Why CMMS Projects Get Off Track

Choosing a computerized maintenance management system impacts not only the facilities team, but potentially the entire organization.

By Dan Roessler
From the August 2019 Issue

The selection, deployment, and rollout of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can be a major undertaking for facility management. According to costowl.com, a mid-range CMMS can typically cost between $10,000 and $40,000, and enterprises that are large or have multiple locations will invest much more. Then there are the hidden costs and impacts of people’s time and productivity when systems and processes are changed and implemented.

The success of CMMS adoption is hampered when the people who will use or interact with the system are not involved in defining the requirements. (Photo: Jane_Kelly)

When done properly, however, a CMMS can have significant payback for facilities teams that results from reduced downtime, longer equipment life, lower inventories, and labor efficiencies.

As is true for any innovation investment, not every CMMS implementation goes smoothly. When things go awry, the expected benefits can be greatly reduced. Whether working in manufacturing, public sector, education, or commercial real estate, often the problems boil down to user adoption.

There are four major factors that greatly inhibit adoption of a CMMS, and its resultant benefits:

  • Lack of buy-in
  • Too much complexity
  • Do-it-yourself implementation
  • Resistance to change

Lack of Buy-in. Within any organization, a person’s relationship with their CMMS varies according to their role. The downfall of some CMMS occurs when people who need to use or interact with the system were not involved in the processes of defining requirements, evaluating alternatives, or selecting the final solution. When key users are not involved in that process, their needs may not be met, and they’ll have a natural bias that the system won’t produce the necessary results. Key stakeholders need a seat at the table in planning for any major change.

The features, functionality, and attributes that one employee values will differ greatly from those with other roles. Senior executives are likely to put highest priority on reporting, cost controls, and scalability to multi-site operations. The maintenance technician user, however, will value ease of use, mobility, alerts, and progress indicators.

Because of the diversity of needs, if a relevant group is excluded from the CMMS selection process, they will not feel invested in making the system a success.

Solution: Convene a formal or informal cross-functional advisory board for your CMMS evaluation or selection process. Formalize each group’s buy-in by documenting their key requirements and having them score each solution against their checklist.

Too Much Complexity. While core functionality is similar across many CMMS platforms, the simplicity or complexity of user interfaces, navigation, and access provisioning vary greatly.

The degree to which a CMMS has a user-friendly interface can make a huge difference in adoption, and the benefits realized.

Users become alienated when a CMMS is hard to navigate, requires too many steps, or has a confusing workflow. That can push away users early in the adoption process and have lasting negative effects. This is especially the case when a CMMS is delivered or installed with a generic usage model that’s not tailored specifically to the organization’s industry and specific use case.

Another way to think about complexity is to consider the degree of new training that will be required. A specialized system with a unique workflow might work well, but only if all users are trained, reinforced, and followed up with to ensure they are using the system properly.

Solution: Have “ease of use” evaluated in the selection process by a variety of user types. They can help eliminate tools that are too complex for the environment. Also, plan for early training of key users, and support that with ongoing training and consultation to ensure that all users are taking advantage of the highest ROI use cases.

DIY Implementation. Some CMMS projects fail because the purchaser did not anticipate the challenges of setting up their system for success. Once a CMMS system is properly set up, it can be tremendously easy to use, but getting it configured properly in the first place is a job for a professional with experience in the particular system. For example, a CMMS, when originally delivered, has a huge number of data entry fields available for every record and work order. A rookie mistake is to leave every data entry field enabled, which is then likely to cause user confusion and missteps. With so many fields to fill out, users can get overwhelmed by the effort required to set up any one specific activity. A professional will know to pare down the data fields initially exposed, optimized to the key use cases, and tailored to usability by maintenance technicians in a particular field. Other data fields can be added later after initial user adoption is secured.

Solution: Have the CMMS implementation performed by a software vendor’s professional services team or by a trained and authorized third-party partner. Those professional services teams come prepared to set up the system based on best practices that will pay dividends for years after they’ve departed.

Resistance to Change. A CMMS fundamentally changes the way a maintenance department operates. For organizations migrating from a paper-based system or spreadsheets, the shift can be uncomfortable for many employees. Maintenance workers who have spent decades performing tasks a certain way may find it challenging to rely on software as a critical tool in their work process. From closing work orders to calling up reference documents, maintenance technicians have to adapt to entirely new experiences with a CMMS. Some will react well to the change, while others will want to dig in their heels and go back to slips of paper.

Solution: First, involve frontline maintenance workers in the CMMS evaluation and selection process. This gives workers a chance to get familiar with the software and to look forward to the benefits for them, as well as the organization. Those involved in the process can then become formal or informal champions of the new system with their coworkers. Secondly, invest in training. A clear and comprehensive training plan is essential.

When the above four stumbling blocks are removed, CMMS projects can provide attractive returns on investment, improve operations, and make lives better for maintainers and users alike.

computerized maintenance management systemAs director of product marketing, Roessler supports Accruent’s manufacturing solutions. Accruent is a global software company that helps organizations transform how they manage their physical resources. Roessler has been an end-user, consultant, and vendor in discrete and process manufacturing companies for over 25 years. He is the author of “Control System Migrations: A Practical Project Management Handbook,” published by Momentum Press in 2013. He holds a Bachelor in Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below or send an e-mail to the Editor at acosgrove@groupc.com.