We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of CAFM in this blog. Did we actually say what a CAFM system is, yet? Or at least, what we think it is?

There’s a lot of acronyms swirling around the sector. There’s also a lot of complexity clouding the fundamental purpose of FM software. So, let’s just keep things simple.

What is a CAFM system?

CAFM stands for Computer Aided Facilities Management. Originally coined in the 60s, the acronym has become a blanket term for all kinds of weird and wonderful Facilities Management platforms and software. But a CAFM system can be fundamentally defined as a collaborative, work order and workflow management tool which offers facilities teams visibility, financial control and business intelligence in their pursuit of a data-driven strategy. Not just limited to one single FM function like maintenance or asset management, a CAFM system brings management and reporting of all these functions together to create a “single source of truth” for an organisation.. 

What kind of features will a CAFM include?

CAFM systems typically come packaged with a range of core functionality including:

  • Workflow automation
  • Work order management
  • Helpdesk tools
  • Contractor management tools 
  • Property and asset management tools
  • SLA management
  • Compliance management
  • Budget and cost management
  • Reporting and analytics

Large and established CAFM offerings, depending on their sophistication, can also come with 

  • Space management tools (meeting room booking)
  • Occupancy and space management tools
  • Hardware offerings for IoT tracking

But how well a CAFM actually manages to do all this is another question and what sets certain CAFM solutions apart.

What are your options?

There's a huge range of CAFM platforms on the market. The price of which often varies based upon your requirements. The key variables being licenses, number of features and support required.

At the bottom end of the market, smaller businesses can buy “Off the shelf”, DIY solutions which can be paid on a credit card and with little commitment. However, you’re often left to implement and configure the solution on your own with little guidance and need to work within the tight parameters of the system. 

More enterprise based options will come with much more deep dive discovery and objective analysis, custom configuration and enhanced support. This is required by larger scale businesses to ensure they are fit for purpose, secure, integrated and stand the test of time.

There are also a lot of big claims made for CAFM solutions in terms of business benefits and simplicity of set up. 

But the rate of failed projects is staggering. Research shows that 75% of FM software implementations don’t succeed and 80% of implemented solutions are not being used to their full potential. This tells a story of overselling and underdelivery.

We know there are many businesses who bought a CAFM and due to its complexity and high maintenance requirements have simply let it slip into disuse.

So much for computer assisted facility management. If the software you’ve bought isn’t actually assisting your FM, we’d question if you can really call it a CAFM at all!

What really makes a CAFM, then?

At a basic level what should a CAFM do for your business?

It adapts to your needs, saves money & delivers ROI

A CAFM should get you started as quickly as you need. Your business will have key business priorities when it buys a CAFM. You will have urgent problems that you need to bring under control. Will your chosen CAFM solution be able to match your required timeline? A phased approach is often wise in order to deliver a shorter time to value. It might be that you need to address the work order management of your reactive maintenance first before you move on to the likes of compliance, asset management, or building an asset register as a key priority.

Getting a working solution in place and functioning that everyone in the business knows how to use should be an achievable objective. As you establish those crucial initial controls you can add functionality over time that brings yet more power and insight over your process.

It controls risk

A basic function of a CAFM is to bring areas of greatest commercial and compliance risk under control. Whether it’s controlling the speed and reliability of the maintenance response to protect H&S and revenue, or ensuring compliance requirements are up-to-date and documented. A lot of BOD anxieties are tied up in the potential for building and equipment to fail, injure others or incur fines from regulators. Improving workflow automation and communication to minimize mistakes, implementing failsafe maintenance procedures, creating rock solid control processes for compliance documentation. All this is what a CAFM must do as standard.

It’s modern, multi-platform and mobile-first

A CAFM brings control and insight to your business wherever and whenever it needs it. Through mobile first technology it helps engineers

  • Load up their work orders
  • Understand job requirements fast, 
  • Attend jobs with the right parts,
  • Log time and attendance easily
  • Record activity accurately

It helps businesses record and manage their asset condition and lifecycle in real time with the mobile devices their engineers use every day, rather than having to log on to clunky desktop solutions to input data.

A simple mobile experience makes CAFM part of the everyday tool kit of FM teams. It automates where possible and makes processes faster and more efficient.

It increases uptake of the solution and ongoing data collection, which in turn fuels its power as a ‘single source of truth’, data reporting and analysis tool.

It collects key business data

A CAFM needs to collect meaningful data for the business. Without data no really informed decisions can be made about strategy, you can’t see what’s been successful and what hasn’t - you can’t decide how to spend budget to best effect based on evidence. 

Modern CAFM makes the data that normally would stay with contractors and suppliers (or never even be generated) available to the business at their finger tips. It can show you how long engineers took on a job, auto-invoice based on those hours and benchmark costs and performance against others. It can store data around the purchase, servicing and repair history of assets. It can aggregate this kind of engineer and asset performance data over time to bring the business a whole new level of strategic insight such as budget vs spend, levels of waste, future Capex requirements etc.

A CAFM collects data to deliver strategic business insight.

It optimises business performance

But a CAFM needs to give you the power to change things as well as analyse them. The best CAFMs let you easily change workflows based on data to optimise performance. They give you control over contractor management that you could not achieve with a little black book -

  • Auto cost auditing 
  • Controlling  work order spend and budgets
  • Recommending contractors based on performance
  • Matching work with appropriately skilled resources

It’s part of a complete digital eco-system

A CAFM should be able to integrate with the digital eco-system around it. And it should do it easily and without costing you the earth. It needs to integrate with accounting software, so you can avoid double handling of data and administrative tasks. It needs to be able to pull data easily from BMS systems to ensure you keep pace and take advantage of new innovation and new insight.

So, what’s CAFM?

A CAFM system is FM software that can be used to help companies digitally manage various FM functions in a single digital space. They are designed to bring clarity and strategic insight to an FM team and their whole business. But whether or not they actually manage this will ultimately depend on their flexibility, usability and if they are actually used across an organisation. The quality of the user experience and its relevance to those tasked with using it will make or break its fortunes. For this, every CAFM should be:

  • Agnostic – able to integrate into a range of business systems, particularly accounting / ERP platforms
  • Configurable – allowing for tailored and personalised experiences
  • Modern – used seamlessly across any device
  • Simple – to encourage user engagement and participation

How to choose a CAFM system

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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