FM needs data to improve supplier management, but you can’t get the data you need without improving your supplier management capabilities. And that’s easier said than done.

Lack of data is holding Facilities Managers and their businesses back. Companies are complaining about a reporting black hole surrounding their FM operations and their contractor relationships. They can’t analyse and benchmark supplier performance to report on KPIs or identify best performing contractors in their roster.

As a result they can’t trouble-shoot supply issues, channel work to the right partners for best results, and consistently drive more value for their companies.

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Suppliers struggle to understand and meet client expectations

But it cuts both ways. Suppliers can’t improve their performance without getting the right information and support, either. Poor communication, data sharing and organisation on the part of FM teams make it difficult for contractors to understand their client’s expectations and respond to them.

At the same time, complex and slow moving invoicing processes are not exactly an incentive for contractors to up their game.

The net result is inefficient operations, critical partnerships that aren’t being nurtured and opportunities for cost saving / service improvements that are being thrown away.

What’s the problem?

Digital transformation has by-passed many FM teams. In some cases, businesses are still using the most basic digital tools like email and excel sheets to:

  • Plan and control their FM operations
  • Manage and communicate with suppliers
  • Collate and report on KPIs including First Time Fixes, response times, etc
  • Optimise supplier performance

Without a central tool to manage suppliers they find it hard to effectively monitor and measure performance or act to meet targets more effectively..

Which is where FM software comes in.

Does FM software help?

When a company adopts a new CAFM system, they expect to streamline their process; bringing new data, insight and control to their third party relationships.

But even when there is FM software in place in a business, it may not help improve supply chain performance.

Clunky systems with a poor UX (user experience) and hard to set up workflows are notorious for slowing businesses down. Instead, they end up being sidestepped by their intended users altogether.

Ironically a new CAFM may end up increasing bureaucracy, while either not capturing any new data or making it accessible in a meaningful way.

Why CAFM initiatives fail to engage suppliers

Internal teams won’t use CAFM tools if they’re difficult to customise and don’t solve their specific problems and pain points.

Smaller FM teams can struggle to encourage larger contractors to adopt their CAFM tools if there’s no obvious value in them doing so.

Smaller contractor teams who have worked with your business for years may feel threatened by new tech and find reasons to avoid using them.

When you’re choosing your supplier management software you should be looking for solutions that don’t just impose new processes and tools on your operations - but reflect the needs of your partners and incentivise their adoption across the board:

4 ways to improve supplier engagement and performance with a CAFM

1. Work with your contractors to define work order process

Don’t just impose new workflows ‘from above’.

Choose FM software that is flexible enough to build bespoke work order management journeys in consultation with the people who’ll need to follow them.

Work with your suppliers to define the user journeys for dealing with work requests that make sense to both you and them:

  • The information they most need to see in work orders
  • The documents and data they’ll need access to
  • The notifications they want & need (email/text message) to nudge them throughout the process

Teams should focus on identifying the critical steps of the work order process:

  • When data/information needs to be shared with contractors
  • When data needs be captured from engineers
  • How forms can be optimised to reduce time and effort in completion
  • Where steps can be automated to increase speed and efficiency

At this stage you should be looking to remove unnecessary steps from the work order process, while making it as LEAN and effective as possible.

Automate to liberate! Learn how workflow automation gives you wings

2. Focus on automation

Find the tools that can automate these journeys where appropriate, delivering more details and accurate information faster to those who need it.

  • Capture information from requesters and convert into work orders automatically
  • Automate quote requests from suitably qualified contractors
  • Compare quotes from contractors
  • Accept quotes as required then follow progress as work is completed
  • Report on KPIs to ensure SLAs are being met
  • Automatically chase contractors when SLAs are overdue
  • Remind suppliers of any documentation that should be provided
  • Automatically bill for visits with agreed up front costs e.g. PPM

Not every piece of CAFM software will allow you to set up and automate these processes as you need to.

Many vendors will have templated processes that can’t be deviated from, meaning you can’t rightsize workflows to meet your needs. They won’t let you personalise messages for specific customer journeys/job roles to ensure they are as effective as possible.

The more generic and inflexible the digital tools you choose, the less likely you are to succeed in engaging with contractors and getting them to record the data you need.

3. Focus on usability

The software you choose should make it as simple as possible for your contractors to complete and report on the work they’re doing via a dedicated portal:

  • Mobile first interface with ‘finger-friendly’ design
  • Software designed to work on all browsers and devices
  • On/off timer to record hours as they work
  • Personalised, predictable and uncluttered navigation
  • Tailored operational dashboard - clearly bringing the user’s attention to the next steps and actions they need to take
  • Clarity over current performance levels - simply presented in a dashboard view
  • Ability to automatically invoice through the portal

Convincing suppliers to use the FM software you’ve selected to record their hours and other data is one of the main challenges for facilities managers wanting to streamline their operations.

The right UX and engagement with customised notifications and messages at the right time throughout their journey, will help guide them back to your portal when you need them. Once there, they’ll be able to record key activity and data in real time.

For example, allowing contractors to invoice automatically and immediately via your portal on completion of a job can be a huge incentive for them to use the tools you’ve provided for them.

4. Focus on reporting

If you’ve been automating your process and capturing data from your contractors as they respond to work requests and complete their work orders, then you’ll have been gathering all the data you need to report on key KPIs.

  • First time fixes
  • Response times
  • Time to attend
  • Time to fix

Effective integration with your finance software will mean you can confidently reconcile your costs and consistently report upon the same set of numbers as your finance colleagues. You’ll be empowered to know how much you are spending with each supplier, benchmark them against one another, and decide whether they are offering you the best value for money.

You should choose the tools that let you visualise these data in dashboards, so that you can see where suppliers are failing to meet SLAs, or where certain KPIs are not being met consistently over time.

These can be reports that you share with your suppliers in your regular review meetings, so you can effectively set expectations and performance goals for the future.

Supplier management is a huge challenge in FM. Working with contractors to identify their digital needs as well as your own will help you build a system that is engaging and useful for everyone in the chain. The right CAFM will have features that incentivise everyone to use and benefit from it, monitoring and optimising their own performance in real time as they do so.

How to choose a CAFM system

Josh Greibach

Written by Josh Greibach

Josh Greibach is the CEO & Co-Founder of Expansive Solutions. His passion is delivering value through data-driven strategies. With a proven track record in leading successful teams for both B2C and B2B, Josh now focuses on rocking the world of facilities management with his FM software. He's here to revolutionise the industry and help businesses thrive in our digital-driven world.

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