It’s the same old story. FM teams are often last in line for a digital makeover in a business. But sorting out contractor management software can be the first step to optimising your maintenance operations while delivering dramatic, long term efficiencies and cost savings.

Too many contractors spoil the lot

FM teams often need a range of different contractors who they can use for different tasks. But without effective management tools they can end up with hundreds of suppliers on their roster, all being managed in different ways.

Some big contractors with their own service platforms may expect you to interact with them through their software, other long-standing contractor relationships may be managed informally through quick phone calls and emails.

Chaos and confusion?

The result can be admin chaos and inefficiency, with meaningful data very thin on the ground. And with no way of reporting contractor performance, calculating value for money or optimising the way you work with them - the FM function itself can begin to feel like a bit of a money-pit.

We must have had over 250 contractors at one point. One of the things that we needed to do was try and reduce that number down and get better value...

Dan Walley, Head of Property and Facilities, ARC 

CAFM tools with contractor management features are often touted as the answer - but what’s holding businesses back from embracing them?

What’s holding you back?

Existing contractor relationships often just seem too complicated to disentangle and bring to heel. There may be just too much ‘tribal’ knowledge in the FM team about where to direct work and who’s best to work with. Daunted by the prospect of disruption of a CAFM installation, and with opposition from the FM team themselves, sometimes it seems just easier to leave things how they are.

Or maybe you have legacy software that’s failing you right now - a one time attempt to make your contractor management more effective that is actually making things worse. You’ve got the tools, but they’re clunky and slow, and they don’t tell you what you need to know. Yet, the thought of another failed software installation may be not what the business needs at the moment.

But sooner or later, you’re going to have to make the leap and invest in the right tools for the job.

“Our legacy system was clunky. It was slow. It was a nightmare for contractors and sites. The system was going down sometimes on a daily basis. We’d log jobs and no one could see them - and alerts weren’t being sent. It was making us look bad as a department. My line manager was going to meetings on a weekly basis where he was finding out there were facilities down on sites that we weren’t even aware of.”

Greg Plummer, Facilities Helpdesk Manager, Fitness First

So, how can you make sure the next piece of software you work with will be the answer?

Choose a better help desk experience.

First of all, make sure that the user experience is going to make it easier for your team to:

  • Understand work requests
  • Direct them to the right contractors

For those who are raising work requests the platform should automatically require key details such as:

  • Location of issue
  • Details of the asset
  • Priority of the task (is it urgent or low priority?)
  • Photos and, ideally, video of the issue

More ‘structured data’ gathered at the beginning of the process is vital to:

  • Make filtering easier at helpdesk level to allocate work
  • Reduce the need for contractors to ask follow up questions
  • Increase the number of first time fixes
  • Allow for more automation

Choose better analytical tools

When you’re looking at new contractor management software, there are certain KPIs that will be pivotal to making assessments about which suppliers are offering the best value.

Key data that needs to be collected and aggregated by supplier includes

  • Time to respond
  • Time to attend
  • Time to fix
  • First time fixes
  • Callout to quote ratio

Because, of course, it’s not always about price - it’s about being able to see which supplier is getting to jobs quicker and solving problems faster. It’s about noticing the issues with specific suppliers as they occur.

If invoices aren’t matching reported hours, if fixes aren’t working, if appointments are being missed - you need to know about it right away.

You need this data available to you, in graphical form, as downloadable tables, on every device. You need to be able to see supplier KPIs side by side to make the big decisions about who to keep using and who to let go.

When you have this data you can have the conversations with suppliers to correct problems and optimise performance. You can also have meaningful conversations with the C-Suite to demonstrate the success of initiatives, ROI and justify decisions about supplier consolidation.

With our new CAFM, we can do real appraisals with our engineers and contractors, We know how many jobs they’ve been given and how many they’ve completed. We didn’t have that data before. We couldn't challenge or reward them on the basis of their performance.

Greg Plummer, Facilities Helpdesk Manager, Fitness First

If you’re not choosing or using software that makes it easy to access and share data then the software will be little or no use to you.

But how you use the software is only half the story

What’s in it for them?

But you won’t be able to get the data you need if the people on the ground aren’t supplying it.

Contractors, of course, are notorious for ignoring or being hostile to these kinds of contractor management initiatives. Some just don’t want to change the way they’ve been working for years. The bigger suppliers may have their own software which they want you to use to raise work requests, and for their workers to track their time.

And if the software you’re bringing to them offers the suppliers themselves no added value - you can hardly blame them for being less than enthusiastic about it.

So, if you’re looking for contractor software it’s often worth consulting with your suppliers to get their perspective on what they need to make their life easier.

I think one of the big things for me regarding CAFM systems, is getting the buy-in by contractors to use it.

Greg Plummer, Facilities Helpdesk Manager, Fitness First

Choose a mobile-first design

And the good news is that there’s lots of features within a decent FM software solution that can encourage uptake and maximise usage by suppliers.

A mobile first design is really important. Contractors need to be able to retrieve and log information about the job they’re attending ‘on the go’. They need details of the problem waiting for them on the work order, ideally with photos and videos to help them prepare properly. Useful features include:

  • Mobile first interface with ‘finger-friendly’ design
  • Design optimised for all browsers and devices
  • Photos and videos of the issue available
  • Personalised, predictable and uncluttered navigation
  • Tailored operational dashboard - prompting required next steps and actions

Sometimes, large scale suppliers can seem like they call the shots with smaller clients, when it comes to the software they will use to report on jobs. However, we’ve found many are happy to shift to a client’s CAFM solution to report on their time, if the user experience is better than their own.

With a mobile first approach, CAFM can become intuitive and fast. Most importantly, people actually want to use it

Greg Plummer, Facilities Helpdesk Manager, Fitness First

Money talks

And don’t forget - contractors are also much more likely to want to use the software if they can log their hours and bill actually directly from it. When choosing a CAFM solution think about how quickly and easily you’ll be able to manage integration with your finance software.

It shouldn’t be complicated

Contractor management software shouldn’t take months to install. And it shouldn’t be massively complicated to deploy and use. The idea is to make your life easier, not bog you down with configuration and training. A good software partner will be on hand to guide you through the process - to help you with porting data and setting up workflows.

With our previous software supplier it seemed like we were being charged extra for every request we made. We needed to find a partner who we could trust to be helpful and transparent

Greg Plummer, Facilities Helpdesk Manager, Fitness First

The right contractor management software package adds value for client and supplier alike. And the right software vendor will make the transition to a new way of working as fast and painless as possible.

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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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