Software

CMMS value proposition

David Berger says sell management on it to ensure success.

By David Berger, P.Eng., contributing editor

It is easy to blame the front line for an unsuccessful CMMS implementation or upgrade. Management might also point the finger at maintainers for not getting more out of an existing CMMS installed long ago. But, in my experience, it is not usually the fault of the maintainers, the IT department, the CMMS vendor, or even the system itself. Accountability lies with management for ensuring success, both in the short and long term.

So to maximize the probability of a successful CMMS implementation, and to maximize its value over time, a critical prerequisite is to obtain and retain senior management commitment. Although management would undoubtedly consider the CMMS a valuable tool, the reality is there are so many other priorities competing for management’s attention. This column provides some guidance on how to initially get management on your side and to keep their attention and support long after your CMMS implementation.

Selling the CMMS value proposition to management

Think of what drives the priority of senior management. Read your company’s financial statements, or, if you do not work for a publicly traded company, review the text of speeches, reports, or plans made by your executives. What are some of the common themes? Without a doubt, most top management teams are focused on increased profit, by squeezing more revenue out of the company’s capital assets and reducing the costs of doing business.

In modern times, companies spend heavily on the initial purchase or creation of assets, as well as the cost of operating and maintaining them. Costs have skyrocketed due to the increasing complexity of the assets, for example, to pay for specialized maintainer training or maintenance services, to ensure the equipment is run at peak reliability and performance throughout its expected life, to keep the regulatory bodies satisfied, and to avoid the financial and political fallout of an environmental, health, safety or public relations disaster.

So to maximize the probability of a successful CMMS implementation, and to maximize its value over time, a critical prerequisite is to obtain and retain senior management commitment.

Thus, our rising dependence on achieving excellence in asset management to drive profit provides an opportunity to sell the leadership team on the virtues of getting more out of a new or existing CMMS. By setting asset management goals, objectives, measures, and multi-year targets, management will undoubtedly get excited about what asset management can do for them, both in terms of achieving personal and overall company performance targets. The CMMS tool can help define and achieve success. Most CMMS packages facilitate setting up a comprehensive work program, tracking actual performance against plan, reporting and analysis of results, and refining the work program accordingly.

So justifying a project to enhance your CMMS should definitely focus on what your management team currently values most. Whether it is energy costs, the environment, avoiding any further deficiencies from a regulatory audit, or simply a push to reduce costs, chances are good the business case can be so tailored.

Maintaining management focus on CMMS

If you are successful in getting the attention of management, the hard work is by no means behind you. You must still contend with the many competing priorities that may deflect management attention. The best way to keep management focused on your project is to deliver or exceed what you initially promised, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and continue to promise what management currently values, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

The difficulty, of course, is the risk associated with making promises, especially when you are forced to define success quantitatively. There is no way around this except to be as conservative as necessary to have your project approved, and get the management support you need. As well, do not pin your business case on the weight of any one quantitative target as this increases the risk. Spread the risk by promising incremental improvement on multiple measures that fit well with management objectives. A solid benefits realization plan, complete with meaningful rewards and consequences, is critical to show management your level of commitment.

Another significant factor in maintaining the attention of management over the long haul will be your ability to manage expectations of critical stakeholders, including top management. This includes creation of a detailed project plan, with timeline, budget, and resource requirements, change management plan, communications plan, and performance measures and targets. Subject matter experts from all stakeholder groups should be actively participating in the project with management’s knowledge and approval. The steering committee, management team, and all those not directly involved in the project but affected by it, should be kept regularly informed of progress as per the plan.

One effective method of keeping management focus and excitement is to divide the project into multiple phases of three to six months each, with separate deliverables and targets. This builds a track record and draws attention to the incremental progress being made against targets. In turn, this generates enthusiasm and minimizes management fatigue over the life of the project. It also breaks the project into more manageable chunks, provides an opportunity to turn over some critical project staff on a regular basis, and minimizes scope creep since issues and opportunities can be pushed out to a subsequent phase.

Telltale signs that management is fully committed

As you progress through the multiple phases of the project, look for the many signs that you have been successful in capturing the interest of management. In my experience, without clear management support, your project will rarely succeed. Be aware that the words uttered by management are potentially very different from their actions, but both are important. The following is a list of key factors to consider in assessing whether management is on board with your project and providing the support you need.

David Berger, a Certified Management Consultant (C.M.C.) registered in Ontario, Canada, is a Principal of Western Management Consultants, based in the Toronto officeDavid Berger, a Certified Management Consultant (C.M.C.) registered in Ontario, Canada, is a Principal of Western Management Consultants, based in the Toronto office. David has written more than 200 articles on a variety of topics such as maintenance management, operations management, information technology, e-commerce, organizational design, and strategy. In Plant Services magazine, he has written a monthly column on maintenance management in the United States, as well as three very extensive reviews of maintenance management systems available in North America. David has done extensive work in the areas of strategy, information technology and business process re-engineering. He can be reached at david@wmc.on.ca.
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Level of personal participation: Ensure that, at a minimum, top management attends a formal kick-off meeting and key status meetings. Senior management should emphasize in public the strategic value of your project and the expectation of meaningful stakeholder participation for the benefit of all.

Link to strategic and business plans: These plans should reflect how the CMMS project will be funded and how a successful implementation will have a significant impact on the bottom line over the short to long term.

Quality of human resources allocated: If management is supportive, the quality and quantity of resources assigned throughout the CMMS project will reflect it. So will their attendance at meetings and quality and timing of their deliverables. Quality resources are required from all key stakeholder groups to ensure project success, including the front line.

Level of expenditure: You cannot be successful without spending money on technology, external expertise, or training. A supportive management team will help you meander through the cost justification and administrative pain of securing necessary funding.

Rigor of performance tracking: If management regularly monitors key performance indicators related to your project, chances are they will be more willing to help you, albeit more demanding about results.

Connection with reward and consequences: The probability of success for your project is affected by how extensively stakeholders including management share performance targets, how well targets are tied to the reward and consequence of achieving them, and the strength of their relationship with stakeholder remuneration.

Priority on management meeting agendas: A supportive management team will regularly put your project on the agenda at key management meetings, in an effort to track project status and hold you accountable for benefits realization.

Frequency and quality of communication: Key speeches, newsletters, meetings, and documents by management should emphasize the strategic importance and status of the CMMS project on a regular basis — no less than monthly for any given stakeholder group.