Should You Invest in CMMS Software for Small Business?

CMMS Software / August 2023

With the likeliness of reducing unnecessary spending and limiting maintenance costs, it is an important step to consider the implementation of CMMS software for small businesses. Running a business involves constant recalculation of where to focus on investment. Spending more on current operations vs investing in increased future performance is a never-ending balancing act.

Whereas larger businesses often have the budget and staff to absorb shocks, small businesses do not typically have that luxury. Maintenance management is one area where this balancing act plays out. Every business owner knows that planned maintenance and preventative maintenance saves money in the long term. But, when time is scarce and budgets are lean, maintenance is the first area to suffer.

Small businesses naturally turn to spreadsheets to manage their scheduled maintenance. The software is free, available everywhere, and getting started is simple. But as a business grows and operations become more complex, the limitations of Excel start to show. Spreadsheets are not specialised. This means they can be adapted for many tasks, which can be a big advantage. It also means they are not built for or optimised for specific applications. Naturally, growing small businesses consider whether adopting a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) Software is worth it.

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6 Reasons Why Small Businesses Choose Spreadsheets Over Software

When the benefits of CMMS software seem so clear cut, why would businesses of any size hesitate to adopt it? As late as 2016, 45% of facility managers were still using manual methods to schedule maintenance. While the (anticipated) results are attractive, the obstacles and risks of implementation keep businesses from taking the plunge. What are the business owner and maintenance manager concerns keeping them from adopting CMMS software?

1. High Upfront Costs

The initial capital required for CMMS software and supporting equipment is daunting to a small business. Even when the payback period is likely to be short, many prefer to keep using an imperfect but functioning solution that diverts investment from elsewhere. This aspect at least has improved in recent years. The current generation of cloud-based, monthly subscription CMMS software offerings is far more affordable than on-premise maintenance management software.

2. Implementation and Adoption Time

Migrating to a new CMMS system, or between systems, frequently takes more time than budgeted. Even in small businesses, bringing every aspect of operations in line with a new system requires coordination. There are plenty of areas for things to go wrong. This goes double if the business is stretched or short-staffed. Setup time increases with business complexity. In many cases, a small business can have too many fires to put out in the short term to commit a block of time for migration to an untested system.

3. Training Time

Not only must businesses spend time setting up CMMS software, but they must also train their staff on how to use it. This aspect can be a double-edged sword for smaller businesses. On the one hand, they may only have a handful of staff to train. On the other, each hour of training is an hour that a staff member is unavailable for their work tasks. In small businesses, there is often no one else that can pick up the slack.

4. Resistance From End-Users

The longer a business has been operating, the more employees become used to a certain way of doing things. This is especially a concern for businesses with large numbers of experienced staff. Many maintenance technicians can be resistant to a new CMMS software implementation. This is one area where small businesses have an advantage – it is far easier to train staff on CMMS software as they join than change an established way of operating.

5. Risk of Failure

The advantages of CMMS software only apply if the implementation is a success. Some studies report failure rates of maintenance management installations of over 40% – a big gamble for a small business. While a larger business could absorb the lost time and costs, such a failure can push a small business over the edge. An inefficient, but ultimately functional system is considered a safer bet.

6. Getting Locked into an Unsatisfactory Solution

What if the CMMS software works, but just not very well? A small business can pay the upfront costs, commit to the setup and training time, convince their staff that this is the way forward… but still, be unhappy with the results. Maybe the CMMS software is clunky and unintuitive. Maybe the reporting and analytics don’t quite have the metrics the business needs. The small business is left with an imperfect but functioning solution – just like spreadsheets. The real risk of picking the “wrong” solution can keep maintenance managers relying on Excel.

7 Benefits of CMMS Software for Small Business

1. Consolidating Maintenance Management Information

Planned maintenance and predictive maintenance data are multi-dimensional. It’s simply not possible to display everything on a single 2D spreadsheet. At a minimum, you will have multiple workbook sheets. It’s more than likely you have a series of linked files, all of which need updating with information. CMMS software eliminates this by keeping all relevant data in one place.

2. Safeguarding Against Errors

It’s too easy for errors to creep into a maintenance management spreadsheet. A simple copy-paste error or a missing bracket can throw off your entire maintenance schedule. Errors can remain undiscovered for months or even years. CMMS software protects formulae and calculations from user error.

3. Automatically Trigger Notifications and Work Orders

Even the best-designed spreadsheets cannot send a work order reminder to a technician. A key advantage of CMMS software is that it is far easier to manage workflows. Predictive maintenance tasks can be automatically scheduled using manufacturer recommendations and previous maintenance dates. Task completion is logged instantly and your scheduled maintenance records are updated.

4. Compiling Audit History

Using CMMS software simplifies maintenance audits. While audit data is simple to store in spreadsheets, pulling out relevant information from multiple files at audit time is a time-consuming manual task. CMMS systems maintain a complete digital paper trail of every action, when it happened, and who did it. Preventative and planned maintenance history is entirely transparent. As the software is designed with maintenance managers in mind, audit reports are available out of the box.

5. Reporting and Analytics

Weak analytics and reporting are other problematic sides of maintenance management spreadsheets. A skilled user can create his or her own custom reports, but this requires time to set up and maintain. CMMS vendors understand what metrics and KPIs are the most important. Essential reports, such as overdue work orders and predictive maintenance forecasts, can be generated immediately.

6. Real-time Accuracy

As a manager, an accurate big-picture view of your operations is essential. Manual information entry in multiple spreadsheet files naturally causes a delay between carrying out an action and reporting it. Urgent tasks and emergencies may not become visible until the damage has already been done.

7. Reducing Admin Burden

Many maintenance managers report the feeling of “drowning in paper”. The lack of specialisation inherent in spreadsheets forces the extra burden onto the user. You may even have a spreadsheet to keep track of your spreadsheets. By automating the majority of these manual processes, CMMS allows maintenance managers to focus on carrying out their work.

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CMMS Software fo Small Business Infographic

Business Complexity

It’s not as simple as “big businesses need CMMS solutions and small businesses need spreadsheets”. Yes, a small business with only 30 assets will be able to manage them via a spreadsheet. Yes, a large enterprise with hundreds of assets spread across dozens of locations will benefit from CMMS Software to manage them. However, the large enterprise faces far higher setup costs, training costs, and user resistance. It’s easier to implement good habits and grow with them rather than digitally transform an enormous business.

Assess Administrative Burden

How much time are you spending on labour-intensive manual entry? How long are your technicians spending? If you feel you are spending more time on spreadsheets than growing your business, the ROI from automating these processes is likely to be worth it. Honestly assess how many hours of productivity are wasted drowning in paper, and compare the hourly rate to a monthly CMMS subscription.

Impact of Unplanned Downtime

A GE study has shown that predictive maintenance based on data analytics and monitoring results in approx. 35% less unplanned downtime compared to a reactive or time-based approach. If unplanned downtime highly impacts your business, moving to a predictive maintenance system should be a high priority. Predictive maintenance planning is far harder to manage via spreadsheets than via specialised software. Each hour of unplanned downtime is more expensive for a larger business, but small businesses work with lower margins for error. The loss of productivity and customer trust associated with downtime can break a business that is already on the edge.


Luckily, the cost is no longer a barrier to entry for small businesses. There are over 150 CMMS software options on the market at all ranges of cost and complexity. Today’s options can run as low as $40 a month for small numbers of users. Due to strong competition among vendors, month-long free trials are common. The adoption of cloud technology removes the need for expensive on-premise equipment.

In conclusion, this decade’s changes to the CMMS software landscape make it an option that businesses of any size should consider. The key obstacles for a small business are the time involved in setup and training, and the risk of being “locked-in” to a bad option. Business owners should always assess how easy it is to export maintenance data and switch providers before making a commitment. Finally, vendors with a large number of satisfied users, active support team and knowledge base, and clear onboarding process are a better option than a shiny new startup.