Top CMMS trends affecting the industry

Configurability and user-centered design lead the trends that are shaping CMMS/EAM systems.

By David Berger, P.Eng., Contributing Editor

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It has taken half a century, but computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software, also known as enterprise asset management (EAM) software, may have finally become a mature product. This is not unlike many other software applications that have undergone a similar transformation following years of rapidly improving technology. Although mergers and acquisitions have left fewer CMMS options for larger companies, there are still more than a hundred CMMS packages available for small to mid-sized companies. 

This article outlines significant trends in CMMS software for companies big and small.  If you think there is a business case for upgrading or replacing your current CMMS, look for a software solution that has the latest features and functions described below that best fit your needs. 

Implementation – It’s not just about the software

Learn from the mistakes of the past 50 years of CMMS implementations and do not simply replace your software. Implementing a new CMMS or managing a major upgrade requires process change to be successful. In turn, significant behavioral change is needed for all stakeholders throughout the company. To be sure, managing change is no easy feat.

Thus, the most important takeaway here is that choosing the right CMMS package based on features alone is insufficient, even as CMMS software functionality continues to improve. Instead, success stems more from:

  • The quantity and quality of cross-functional resources involved in the project,
  • The optics of ensuring the project is seen as an operations project, not an IT project, as by selecting a project manager (a key decision-maker) from operations,
  • The level of effort that all stakeholders expend to understand the problems each stakeholder group faces, document future-state processes and supporting system requirements that will address these issues, and outline an organizational structure in light of proposed changes, all accomplished before selecting a CMMS solution,
  • Selecting a long-term vendor partner with whom you can work effectively over the long term, not just as a one-time supplier of software,
  • Implementing the CMMS solution with a focus on process and behavior changes, rather than merely the installation of new software, and
  • Establishing a center of excellence responsible for continuous improvement of processes and systems in partnership with your CMMS vendor.

Be wary of slick sales demonstrations, flashy websites, and the lure of technology you really do not need. Develop detailed test scripts and force short-listed vendors to walk you through your future-state processes using your data, not theirs, to prove that the software does the important things you need it to do. Of the most importance, make sure the best resources are available from each stakeholder group and ensure that sufficient time is allocated to prepare for and implement changes to processes, organizational structure, and ultimately human behaviors. This may require backfilling key positions.

User-centered design

Among the most significant improvements to CMMS software are changes to the user interface. Look for a CMMS solution that is designed with an understanding of how users work with the software. This includes features that make the software easy to learn and use, regardless of your technical ability or how often you use the feature.

Examples of what to look for in a CMMS:

  • Easy access to a variety of online help tools. These can take the form of a short explanation of a field name when you cursor over it, more extensive help available a click away, “how-to” help that provides examples and screen shots, wizards for walking you slowly through a process that is unfamiliar, and multimedia attachments to supplement the help
  • Navigation tools, such as a browser-style hierarchy that lets users jump quickly to where they want to go, a bread crumb trail showing where you are in the program at all times, and multiple interactive windows for tracking results of changes made in any one window
  • Smart screen design, such as the ability to hide or add fields, change field descriptors, manipulate size and location of fields, and change colors
  • Error handling, such as meaningful warning and error messages that guide you through needed corrections, an error-checking capability that prevents you from entering data that is out of range or illogical, and undo functionality to reverse your steps
  • Data entry and reporting aids, such as optional spreadsheet format for both data entry and reporting and comprehensive filtering and sorting of data

Configurability

As with user-centered design, modern CMMS packages allow users to tailor the software to the unique requirements of a given industry, country, company, department, function or individual user. Configuration is not the same as customization. The latter involves making changes to the source code, which typically renders the future upgrade path difficult and costly at best. The better CMMS packages today provide configuration tools that do not require programmers.

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