Steer clear of CMMS project pitfalls

David Berger says know the key targets you'll be judged on and build up a slew of short-term wins.

By David Berger

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The goal of every manager responsible for any project is to deliver high-quality product on time and on budget. This is true whether building a new plant, repairing a roof, or implementing a CMMS. If you have been on the front line, you know just how easy this is to say but how difficult it is to accomplish. Discussed below are important considerations when managing projects such as the implementation of a new or upgraded CMMS.

Do not start a project without knowing on what basis you will be judged a hero or a persona non grata. This means putting some context around the project, such as strategic goals and objectives, critical success factors, and performance targets. A simple example illustrates the importance of this exercise.

Suppose you order a red sports car to be delivered in six weeks at a cost of $40,000. In four weeks, the salesperson phones and explains that the car you ordered is delayed a month, but a yellow one just arrived with identical features except for leather seats, at an additional cost of $2,000. Do you want the yellow one?

If timing is your dominant objective, then perhaps you are willing to exceed your budget by $2,000 and not get the “quality” you wanted, in order to take delivery of the product two weeks early. If your performance is measured on how quickly you deliver, you would be a hero to accept the yellow car. In contrast, if the dominant objective is cost or product quality, you would be out of a job to take delivery of the yellow one. By extension, it is vital to determine relevant performance targets for your project so that you will know which trade-offs along the way are acceptable.

Another challenge in project management is ensuring consensus on the definition of a “quality” product delivered. Quality is in the eyes of the beholder. For example, what assumptions have been made as to how rigorous the testing of your new or upgraded CMMS will be? Are detailed test scripts required by a team of 10 users from across all stakeholders to thoroughly test the product over a six-week period in a production-like environment? Or is it sufficient to send a couple of users to a few days of vendor demonstrations?

There are many possible deliverables for a given project. Assumptions must be stated up front and the scope clearly defined in light of key performance targets. One of the most common enemies of every well-intentioned project manager is scope creep. Listed below are key deliverables to consider when implementing a new CMMS and, to a lesser degree, a CMMS upgrade.

Pre-engineering research: This includes market research, competitive analysis, benchmarking, an employee survey, process analysis, a review of historical data, and/or interviews with key stakeholders. The research can be used to develop or validate performance targets and to determine the most appropriate actions for achieving them.

Operating principles: The strategic goals and objectives will naturally drive out operating principles by which the project is guided. For example, response time on critical equipment must be fast, accurate, and consistent 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Scope definition: A prioritized list of activities must be agreed upon by all stakeholders. The best approach is to limit the scope of each phase of the project so that stakeholders see progress in achieving performance targets as soon as possible. For example, start with a pilot implementation of the preventive maintenance module in one of your smaller facilities to get some immediate savings and gain traction for the project.

Re-engineered process flows: To achieve stated performance targets, typically the new or upgraded CMMS will act as an enabler for process and other changes. For example, the project may be responsible for removing low-value activities or facilitating faster response time through condition-based maintenance and notifications. 

Procedures and documentation: Process flows are eventually transformed into detailed procedures. The procedures may be quite detailed, with the inclusion of CMMS screenshots, a description of roles and responsibilities for anyone involved in the process, an impact and risk analysis of any processes that will be changing, and a discussion of exceptions and contingency processes.

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