Now here is where the fun begins. For those just tuning in, your successful purchase of a CMMS began with an Xhaustive self-study of your needs and internal roadblocks followed by a drive to generate Xcitement. In our last article you Xamined vendors from a distance by doing research and educating yourself about the market, before jumping in that pool of piranhas or vendors if you prefer. And now…you’re in the pool.
As a piranha I’d like to say that I thoroughly enjoy my job. There is a certain xcitement about being the first to nibble on an organization and repeatedly coming back for more till the meal…um…I mean job is done. This is where you can greatly benefit from my unique insight. Let’s shift illustrations, shall we? As a potential customer interviewing vendors, you could be considered a fan attending a sporting event…let’s say football. Now you may think you know the football teams, after all you have their roster, stat sheets and are wearing your favorite team’s apparel. But to put it bluntly, you don’t know the teams. As for consultants, they might be compared to Scouts or sportswriters. They attend many games, maybe they were a player at one time and every now and then land good interviews and gain insights. Being blunt again though, they don’t know the team.
I’m on the team. I’m in the locker room. I know the strategies. I’m one of the players, albeit a small one…say, maybe the water boy? I also know my competition. Think about it, who studies and knows more about either team on Sunday better than the opposing team?
‘But’ you may say ‘you’re biased.’ And you would be right. However, let me give you two reasons why being biased is ok.
- Everyone is.
Now this may sound outrageous, because many individuals make the ‘unbiased’ claim. It’s my personal opinion that this is impossible. To explain why, I’m going to use the famous ‘what is more likely’ scenario. What is more likely, that a professional who has spent countless hours gaining valuable experience in a given industry, studying products inside and out speaking with and perhaps knowing vendors personally, has never developed personal preferences or leanings on the subject? Or, said professional refuses to admit any preferences as it would compromise his position as an unbiased opinion? I think it’s obvious. Now if you feel insulted by the last statement, please don’t. I don’t intend this to be degrading. I respect the knowledge and passion of such professionals. Remember, I’m not lowering you by any means. I said everyone was biased. Though, that’s not entirely accurate. I think that there are two types of people who really are unbiased.
- individuals who have no knowledge about a given subject or
- people who flat out don’t care. From which of these would you like to ask advice about your project? You see, people who have no knowledge or concern are unbiased. That means the opposite is true. Those with knowledge and passion are. And that brings us to reason number 2.
2. You will have to be.
It’s an inescapable truth that as the customer you will have to be the most biased of all. After gaining your knowledge and nurturing your passion you will be deciding who’s the ‘best’ vendor. Now I can’t tell you who the ‘best’ vendor is. That’s your decision. But, I can help you with the knowledge and passion part, that is, if you want to listen to a biased telemarketer…
Xpansion: I define this point as a factor that influences a given vendor’s overall value. Xpansion appears to be pretty self-Xplanatory. (you know me and X’s…) You may already have an idea as to where I’m headed. Here are some common questions asked of vendors, in harmony with Xpansion:
- What are your plans for the future with advancements in technology?
- What current additions to your software are under development?
- What global markets are you planning to pursue?
- What platforms are you migrating towards?
- And my personal favorite…Where does your company plan to be in the next 5 years?
These questions may sound familiar. The bad part is they also sound that way to vendors. In other words, when we start hearing a familiar tune we know the words to sing. These questions aren’t bad unto themselves. It’s just when you ask them you’re basically looking for a canned response, or at least that is what you’re going to get. Now I know some may be thinking: ‘Well my question was way more specific than that.’ Well then, you likely got a slightly modified canned response. And hey, if that’s what you want to evaluate a vendor on…be my guest, you wouldn’t be the first. Often times the most polished responses come from the most polished sales person. So, then how do you evaluate a given vendor’s Xpansion? Well, let me xplain.
Xpansion can be defined as growth, which was the focus of our previous questions. That however is a guessing game, and let no one tell you other wise. Even apparently stable, growing organizations can shrink in a day. Think Enron. Xpansion must be viewed in a different light. As with all previous steps start where you are. Here are some questions to answer before we address vendors:
- Is your organization Xpanding?
- What changes to your organization do you see coming?
- What changes have been announced?
- How will a CMMS be affected by these?
The real xpansion of importance is your own. Then evaluate the given vendor based on that. Purchasing CMMS based on a vendor’s future plans is not a good idea. That would be like buying a Ford car because their concept model is cool. The concept model has nothing to do with what you get. Sure, there is value in knowing their future plans, but its relatively unimportant when compared with what they have. So look closely at a CMMS based on your xpansion needs. Those needs may include:
- Multi-site accessibility
- Multi-language/currency functionality
- Integration with additional Software
- Wireless needs
- Hand-held/Field personnel requirements
Based on these needs, look to see if the vendor supports your future Xpansion now. Not 10 seconds from now. NOW! If not, ask yourself: ‘In the event of my xpansion can I survive with the current functionality of this product?’ This is because, even though the vendor may plan to include that functionality in the near future, in most cases, your xpansion needs present themselves way before the vendors ‘planned’ functionality. Then, by the time the vendor makes the functionality available you’ll have already found a way to cope without it. I’m basically saying you should plan your future based on the product you’re going to buy right now. If you don’t, it will be next to impossible to calculate those 3 little lovable letters…ROI.
Now keep in mind that practically all vendors will have Xpansion in one form or another. You’ll have Modules, Integrations, Platforms, Licensing, Accessibility and many more options available to you. Most of which won’t even be of interest. You’ll easily identify the ones you want and need. The trick to Xpansion comes in finding out when and how to get them. Not an easy task.
In case you didn’t know, the CMMS process can be long and drawn out. (That’s kind of like saying, winter can be cold.) Now because of this fact, many companies do phased implementations. The problem with phases is that they can easily disappear. Pressures, projects and problems all post-pone phases. (Don’t say that ten times fast.) This makes a company adapt to the product they are left with. Until Xpansion. Now the pressure, project, or problem has disappeared, and you could really use that other module you wanted. So you buy it and live happily ever after…
Sorry, but that’s not how this story ends. By the time you go to buy that one little piece, months, perhaps years have passed. (Did I mention the CMMS process can be long?) Now you are on an older version. That little piece doesn’t fit with your puzzle. And that means you have to…I hate to say it…upgrade. Upgrade is so negative for so many. In the minds of customers it implies that they are second class citizens who have been left behind. Remember though if we didn’t upgrade, well computers wouldn’t exist…and that really would be the least of your worries. So, the customer naturally asks at this point: ‘How much is that going to cost me?’ Then the figure offered floors you and the phone slams. So the million dollar question is: When should you have Xpanded?
Well, there is no answer. No one can predict pressures, projects or problems, other than to say that they will happen. Xpansion 99% of the time is either too early or too late. Since that means the majority of you won’t be the 1% lets xamine the other realities.
If you live life by erring on the side of Caution or love the saying: ‘the early bird gets the worm’, this will likely be you. Getting the entire package upfront will sound like a good idea, all that functionality just waiting for you. Waiting, waiting and waiting. And for some companies they still can’t wait to get that green-screen, mainframe, project-tracking module in production.
Other than the obvious risk of underutilization there is also the potential for heavy upfront costs, which many companies will be unable to afford. Some thrifty ones find ways around this by purchasing licenses in small amounts upfront, and delaying training and implementation of certain modules till the end of the project. This enables them to keep the product they want supported till they can afford all of it. So obtaining a given module upfront may simply be a restructuring of phases. However, there is a problem with this course of action. While you may avoid upfront costs you could be paying for it in support. Support is typically based on your license count, and software support is a recurring cost.
If you frequently visit Las Vegas or like the saying: ‘Better late than never’, this will most likely be you. There are big savings to be had with this approach. You will avoid costly licensing, implementation, training and support costs. The saying goes, though, ‘pay me now or pay me more later.’(Consultants love that.) While that saying is true most of the time, the reality is: sometimes it’s better to pay more later. At the time of Xpansion you may be a more profitable business with more funds for maintenance management, and thus in a better position than when you started the project. Then again, you may be worse off. It can be a gamble. The sad part of this approach is that the decision is made frequently out of necessity not because it was planned. With no planning your company’s growth will be stunted, lest I remind you of our initial scenario.
The goal is to land somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Which side you land on though can be up to you. Your mindset should be: Plan to Xpand. When going into a project analyze your future Xpansion and allocate resources based on this. Make sure the vendor and, more importantly, the product you choose can and will be the vendor and product of your future, even now. Be prepared to accept this reality: You cannot grow without pain. Once you do, you are on your way to successful Xpansion.