Best practice for successful FM software implementation

by FM Media
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For the majority of organisations that implement FM software, improved management information and customer service are the key objectives.

The Australian facility management industry is in the growth phase of its life cycle. The industry’s outperformance of the economy, expansion of services provided and growing acceptance of the industry’s services demonstrate this.

The sector continues to see widespread evolution and improvement in technology. And, as a result of the country’s size and scale, mobile-based technology is particularly relevant. Businesses are becoming more aware of the benefits of outsourced services and of FM’s contribution to the corporate vision and strategic objectives. Increasingly, facility managers are being challenged with providing a quality, digitally integrated service that provides measurable benefits.

For the majority of organisations that implement FM software, improved management information and customer service are the key objectives. An FM software application, with comprehensive reporting and planning capabilities, makes it easier to formulate decisions and facility management strategies, which leads to increased productivity, profitability and efficiency.

However, a quality FM software solution can be a large investment and so it’s vital that careful configuration, training and outlined strategic aims are put in place, in order that the system is adopted and utilised to its full potential. This is more likely when a clear and effective implementation strategy is deployed, so that managers can ensure that the new software solution meets the needs of the business and delivers a return on investment.

Considerations
Before choosing a suitable FM software solution or speaking to a supplier, there needs to be a clear understanding of the requirements to be satisfied from the system. Considerations may include:

  • Is cloud hosting an option?
  • Will the system need to be integrated with other applications?
  • Are detailed reviews of current methods, workflow patterns and reporting formats required prior to system implementation?
  • Will the system allow mobile access?
  • What is the underlying database structure?
  • How many users will need to access the system?
  • Are there any self-service users in the building?
  • Will there be a need for a variety of levels regarding system access and security?

The decision-making criteria can be used as an opportunity to justify the investment, and identify the potential savings and costs (costs will include software licences, maintenance and support, consultancy, hardware and training). The identified criteria should define specific project measures upon which the ultimate success of the project may be judged and enable the development of a smooth implementation strategy.

Implementation strategy
The implementation strategy should consist of two parts – the project plan and the project team. The plan forms the basis of a structured and well-managed system implementation and all associated factors and issues should be contained in the four core elements: define, design, develop and distribute.

It should include a detailed definition of purpose, scope, timescales and resources, and will need to identify the priorities and key objectives, such as improving customer service. The detail of the plan should ascertain processes that are likely to change, consider project risks and the required measures to minimise them, as well as keeping users informed of progress.

It is important to decide how much time and resources the business can invest in managing the implementation, and how much support will be needed from the supplier. This should be discussed and agreed with the provider in the initial negotiations. However, for the daily activity of the FM role to continue as normal while the implementation takes place, ideally a dedicated internal project manager or project team should be put in place – someone who can drive the project forward without conflicting responsibilities.

The team should be created with members from across all areas of the business to clearly communicate the requirements and resources for the project. It is important to identify a senior project sponsor/project manager, who should be involved early in the process to secure company and departmental buy-in. The project team should aim to maintain a strong communication loop and encourage feedback by appointing user representatives.

A member of the project team should also be assigned as the main point of contact with the supplier, for post-sales support. This can be useful after the installation when many new users may be struggling with the change and can slip into bad habits or go back to using the old system.

Once an implementation strategy, with a detailed plan and assigned team, has been put in place, the software supplier selection process can begin and demonstrations and reference site visits should be organised. It is recommended that the users also be involved in the selection process, because they will be utilising the system and will be able to provide insight into what will be required.

Thought should be given to the project beyond the initial launch of the system and, before any FM software is installed, it is important to consider the longer-term development plans. Outline any additional features or functions that will be required in the future, and ask how the supplier can support customisation. This is also an opportunity to look at updating other practices, such as moving to a fully paperless system, implementing new processes or increasing mobile device functionality.

Both a data review and any long-term developments need to be considered when it comes to the actual installation of the FM software. At this point, a number of installation checks need to be made on the hardware, operating system and third party software.

There should be a review of current methodologies, software licence checks and adequate IT back-up will need to be in place. Making hardware and data readily available, within agreed timescales, can support this. With guidance from the supplier and its experienced project manager(s) to provide support throughout the transition process, the business should be able to estimate the amount of work that will be required to map the data from its original format to the format suitable for the software.

System go-live
Finally, when the implementation strategy has been followed and all checks have been completed, preparations can be made for the move to live operation. To guarantee a smooth transition, a carefully planned approach must be taken. Four suggestions before launching the new system are:

  • launch the system in phases
  • set up a pilot implementation in a controlled environment
  • run the old system parallel to the new one for up to a month, and
  • have a trial run of the new system before making any announcements.

By having a clearly defined strategy in place, all stakeholders will understand the responsibilities, scope and deliverables of the project. The implementing organisation will benefit from time saving, reduced costs and a swifter implementation timescale. Furthermore, by following a fully developed strategy, there should be no need to make major changes to the system post-installation, which can avoid adding to the cost.

The author, Gary Watkins, is chief executive officer of Service Works Global. This article is based on a white paper titled, ‘Best Practice for Successful FM Software Implementation’. To receive a copy email [email protected]

This article also appears in the June/July issue of Facility Management.

Read more about technology and software here»

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