CMMS implementation isn't done until benefits are realized

Jan. 6, 2011
David Berger, P.Eng., contributing editor, says plan how to measure implementation success down the road.

Imagine the euphoria the CMMS implementation project team experiences after a successful “go live” and a new or upgraded system is up and running. There’s a sense of relief now that months of planning and preparation have become a reality. But do the maintenance technicians, their supervisors and the maintenance planners experience the same level of excitement?

Perhaps, to some extent, they do, but typically there’s a feeling that a long and winding road still lies ahead. This feeling is reinforced the first time problems surface and the project team is nowhere to be seen, as they’ve happily moved on to new projects and assignments.

As for management reaction to a successful CMMS “go live,” of course, there’s initial satisfaction that a significant milestone was completed. However, this can quickly fade as pressure mounts to see a return on the investment. The more senior is the manager, the greater is the impatience regarding profit.

Defining success

The key to managing stakeholder expectations better is to define project success, both qualitatively and quantitatively. This requires defined performance measures, an established baseline for each measure and realistic targets covering a three-to-five-year period. Performance measures and targets should cover a wide range of drivers such as:

  • Customer satisfaction (response time)
  • Employee satisfaction (wait time)
  • Operational effectiveness (asset availability)
  • Risk management (number and severity of regulatory deficiencies)
  • Financial (return on capital employed)

Define benefits with participation from key stakeholders at every level, from the shop floor to the executive suite. This includes representation from maintenance, operations, engineering, accounting and finance, materials management, human resources and any others who might benefit from a CMMS implementation. Input from every group the CMMS affects greatly improves the probability of a successful project. Everyone will see something recognizable in the definition of success.

Motivating success

There are many ways to motivate employees to achieve performance and targets. One of the most effective is to ensure buy-in to the targets in the first place. People involved in setting their own goals are far more likely to accomplish them. This is especially evident in companies where the multi-year budgets are adjusted to reflect promised savings long before benefits are actually realized. This is a huge motivator for management in that department heads clearly understand the expectations and are committed to delivering results.

For example, suppose the maintenance department feels fairly confident that the planning and scheduling processes a new CMMS supports will yield a conservative 5% to 10% improvement in labor productivity derived from decreased travel time, wait time and other non-value added activities. In turn, suppose this translates into a minimum annual savings of $200,000. If the planned maintenance budget is decreased by $200,000 for the year following the CMMS implementation, there will be plenty of motivation to ensure changes are implemented and the promised savings realized. Similarly, the materials management department might commit to a 5% budget cut resulting from reduced rush orders, fewer obsolete inventory items and lower inventory levels achieved through better tracking of parts usage.


If you want to motivate shop-floor personnel to the same degree as those who own the reduced budgets, pass responsibility down using the performance evaluation process. It’s expected that operators and maintenance technicians have as much to gain as management, if not more, assuming success measures were developed with shop-floor participation. For example, technicians might have set targets believing the CMMS would ensure the right skills, information, tools and parts will be made available at the right time to ensure technicians are better equipped to do the job. If successful, technician productivity should improve, thereby contributing to the anticipated budget cut (fewer are doing the same amount of work). This establishes a mutually beneficial relationship between management and the shop floor — if technicians get what they want, department heads will realize their anticipated budget cuts and other benefits.

Even the CMMS vendor and external consultants can be motivated to achieve greater productivity levels by agreeing to receive remuneration, in whole or in part, based on performance targets. To be fair, this can be successful only if the vendor and you, the customer and partner in the CMMS implementation, agree to meaningful incentives — benefits realization tied to performance evaluation. Although every stakeholder must be held accountable for their part in the project, ultimately, you’re responsible for project success, not the vendor/consultant.

Tracking success

Every CMMS can track at least some measures of success using report generators. Most packages come with a long list of standard reports that can be configured to your needs. Some of the more advanced CMMS packages have incredible dashboards and business intelligence tools for real-time tracking of key performance indicators such as asset availability, equipment reliability, inventory stockouts and percent schedule compliance.

These advanced tools can be configured to a given user group or individual so they can carefully monitor performance in their areas of accountability. The most sophisticated packages allow users to drill down on reported anomalies and determine root cause quickly. For example, assume a dashboard display for PM compliance shows a red stoplight. Clicking on the red light lets a user drill down on the problem to display a list of overdue PM work orders sorted by critical percent (percent overdue). Clicking on any line item displays the work order detail. This allows supervisors to keep tabs on key performance indicators and take corrective action immediately upon spotting unwanted trends.

Rewarding success

So, when and how do you celebrate a successful CMMS implementation? Although the day the new software “goes live” is an important project milestone, it sends the wrong message to bring out the champagne and T-shirts before the real work of benefits realization has begun. Early champagne indirectly gives the project design team permission to disband and move on to new projects because it appears their work is done. This shouldn’t be allowed.

Many companies adopt a 60-day to 120-day warranty period during which project team members can be called away from whatever new projects they’re working on to help solve a problem with the CMMS implementation. After all, the project team designed the new processes, wrote the system specifications, configured and tested the system, and worked closely with the vendor from the project start, so it should be held accountable for a smooth transition to the shop floor.

Thus, the best time for project stakeholders to celebrate is when project success targets are met. Reward and recognition can be anything from a personal thank you to a large monetary bonus tied to one’s performance evaluation. Reward and recognition shouldn’t be a single annual event such as an end-of-year awards ceremony, but rather spread throughout the year as problems are resolved and performance expectations are met or exceeded.

If targets aren’t met, consequences should be clear and up front, depending on the reasons. Perhaps further training is required or a change in positions, or even discipline. A good management team uses rewards and consequences to focus stakeholders on achieving success measures to which everyone agreed.

E-mail Contributing Editor David Berger, P.Eng., partner, Western Management Consultants, at [email protected].

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