10 Considerations When Evaluating Facilities Management Software Solutions
Effective facilities management (FM) software solutions help multi-location businesses more effectively and efficiently manage and maintain locations according to their specific brand priorities and requirements.
While there are common characteristics for nearly all facilities management needs, the needs do not fall into a one-size-fits-all solution as markets are dynamic.
While there are common characteristics for nearly all needs that are associated with managing multi-location enterprises, the needs do not fall into a one-size-fits-all solution as markets are dynamic. The facility processes that are optimal for a retail location located in a busy urban environment versus those for locations in suburban environments require flexibility in applying technology to serve the needs of the business. Furthermore, maintenance operations in the retail environment versus a regional e-commerce warehouse as an example also have unique requirements.
What is Facilities Management Software?
Effective solutions help multi-location businesses more effectively and efficiently manage and maintain locations according to their specific brand priorities and requirements. Today’s tools for multi-location enterprises tend to provide capabilities of what might have previously been described as either facilities management software or facilities maintenance software. With better data and analytics capabilities, maintenance functions are more organized and incorporated into facility management as predictive or proactive programs. While there are common characteristics for nearly all facilities management needs, the needs do not fall into a one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, a significant limitation of some solutions is that they are too rigid – forcing businesses into situations where the business is forced into workarounds. As you evaluate your options, you should be keenly aware of any areas where this inflexibility might exist because your marketplace is dynamic and your business has to be able to adapt to thrive.
For example, retail stores or restaurants as the face of the brand in the marketplace have a unique set of requirements. Additionally, it is increasingly important for a business to combine brick and mortar locations with geo-savvy distribution centers and e-commerce strategies for ultimate business success. Today, facilities teams need to evaluate solutions carefully to ensure that they will support a full range of location types and opportunities.
With the right solution, multi-site facility managers can efficiently organize, execute, and communicate. Service requests, whether initiated by store operations personnel or engineering teams can be easily managed. All facets of facility operations can be tracked, with data captured for analysis or as support for audit trails for critical processes. Together, all of these capabilities enable the facility management team and their collaborators across the business to manage functions in a way that saves time and money. Some of the key examples of functions supported by these solutions include:
- Commercial contractor sourcing and compliance,
- Internal technician work assignments,
- On-demand work order management,
- Preventative asset maintenance program scheduling and management,
- Invoice management,
- Standardized communications for compliance and access.
Ten important considerations for evaluating facilities management software solutions to achieve optimal business benefits for today’s businesses
In a nutshell, the right effective facilities management software solution can yield significant ROI for a business – as much as 250+%. When evaluating facility management software, there are many categories of solutions that have evolved over the years that you will want to consider. You will encounter a range of “types” of solutions with labels like CMMS software, CAFM, EAM (Enterprise Asset Maintenance), and more that have all been around for a while and have continued to evolve as technology advances and digital adoption have increased. Many of the more modern solutions do not fall into one single category from these labels of the past – modern solutions tend to be more comprehensive in their capabilities and where they are not purpose-built, they incorporate robust APIs and integrations with other functional solutions to achieve the ultimate goals of the business.
With modern solutions available today, organizations can save time, save money, reduce errors, and enhance measurable outcomes for the business. Examples of important features and how they help achieve the business benefits and outcomes include:
1. Smart Workflow and Communications Automation
Facilities management software solutions that support unique workflows with automation can significantly reduce time spent on repetitive tasks. Facilities management teams manage a broad range of tasks from hundreds to thousands of them ranging from tedious but important on-demand repairs to sophisticated preventive maintenance programs. Multi-trade projects such as store construction or location re-configuration projects are a part of the dynamic portfolio of FM responsibilities. Even saving (10) minutes per work order by automating approval workflow and invoicing compliance checks can add up to 20% – 30% costs savings across a multitude of work orders.
The facilities management system should support the workflow and communications capabilities on a range of devices, including a mobile device, a desktop device, or laptop/tablet device. Additionally, communications and automation that can be extended to partners outside of the business, like the service providers and in-house maintenance team members who perform the work, are critical to achieving the desired outcomes.
2. Comprehensive Commercial Provider Proposal Management
To support the work orders across various trades and complexities, platforms should support digital RFP automation and support based on the business’s underlying business requirements. Facilities managers can use the platform to easily send a Request for Proposal (RFP) to one or more contractors, monitor RFP status, and quickly accept or sign contracts. Significant time is saved, and compliance is enhanced, through effective proposal management. Compliance factors related to pricing, vendor performance against contractual KPIs, and outcome-based business metrics such as reduced time to respond or repair can all be more effectively managed.
3. Invoice Settlement/Payment Processing and Compliance
Modern facility management software allows the business’s teams to submit contractor invoices online easily. Compliance adherence based on specific business requirements (by trade, vendor, or location) can be incorporated into work order management processes and enhance the efficiency and compliance of vendor invoices through automation of the workflow. This automated invoice workflow assures that only compliant invoices are forwarded through the workflow to accounting teams – saving time (and money) for everyone involved. Businesses and their facilities teams can efficiently manage contractual obligations even when processing thousands to tens of thousands of work orders per month.
Automated compliance checks can include validation of contracted rates and applicable sales taxes, any specific terms and approvals required by the trades or locations involved, line-item based coding for G/L processing, and even require audit requirements like standard checklists or images to be attached are met. Finally, integration with applicable third-party accounting systems eliminates swivel chair data entry from system to system.
4. Asset Management: Extend the Usefulness and Life Expectancy of Assets
Assets from refrigeration units in a grocery or restaurant to beautiful branded displays in a retail accessories store all need to be in optimal working condition. Facility professionals require solutions that support smart preventive maintenance programs and proactive scheduling to maintain assets. These programs help to assure the health of a wide range of assets across all of their locations. Submitting work orders on an automated schedule, tracking the work status, invoicing for the work, and ensuring broader regulatory or business requirement compliance is met are all critical considerations for a modern facilities management software solution.
Rich and granular data supported by reporting and analysis tools enable the facilities leaders to identify trends by manufacturer, location, parts, vendor engaged, regions, or other pertinent variables. Identifying trends in asset degradation as part of preventive maintenance can save significant money and aid in intelligent repair versus replace decision support.
5. Robust and Automated Communications Capabilities
Getting the work associated with multi-location enterprises completed requires a community of individuals from inside and outside of the enterprise to be successful. Through automation and standardization of communications built into the workflow platform, facilities teams can achieve even greater efficiency and meet consistent standards for on-time, on budget, and within quality specifications outcomes. Communications options should be flexible and adaptable based on roles and types of messaging across a range of channels from SMS to IVR to mobile applications and emails.
Want to see these solution attributes in action?
Want to see these solution attributes in action?
6. Savings and Efficiency Through Cross Company Consolidation
Facilities management outcomes are never accomplished in a vacuum. Increasingly, facilities managers are leveraging and realizing the value that technology solutions bring to making collaboration across functions more effective and efficient. Examples are leveraging technology for the invoice process so that the finance team never gets an invoice until all of your compliance criteria have been met. Working with legal, even, on designing a process that is consistently used for managing slip and falls – saving the company from the risk of liability. Working with construction on projects to take new locations live. The list goes on and the technology platform you choose should be flexible and have modern integration capabilities to augment processes between teams or integrate with other systems internally.
7. Support for Multi-trade and Multi-faceted Projects
Increasingly Facility Management professionals are identifying ways to drive up efficiency and effectiveness by creating more robust interdependency between projects . Facilities management software solutions that can support these requirements benefit companies with savings due to greater efficiency and produce improved outcomes. Examples range from the relatively simple (such as a multi-trade project involving a plumber and a contractor and janitorial services after a toilet leak) to the most complex (such as the interdependency across trades to bring an e-commerce distribution warehouse up and running in record time). Tracking and managing the budgets for these projects, sometimes across fiscal years for bigger ones, makes accounting and future planning for other projects more predictable and accurate as well. Other times, a preventive maintenance visit results in discovering damage such as leaks which in turn need to be addressed by carpenters or other tradespeople.
8. Future Ready Facilities Management and Maintenance
There are many technologies that continue to become commercially available with great potential to further enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of facilities management. One example, available today, is asset tagging integration for asset management. In this solution, assets are tagged with QR or NFC codes that can be easily read by smartphones or handheld devices. These tags are associated with databases in support of the assets and enable exchanges of vast amounts of relevant asset data to the technician in the field as well as to the engineering teams evaluating asset health from HQ. Asset tagging is an increasingly important technology integration that aids in the accuracy, consistency, and granularity of information and insights surrounding key assets. Facilities management software solutions need to be future-ready to incorporate and exploit this type of data in the service of asset management as your business is ready to take advantage of it.
Additionally, beyond asset tagging, the Internet of Things (IoT) is maturing as part of the facilities management solutions set. IoT has significant potential for managing and maintaining high dollar assets whose disruption literally costs businesses millions in lost revenue. Machine to machine level messaging alerts will provide a powerful and highly automated interface to perform preventive maintenance for key assets. Incorporating that IoT analytics will require that the facilities management solution have a sufficiently robust and scalable modern platform and architecture.
9. Good Foundation – Open and Scalable Architecture
When it comes to solutions that you are going to bank your business on, what is included under the hood matters. Cloud-based SaaS-delivered solutions put the onus on the software provider for availability and robust features that support the current and future needs – not your IT organization. It is, however, important to be aware that not all SaaS solutions are created equally. Since taking care of the built environment locations is mission-critical to the business, it is important to ensure that the solutions provider has built a system with an understanding of the facilities management business. A purpose-built and properly architected solution can scale and address new technology and evolving requirements into the future without significant disruption to your work.
Under the hood, elements like elegant database and systems design pay off in greater uptime, scalability, and flexibility for your business. Be skeptical of solutions that are repurposed from an older premise-based solution to a SaaS solution. If not designed properly, those solutions can be unreliable and inflexible – forcing you into workarounds. Understanding if the platform that you are considering was natively designed as a SaaS platform and asking questions regarding the historical availability is important. Also, while all solution providers offer the promise of new features, it is important to understand the pace of enhancements and how the specific feature release processes will affect your use of the platform.
10. Data Access and Data Privacy
There is a lot of talk for good reason about the importance of data when it comes to extracting real business value from the facilities management software. Your data should be available to you so that you can leverage it for planning and decision support around continuous operational improvements. Ideally, access to your information should be as self-serving as possible and not be burdened by time-consuming and expensive professional services fees. Additionally, since data is a currency in and of itself, it is important to have a clear understanding of who is advantaged by that currency – is it you or is it the software provider? Knowing where and how your information will be used and shared by the solution provider is an important consideration as well.
While there are seemingly many solutions on the market today that purport to support facilities requirements, understanding the key tenants of modern solutions when making evaluation decisions will help you make the best choice. Beyond the attributes listed above, it is also important to be aware that facilities management software solutions can be provided in a number of ways from a business model perspective.
While there is no “right” or “wrong” business model, it is best for you, as an evaluator of a solution, to understand the transparency of the model. The software provider’s underlying motivations with each of the options made available to you should be fully transparent. For example, if the solutions provider offers to make it easy for you to find services providers on their platform as part of their solution, it is important to understand (a) how the solution provider themselves may benefit financially from the recommended arrangement, and (b) if the promised savings from the arrangement are guaranteed or just suggested, and finally (c) if the arrangement creates hidden costs to those providers that are ultimately passed on to you.
Basic solutions for facility professionals have been around for a while. Many of them on the market today have been retrofitted as solutions offers that address new challenges – some deliver on that better than others. Working with a solutions provider who brings a deep understanding of today’s facilities management requirements while also understanding what is possible in the future can give you the confidence and value you need today and avoid costly transitions in the future. It is important to recognize that not all technology is created equally. Being diligent in identifying whether or not the technology being evaluated can scale to meet your needs with the agility to adapt in the future is important to achieving the kind of outcomes and return on investment you need for your business.