software system. In setting a budget, keep in mind that some systems are more inclusive than others. By that I mean, these inclusive systems offer unlimited users, ongoing tech support and onboarding training. As noted before, while cloud-based systems may be limited in their customizability, they are generally a more affordable option with an annual subscription fee instead of a high upfront cost, and without a need for hardware or added costs for ongoing system maintenance and upgrades.
Be realistic about your resources
Apart from financial considerations, it’s also imperative that you take a serious look at your company’s ability to implement an automated maintenance management system. Companies wishing to conduct their own system implementation will need a staff person with some technical knowledge and with dedicated time to undertake the process. The time needed for implementation is largely dependent on the size of a company and its asset and inventory base. In situations where companies have an existing database, the implementation process requires migrating it to the new system. As noted previously, this can be done more easily, particularly with the assistance of more robust enterprise software. For company owners not wishing to deal with implementation, many system vendors offer this as an add-on service.
Don’t underestimate staff training
This step cannot be emphasized enough. Proper training can make or break how well a maintenance management software is utilized and ultimately how well it performs for your company. The onboarding training not only focuses on the technical aspects of the system but also emphasizes its benefits and ease of use for users. In that way, resistant employees will be more likely to embrace it and less apprehensive about trying something new. It is also important that new staff receives training as they join your company. Also consider providing refresher training to all staffers from time to time. Cloud-based vendors offer online as well as in-house training. The latter is provided as an add-on service.
Having so many maintenance management systems to choose from is great, but it can make selecting the right system for your company difficult. Wading through the range of system functions, service add-on options, and price points can also be confusing and perhaps overwhelming. While the challenges associated with running an automated software system may give some customers pause in moving forward with a purchase, the benefits of implementing a facility management solution are well worth the short-term efforts. By staying focused on your company’s needs, budget, resources, and staff training program, the selection process will not only be made easier but it will also help you avoid many of the challenges that uninformed customers often face.