How to find the best facilities management software to streamline your building’s management and maintenance facility processes.
Whether you’re the owner of a corporate office building, a social housing site, a school, a hospital, or multiple real estate properties, keeping your facility in tiptop shape can be overwhelming. But, that’s where facilities management software can help.
With the right tools, you – as a facilities manager or landlord – are able to streamline your building’s maintenance, management and workplace processes. Resulting in maximised efficiency and improved workflow throughout the workplace.
By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to identify the gaps in your current facility activities and understand the need to implement an effective solution. You’ll then be able to dive into a marketplace full of vendors and software solutions to find the best Computer-aided facilities management software tool that matches your requirements. Here’s what you can expect:
Defined by the IFMA as the “practice of coordinating the physical workspace with the people and work of the organisation”, facilities management software is a tool used to organise and plan the management and maintenance tasks within a facility.
Referred to as Computer-aided Facilities Management (CAFM) or FM software, an effective tool will incorporate features that aim to improve the efficiency of your facility processes. Enabling you to deliver the best possible workplace experience for your occupants.
Some vendors may portray facilities management in the same light as a Computerised maintenance management system (CMMS). Or even an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWNS). But, it’s important to know, that FM software is so much more than that.
It offers the maintenance management of a CMMS and the workplace management of IWNS in one package. As well as delivering a variety of other valuable functions.
Typical features include maintenance planning, asset management, work order management and space management. With these features, you’re able to:
Manage and track assets as they move between buildings
Reduce unplanned downtime of essential workplace equipment through preventive maintenance
Reduce expensive reactive maintenance costs with effective planning and scheduling
Streamline work order processes such as repairs and maintenance
Ensure the health, safety and well-being of your building’s occupants
Integrate with systems such as Computer-aided Design (CAD) and Building Information Modelling (BIM)
Provide effective workplace management through workspace and move management tools
Facility management is a tool mostly used by enterprises and owners of multiple facilities. But, through affordable SaaS and cloud-based options, small and medium businesses (SMBs) are beginning to take advantage of FM solutions. Although, 40% of small businesses still track their assets manually.
Whether you’re a facility manager or property owner, your role is to ensure efficiency and safety throughout the premises. This is achievable through functions such as asset management, preventive maintenance and work order management.
But, keeping on top of your building’s endless processes can be challenging. Especially if you’re using time-consuming and error-prone methods such as pen-and-paper or spreadsheets. In fact, a whopping 44% of facilities in 2018 used paper to organise their property processes.
To understand how you can benefit from facilities management, you need to identify your current processes. A great way to do this is to question how you operate within the building. Such as:
Whether reactive or preventive, identify how you plan for building maintenance. This could include planning for mechanical, electrical or even structural maintenance. For example, how do you plan for the maintenance of your heating systems and lifts?
Supplying equipment doesn’t just mean making sure water coolers and kitchen kettles are available. It requires you to know the location of each piece of equipment as they’re moved between spaces and buildings.
Throughout the years, you may have collected data about your occupants and spaces within the property. This data could be an occupant’s name, length of residency, and any financial details. But, where do you store this data? Is it on a spreadsheet?
When organising facility processes, it’s important that you keep in touch with all levels of your team. Whether that be by email, phone call or two-way radio. This includes relaying information to maintenance personnel, technicians and occupants. In some cases, you’ll need to provide updates to the executive management team as well.
This includes being in contact with various facility management companies. Including cleaning, catering, waste management, security and maintenance teams. As well as collecting and managing data regarding each external contractor and their work orders.
You may be expected to scan and analyse the market for new trends that can enhance your processes. For example, a more recent trend is the use of drones and aerial imagery. Through this, you’re able to identify any required maintenance on roofs and exteriors of high-rise buildings.
Being responsible for tasks such as building maintenance, cleaning and asset procurement can take its toll. With so many processes to oversee, gaps may start to appear in your workflow.
For instance, the facilities’ manager of today is expected to manage aspects such as:
Health & safety
That’s not to mention critical activities such as maintenance and equipment management.
But, when problems do appear within your processes, it’s important to take note of each one. By doing so, you’ll be able to identify the exact features you need from a CAFM tool to help close these gaps.
When identifying gaps, it’s beneficial to separate them into two groups. These are hard facilities’ management services (Hard FM) and soft facilities’ management services (Soft FM).
Knowing the difference between your hard and soft facilities’ management services is crucial. Especially when it comes to identifying the functions you require from a software solution.
Keep in mind that the right CAFM tool should be able to deliver on improving both your hard and soft services.
Each service is unique to a property and can depend on the business type, building size and location. It’s also important to remember that most services, whether hard or soft, are required by law.
Hard FM services are physical parts of the property that cannot be removed for the sake of the safety and welfare of the building’s occupants. These include:
The maintenance of air conditioning units, heating systems, lifts, lighting, electrics and plumbing
The structural maintenance of the building and its grounds
Ensuring fire safety systems are regularly tested and in working condition
Responding to occupant requests and improvements
Implementing preventive maintenance to avoid costly downtime of essential equipment
As opposed to hard services, soft FM services impact the workplace and make the working environment more pleasant and secure for occupants. Soft services are a bit more comprehensive and complex when compared to hard services. These include:
Project management and having a clear line of work order dialogue between departments
Ensuring office spaces, common rooms, toilets and windows are clean
Calculating ROI values for workplace assets
Providing security throughout the premises in the form of CCTV and RFID entrance keys
Ensuring proper waste management and recycling practices
Providing an efficient catering service
Providing easy move management and workspace management
Having a solid understanding of what you require from a CAFM tool can benefit your decision in two ways:
You’re able to generate milestones and KPIs to measure the success of using an FM tool
You’re able to easily outline and communicate your expectations with the business’s decision-makers
Depending on your processes, the primary functions that you require from a CAFM tool will vary.
For example, your goal may be to decrease the cost of equipment downtime. In this case, you’ll want a facilities’ management solution that focuses on preventive maintenance. In fact, downtime can be so damaging that it can cost facilities somewhere between 5% and 20% of their productive capacity.
It’s important to note that all CAFM solutions you find will offer similar features and functions. But, some may focus on the aspect of one task more than another. Common features include:
Maintenance planning & management
Work order management
Asset management & tracking
Workplace safety & compliance
Environment and energy management
After mapping out your facility tasks and identifying the challenges you face, you’re able to highlight the specific features you need. For instance, you may require a tool to:
The improvement of workflow management can enhance the dialogue between maintenance personnel, teams and departments. As well as enabling processes to run smoother. You’re able to see what equipment is scheduled for maintenance and what maintenance is overdue or in progress.
With the right facilities’ management tool, you can track and record all of your facility and maintenance spendings. With this, you can produce reports to identify the resources that are having the biggest impact on your budget. Building expenses include energy bills, the cost of ground maintenance, and the outsourcing of personnel. For instance, in 2018 energy expenses averaged $0.06 per square foot (PSF) for industrial buildings. With ground and landscape maintenance expenses averaging $0.02 PSF.
The right CAFM tool lets you connect and sync tracking technologies to provide real-time data. Tracking technology includes IoT devices such as RFID tags, GPS trackers and Bluetooth receivers. With this, an FM system can collect real-time data such as energy usage and equipment failure. As of 2018, 47% of manufactures are placing a greater emphasis on the use of IoT devices in their properties.
Instead of collecting and storing data in spreadsheets, you may require an easier solution. A facilities’ management system will provide you with a central archive for all of your data.
As well as managing inventory levels in real-time, you can record each stage of the procurement journey to plan future budgets. An automated ordering system can also be built-in to the system to enhance the re-stocking process.
With facilities management software, you have the ability to track the life cycle of all building assets. This helps you to build effective preventive maintenance schedules. As well as letting you know when to repair or replace an asset to avoid extended periods of downtime.
Health and well-being are essential for increasing work quality in the workplace. By monitoring processes and collecting data, you’re able to understand the effect your management has on an occupant’s well-being. This includes air quality, temperature comfort, and lighting levels. As well as factors such as access to nature and having an outside view from an office.
While most software for facilities management can look the same, there are variations that can make a significant difference.
For instance, you may come across one application that is focused more on providing mobile access for departments. Whereas another tool may put all of its attention into maintenance management, much like a CMMS.
The slight differences in a vendor’s product make it important for you to have an idea of what you require from your CAFM tool. Once you have these desirables in place, you’re in good shape to search the marketplace.
Here’re four steps we recommend taking while searching for the right vendor:
Have a definitive list of the features, requirements and KPIs
Shortlist at least five vendors that match your list of requirements
Screenshot, write down or print out the functions that each vendor can supply
Make a list of noteworthy points from each vendor such as free trials, training support and prices
At the end of this comparison and evaluation stage, you should be left with the ideal tool that is going to meet your requirements. While also improving the efficiency of your management and maintenance processes, and helping to achieve milestones.
Here’re a few points to keep in mind when it comes to comparing facilities management software vendors against one another:
Access to a vendor’s product, via a free trial or live demonstration, can make the difference between choosing vendor ‘A’ over vendor ‘B’. Usually, an online demo will be the first interaction you have with the product. It may also be accompanied by a salesperson who will walk you through the product, giving you a chance to ask any questions. This is then followed by a free trial, where you can test the product yourself and understand the system’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to your maintenance and management requirements.
Does it have a clear user interface that is easy to navigate for all facilities and maintenance personnel?
Are you able to identify the right maintenance and management features that you require when using the free trial?
Were you easily able to find and contact the vendor’s support team? If so, were you satisfied with their reply and response time?
Did they offer any training, video tutorials or web-based classes on how to use their product?
Have they had any prior experience providing software to other facility management businesses that are similar to yours, or in the same industry?
Do they meet the correct legal requirements to comply with GDPR law regarding occupant and other maintenance personnel data collection?
Can the product provide the right features to improve the workflow and communication of facility processes throughout the organisation?
Does it offer the right reporting and analysis tools to accurately track and help reduce ongoing facilities, maintenance and equipment costs?
Will it provide you with a notification-style system that alerts you when a maintenance work order has been started, completed, or is overdue?
Can the system migrate all of your occupant, equipment and maintenance data and store it all into one accessible centralised database repository?
Can it be aligned with an asset management tool that works with IoT-enabled devices, such as GPS trackers and smart heating systems, to provide real-time data in order to prolong the usability of equipment?
Is it a web-based/cloud-based solution that allows all maintenance personnel to access specific data from anywhere, at any time, via a mobile device?
Lastly, ask each vendor about the price of their product. You’ll want to know their pricing plans and if there are extra fees for storage limits or implementation. Knowing the price is crucial for understanding the ROI of the product in relation to your KPIs and milestones; “is it worth it?”.
Once you’ve found the best facilities management software solution for your property, then comes the fun part; deploying it. But, before this can happen, you’ll need to have all decision-makers and stakeholders on board. This is particularly important if you’re operating as a facilities manager for a landlord or building owner.
You’ll also have to consider the needs of the employees who are expected to use the tool, such as maintenance teams and outsourced cleaning personnel. Ask yourself:
Is the software easy-to-use?
Will employees need to be trained in the new system and how long will training take?
If training is required, will it be provided or are employees expected to study independently?
Should employees be familiar with hardware and equipment that is included with the system, such as barcode scanners?
Will there be specific functions for each department, such as scheduling cleaning and ground maintenance?
It’s then time to get approval from the decision-makers. Here’re some key points to keep in mind when making your case to an executive management team:
Refer to how this tool will aim to serve the company’s best interest
Include plenty of numbers and figures in your presentation, such as ROI calculations and KPIs
Detail how, and if, existing tools can be utilised and integrated with the product
Present a detailed plan and timescale for deployment and full integration
Highlight any risks that may appear during integration
When the time comes to develop a detailed deployment and integration plan for your new facilities management tool, there are a few things that need to be considered. Such as:
Once you’ve purchased the tool, you may have a rough idea of the time it takes to meet your goals. But, deploying the tool can be a lengthy process. So make sure to leave time for any challenges that you may face.
Don’t expect your CAFM tool to automatically and instantly improve your facility processes without the right training. This requires time and money, so be sure to factor this into your plan.
Consider the challenges when integrating the product with other tools such as email, calendars, data storage, and file-hosting. It may take even longer to integrate other applications as well, such as building information modelling (BIM) and computer-aided design (CAD) systems.
You may have collected a huge amount of data regarding building space, maintenance work orders, and occupants. This data will now need to be transferred into your new system, which can be a lengthy process. Whether you do it yourself, or your vendor offers help at an extra cost, you’ll need to consider the time it takes to complete this transition.