There might be talk of the death of CAFM in the industry right now. But who wants it dead and why?

Contractors sometimes don’t like CAFM systems. That’s understood. Suddenly tasked with minute billing through an app or told to complete forms to track performance; it can feel like a trial.  At best, they’re another bureaucratic hoop to jump through at worst, a professional insult. 

Are CAFM systems all too much trouble?

Are human beings just too unreliable to be trusted to update CAFM systems through apps and websites? Is it unrealistic to expect contractors to use them? Is it too much for Facilities Managers to administer a whole software system for use internally and by third parties?

Maybe businesses should simply trust their suppliers’ software to keep them in the loop about the progress of a task and the accuracy of their billing.

Who says CAFM is dead?

Right now, some are arguing that CAFM is dead. That these systems are not doing what they should be doing. Too ambitious in their scope and unreliable in their data collection methods, they’re either spitting out false data or sitting there gathering dust.

Of course, people who are arguing this often have an axe to grind. First, there are the contractors who are worried about the effect of minute billing on their future business and reputation.

Then, there are specialist tech vendors and contractor suppliers who want to sell their own solutions into a lucrative market.

The vendors who want to take your data

The future these players are painting is one of fleets of trucks fitted with tracking devices, assets powered by IoT; engineers with wearables effortlessly recording their movements in real time. The dream is engineering work monitored and reported entirely remotely without human intervention, through algorithms and AI.

All this sounds great, but the truth is, that technology is hugely expensive and, as yet, largely unproven.

And the trouble is, if your CAFM system ends up sitting outside the supplier chain with contractor data simply piped in from various tech platforms, then the information you really need could remain unknown and unknowable.

For Facilities Management the objective should be to have as much access and control over the data as possible. And we would argue, that means maintaining control over the tools that generate it.

But that really shouldn’t be an impossible dream.

So, why aren’t CAFM systems doing that job right now?

We need to acknowledge there are problems with CAFM uptake and performance at the moment, that is leading to widespread disillusionment and systems going unused.

Many CAFM systems are failing to deliver against expectations and frustrating companies, contractors and suppliers alike.

There are mistakes we see all the time that are compounding the problem.

But there is a huge opportunity here to use CAFM to build stronger and mutually rewarding relationships with our contractors and suppliers.

4 ways CAFM needs to change

  1. Businesses who buy CAFM need to change their approach. Often companies buy and set up a piece of CAFM or maintenance management software without ever thinking about the problem they’re trying to fix. They don’t go out and engage with their customers, contractors and other departments to see what they need the software to do - and so what they buy inevitably fails. A contractor is never going start voluntarily using a portal unless it solves a problem or pain point for them. 
  2. CAFM systems can be way too complicated. Clients can be lured in by the promise of AI and sensor technology that is still nascent and not delivering. Likewise, the interfaces that suppliers are expected to use are often pretty poor. We would argue that suppliers are more likely to use a CAFM system to record their own time and updates if it's a highly practical tool - made for mobile, simple, intuitive and focused on helping them deliver. There are plenty of features that can encourage contractors to come on board - not least the ability to instantly invoice when a job is complete.
  3. CAFM providers themselves need to change. They don’t always understand how your business works, and most will try and make your business fit their system. But many are getting wise to this and are building systems flexible and dynamic enough to complement how you work and how you need to work with your suppliers. The days of the ‘one size fits all’ CAFM are numbered, because they’ve led to so many abandoned transformation projects and wasted money. Every CAFM installation project needs to be unique, because your team is unique and your suppliers are unique. If you implement and work with a business that supports you to get better results - and you’ll end up with a system that EVERYBODY wants to use.
  4. Contractors need to change, too. They can end up thinking CAFM systems are about ‘Big Brother’ style monitoring and reflect a lack of trust and a drive to complicate. But we need to help them think differently. Involve them from the beginning in your decision making around the software requirements and the configuration process and they’ll be focused on developing a solution that works for you both.

Long Live CAFM

And that’s why CAFMs need to change and are changing. The new systems coming on to the market are focusing on mobile technology and user interfaces to make their systems quicker to learn and easier to use.

They’re focused on winning engagement in every part of the chain so they can get the best and most reliable data to optimise performance.

Because one version of the truth can lead to one common purpose, one great relationship; long term joint success, and customer happiness.

If a supplier and their clients enter the relationship with that same common purpose and clear targets, using a CAFM can de-risk these partnerships.

CAFM can give us shared oversight of performance that can remove emotions, highlight areas you need to work together to improve, and show you the success you can celebrate together.

So long live CAFM, and here’s to great partnerships and joint success in the new year.

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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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