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People power

Specifying new CAFM software can be a complicated affair. Paul Djuric, Head of Techniche EMEA, explains how to gather your requirements and avoid common mistakes

According to the Project Management Institute, 47 per cent of unsuccessful projects fail to meet goals due to poor management of project requirements. Implementing a new computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) system is no exception – solid requirements gathering is the foundation of success.

A CAFM system brings about major changes in the way a facilities team functions, and in the way FM is perceived within the business. Its most obvious benefits are improving asset performance, automating maintenance workflows and reducing maintenance costs. But the early stages of such projects are often overlooked, which can lead to problems further down the line. Managing the technology is the easy part; it is your people management skills that will be put to the test.

Requirements gathering should take place at an early stage, helping to shape your brief. Regardless of project size, the most fruitful way to begin is with workshops involving relevant stakeholders from procurement, IT, HR, legal, finance, marketing and operations. This will enable you to develop engagement with all parties at an early stage, steer their input and overcome any potential blockages before they become an issue. They give you an opportunity to meet face to face and get a true sense of people’s feelings and stories, as well as uncovering and addressing underlying tensions, concerns and misconceptions about what the project is trying to achieve.

Depending on the size and type of your business, you may want to set up a project management team that draws from the different areas of your organisation. Some of your stakeholders are likely to be ideal candidates for a governance board, brought together to help steer your project and maintain focus. Typically consisting of four to seven people, a governance board is also a good way to ensure information is retained and passed on in the event of employee changes. At the very least, your project should have a board-level or C-suite sponsor right from the start.

Not engaging the right people at the start is a common problem with CAFM projects. You need to identify all your stakeholders across the business, and system users will inevitably play a big part in conversations. Operations and procurement teams need to know and agree on what you are trying to achieve, and why, in order to avoid scope creep.

You should also make sure you outline or share the objectives and agenda for the CAFM requirements gathering process. Failing to do so can cause misunderstandings that hinder productive collaboration. If people have not been through this process before, they may have misconceptions about what it involves, so it is important to communicate effectively with the entire stakeholder group at every stage.

Requirements need to be revisited throughout the lifecycle of a CAFM project to avoid damaging expectations. For example, if a key stakeholder leaves the business part way through a project, it can appear that requirements have changed. If a project is started by one party and delivered to another, this disconnect can sometimes mean the new team believes that the system does not meet the objectives. To ensure successful project delivery, the requirements specified at the outset should be constantly monitored.

Every business has its own priorities, but in all cases, understanding the ‘why’ and the value to your business of each requirement (or omission) is key.

Ultimately, many decisions come down to the cost-benefit ratio. If a particular feature or function is going to cost more, is it worth it? Are there any legal implications and will there be a knock-on effect from not doing it? What is the opportunity cost of not doing it? Make sure that you consider managing for today as well as planning for tomorrow. Both are equally important to the overall project, but will be given different emphasis by different stakeholders. So build the capacity for both into your plan.

Ask lots of questions, and keep asking them. Only when you have your answers can you set the agenda around the scope of work – don’t try to do things the other way around. Define what good looks like. This should be your point of focus throughout. Is it set reporting? Reduction in costs? Efficiency improvements? What is your main driver? Without identifying your key objectives, you can’t prioritise, or make decisions on what is essential, what is important, and what would simply be nice to have.

Once you have created your prioritised list of requirements, make sure that you have addressed any conflicting requests and investigated anything that you suspect may be based on an assumption rather than fact. Inevitably, you are likely to end up with some ‘wish list’ items that won’t make the priority list.

This is the point at which you need to play your findings back to the stakeholders and check your understanding. It’s important to emphasise that this is not a statement of work (SoW), but that the priority requirements will go forward to form the scope of the project.

In the face of internal politics and competing agendas, requirements gathering demands careful management. Establishing a common purpose is important, as is reaching consensus on what the system should achieve. But if configured properly, a new facilities management platform will drive collaboration and help colleagues operate more effectively, bringing benefits to both those involved in the project and the business as a whole.

Taking a planned and collaborative approach to the project is essential to the success of your system’s implementation. More than that, an engaging and relevant process for gathering your requirements can change perceptions of the FM role, creating greater visibility at board level while demonstrating your ability to deliver meaningful change and achieve strategic goals. Well before any implementation begins, this process offers you a vital opportunity to solidify your position as a leader, project manager and strategic thinker.

About Sarah OBeirne


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