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Considering CAFM

Does the complexity and breadth of modern CAFM projects demand a different approach from businesses, and what opportunity exists for vendors to enhance their role to support this challenge? Matt Hodgson, Director at independent consultancy Makonsult, provides some answers

In recent years there has been a rise in the complexity of CAFM (computer-aided facility management) projects, with advancements in technology offering businesses an opportunity to choose between CAFM providers – all of which are working hard to differentiate their offerings. When choosing CAFM systems, finance directors have always demanded effective financial controls, but they are now further engaged by the opportunity of cost avoidance and reduction; customers and clients now demand greater visibility and accountability, and FM directors are looking for support in the effective management of statutory and regulatory control.

This all encourages businesses to recognise the role CAFM systems have in contributing to wider company objectives. But what are the challenges this presents in choosing the right system?

Where the Internet of Things (IoT) is considered as pulling together multiple data sources, many businesses are looking at the ‘data hub’ residing within their CAFM system. This approach drives the need for further system integration while at the same time presenting even greater opportunities to utilise business intelligence tools to drive an intelligent approach to the future management of estates. The challenges are in identifying capable and available resources from within FM and IT teams and ensuring intelligence is relevant and visible to stakeholders.

Mobile technology should now be seen as a staple element of any modern CAFM system, and as a valuable means of managing both the internal and external workforce effectively and providing real-time data for clients and customers. Implementation does, however, create challenge for businesses, especially where they have previously operated manual process and dispatch rules. This has brought about a change in ways of working for engineers and dispatchers in dealing with the data complexity, and poses a problem around ensuring they have the right skill sets.

BIM (building information modelling) integration is also being recognised as offering potential value, but careful consideration of the scope of integration is required to realise the commercial opportunity associated with the integration of data, processes and information sharing that is inherent with BIM.

Finance integration may have been commonplace for some time in CAFM projects, but still requires clients to rely on specialist support in understanding how to design finance processes and the impacts of HMRC regulation, as well as considering how the design will provide appropriate control environments given the criticality of timely contractor payments. A testing approach and well managed timelines cannot be underestimated in such a process to ensure process and data integrity between data systems.

Understanding the estate at an asset level may seem straightforward, but the effort and costs associated with this element of a CAFM project cannot be underestimated. Identifying the scope of the asset database, the accurate and complete data capture processes and the consideration of ongoing data maintenance processes all need to be aligned to the anticipated benefits associated with a CAFM system.

Success will always be focused on delivering projects on time and within budget, but the impact of change CAFM can bring to a business must not be ignored. This is why CAFM projects should not be seen purely as software implementation programs.

Typically, first generation CAFM projects leave businesses facing steep learning curves as they strive for data and process maturity. Additionally, they challenge future structures and operating models within a business which ultimately will require a comprehensive review across the multiple departments affected within the organisation. The state of business readiness to deliver the benefits of CAFM should be identified early in the process and included within the business case to demonstrate that a business recognises the value modern CAFM systems can offer. The intelligent use of data, asset lifecycle improvements, data-driven strategies and supplier performance improvements can all deliver benefits, and these benefits should have accountable project leaders appointed to ensure they are achieved.

When thinking about critical success factors for a project, there are some key elements to consider.

Defining business and IT requirements at an early stage will ensure a good comparison against vendor capability can be established. Identifying project scope and introducing change control can ensure that focus remains on those objectives that are important and valuable to the business. Managing the transition of data from existing systems, collating new data and then validating its accuracy and completeness will avoid additional work once live. Making sure users are involved in defining how the system is set up and its rules and processes plays a significant part in successful deployments. Documentation of current and future processes, planning how to move from the current system to the new system and defining communication and training plans are all important. Setting up the project team, ensuring detailed project plans are created and monitored as well as creating a plan to engage with users and interested parties from across the business will help control the project.

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