Every business is different and has its own set of Facility Management challenges. And there are hundreds of CAFM offerings out there that promise to solve them. But not all of them will be right for you.

What’s more, it’s practically impossible to ‘try before you buy’. Make the wrong choice now and your selected software could end up unused and unloved by your team - a waste of time, money, and procurement effort.

Investing in a CAFM system can be an expensive and high-stakes undertaking, and the range of options on offer can seem complex and confusing.

Here are the 10 questions you need to ask a facility management software supplier to ensure you choose the ‘right fit’ solution for your company.

10 questions you need to ask when choosing FM software.

1. Will it do what we want?

The first and most important question. What are you trying to fix? There is no CAFM silver bullet, no single, ‘off the shelf’ answer to everyone’s FM challenge. This means you need to be specific. So, where are the gaps in your operations that you need help with:

  • Controlling maintenance inefficiencies; lack of oversight in task management?
  • Oversight on compliance. Are vital renewal and documentation activities slipping through the net?
  • Coordinating and communicating maintenance across teams and multiple locations?
  • Collating and analysing data to inform strategy and decision-making?

Perhaps it is easier to think about the outcomes that will define success for you. For example, do you need to improve your controls over budget, the ability to implement and demonstrate compliance more effectively, or access to improved reporting and data tools?

Above all, you need to know how the suggested solution and the company you choose will cluster around you to solve the challenges that you are facing now - and those you’ll need to address in the future.

2. How usable is it?

Your FM software solution will only be a success if you and your teams can actually use it - and want to use it. Think about where, how, when, and why your people are going to be accessing the software. Is the solution going to be used by FM teams, helpdesks, contractors, or internal maintenance? Will they need to use it on their phones and on the move? Will the system be easy to adopt by them? A decent solution answers workers daily challenges as well as the central FM team. Does it incorporate an app or a mobile site? Is there a separate portal for third-party contractors, so that they can simply and easily access the information they need? What about reporting? Is it easy to run bespoke reports, to analyse and download data? Is it simple to generate charts and tables for use in board reports and strategy planning sessions?

3. How easy is it to configure?

Does the system let you set up and configure multiple and custom workflows? Can it be personalised to the key user roles? The ability to configure settings by a non-IT specialist is often a high priority for companies with limited tech resources available. How much of the setup is likely to be bespoke and in the back end? How long will it take to get the system up and running? At the more complex end of the FM market months-long installations are not uncommon, while some DIY solutions will simply charge you a license fee and let you get on with it.

4. What about onboarding and support?

This is the really big question. How does the vendor onboard and support clients? Do they help with configuration or are you on your own? Some vendors will have a service desk for issues encountered, others will use a ticketing system, while others will give you a dedicated account management team who’ll get you started and resolve issues as and when they arise. The vendors’ commitment to customer service and satisfaction will often dictate how well and how completely your organisation will embrace the solution that you have bought. Figure out what level of training and support you will be comfortable with and ensure sure you have an SLA that defines this.

5. Does it integrate?

Will it integrate with your current eco-system? Clearly, the system will be much more powerful if it can integrate with your accounting, invoicing, and security software. This may be an absolute requirement for you, in which case you should investigate if your software is supported, the configuration options available (bespoke or off-the-shelf APIs), and any extra costs or time scales involved in delivery.

6. How much is it?

What's the cost of the setup, an annual license and ongoing support?

7. How much is it, really?

Is that it? Hidden charges often make reasonable-sounding deals quickly escalate in price. So, what are you really in for? How many log-ins come with the annual license fee? How much will extra seats cost you? Are you going to be charged for more storage as your use of the system expands? What modules come as standard and which will you need to pay extra for? As with all SAAS solutions, the devil is often in these pricing details.

8. What’s their background?

A brief internet search will tell you there are over 200 FM software solutions of all shapes and sizes being sold on the market today. Understanding what differentiates a chosen supplier’s offering will help you understand if they’re the right fit for you. Has the software been created by FM professionals with a specific understanding of the challenges in your sector and a track record of delivering against them? How many years of experience does the company have in the business, how many customers do they have and what’s their retention rate?

9. Who are their customers?

It’s worth thinking about how the software is being used in the real world. Who are the current customers? Are they in the same sector as you? Are they dealing with the same challenges and achieving proven success through the adoption of the software? Testimonials should be available - and if you can actually talk to their clients about their experience of working with them, so much the better.

10. What’s their roadmap?

For many FMs, hitting the ground running with a solution is a priority. But they also need confidence that the solution can grow and flex with them. Is the vendor committed to a programme of continuous improvement and innovation? Will advances in AI and its potential for delivering better, more predictive FM be in the mix? Do you have the confidence that as you grow and your demands heighten, the system will scale up with you?

Why these questions matter

In many businesses, the FM function is currently at a tipping point. The challenges of Covid-19, remote management, and reorganising workplaces have brought existing communication and control issues to the fore.

Spreadsheets and email are groaning under the pressure - meanwhile the various app and software solutions that have been tried over the years may have left data scattered and hard to ‘join up’.

FMs are faced with the prospect of maintenance management and oversight continuing to fragment across various platforms. At the same time they are expected to deliver more value with less resources. With no single source of truth to help them with reporting and compliance, the pressure is on to find the solution that can give them rapid answers to immediate problems.

But the functionality, usability, and cost of CAFM software solutions can vary wildly. Some are so complicated that it can take months of installation to get up and running. Others just don’t have the functionality to bring order to the chaos in any meaningful way.

When you’re looking at potential CAFM solutions you need software that is configurable and can start rapidly delivering the control you need. But you also need the confidence that the vendor is going to be there to support you with innovation and advice as your requirements evolve.

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Tom Wilcock

Written by Tom Wilcock

Tom Wilcock is the COO and Co-Founder of Expansive Solutions. He is a digital expert with a background in delivering large-scale business digital transformation. He specialises in project management, product user experience, business ecosystems and data intelligence.

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