So, you’ve paid out for your brand new CAFM or CMMS with all its shiny maintenance management tools. But as installation and training drag on for months and workers fail to use the system you’ve bought for them - it could end up being a spectacular waste of money.

If, as reported, three quarters of all FM software installations fail, what usability features are critical to ensuring a successful roll out of maintenance management software?

3 ways usability counts in FM software

One of the key benefits of any CAFM or CMMS is moving away from an email or phone-driven work request system to create a more streamlined help desk function.

But your chosen software should require minimal training to get up and running, or it risks going unused by the business as a whole. If it’s a pain to use and does not seem to actively add value, then teams will quickly find workarounds to shortcut the system. Here are some of the places usability matters most:

1. Work request and work order management

A great work request portal should be focused on actioning requests with maximum efficiency, while pushing up the rate of first-time fixes.

Work order requests that work harder

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 will:

  • Make filtering easier at help desk level to help allocate work
  • Improve the accuracy of the initial request
  • Reduce the need for follow up questions
  • Increase the number of first time fixes
  • Allow opportunity for workflow and work order automation

For the helpdesk team, the software should make it easy to select an available resource to attend, whether that’s external or internal, or request quotes from a contractor. As much as the process as possible should be automated, to improve the speed and consistency of customer service.

Receiving automated email notifications and reminders at critical stages of a work request is a vital feature to keep work moving and customers’ confidence that their requests are being dealt with.

2. Contractor and engineer management

Choosing a system with a dedicated contractor portal has obvious benefits. If your contractor communications are all funnelled through one platform, the data can be managed in one place. And, there’s less likelihood of detail going missing or being ignored. Not only that, but if all the data is flowing through one system, it can be more easily accessed to analyse and optimise supplier performance.

Your chosen system may give you log ins for your contractors to access the platform, pick up work requests, and report on their progress - but there’s no guarantee they’ll use them.

Persuading 3rd party contractors to adopt your software soluition is often a significant challenge. Before you choose any CAFM or CMMS, it’s worth spending time assessing its contractor interface to see what problems it solves for the engineers themselves.

This is the tool that engineers are going to need to use on the road and when they’re at the location actually fixing the problem. If the interface can’t be used in the field, it’s unfit for purpose.

What to look for in a contractor portal

  • Mobile first interface with ‘finger-friendly’ design
  • Well optimised software design for all browsers and devices
  • Personalised, predictable and uncluttered navigation
  • Tailored operational dashboard - clearly bringing the user’s attention to next steps and actions
  • Clarity over current performance levels - simply presented in a dashboard view
  • Efficient and easy way to submit quotes and invoices via well-designed, simple submission forms
  • Full work order audit log and communication trail
  • Upload and share photos to define problems and show fixes
  • Notifications and reminders integrated with workflows
  • Engineer user management with time and attendance tracking capability

The right CAFM and CMMS software should have features that incentivise contractors to use the solution.  This should include the ability to receive service and quote requests for work orders more efficiently and upload invoices once the service is complete.

3. Data management

The usability of reporting dashboards, the way they can be configured on-demand and data visualised, should also be a vital consideration for a business.

All the information that is gathered as a work order is being generated, scheduled and completed should become part of the ‘BIG data’ that you use to analyse, optimise and report on performance.

Can you see SLA data by contractor and engineer? Does the platform show you the charts and tables which clearly demonstrate trends? Can they help you visualise trends around:

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

It’s often only when the FM team have got access to these kind visualisations that they can see where a problem lies and have the conversations with contractors and engineers that resolve those entrenched issues.

And in the future, this level of control and visibility will be key for FM teams to be able to demonstrate ROI against the software purchase itself. Seeing real time improvement of KPIs emerging in the stats on the basis of actions taken, can help justify further investment in next level PPM, compliance and property management features.

For a successful roll out of maintenance management software, usability needs to be top of the agenda. Not just to ensure it’s fit for purpose in the field, but that the data collected in the field can be accessed and analysed in the boardroom to build a more successful business.

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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