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Choose a software supplier

When choosing the right FM software, it is vital to look for a ‘partner’ rather than a vendor that wants to understand your company and provide the right solution


16 June
2011
   
When it comes to selecting the right facilities management software, it is vital to make the right choice for your organisation. Your chosen solution should act as the backbone of your FM operations, so it is essential that it’s easy to use, can fit with your workflows and contains the functionality to meet your objectives. You should look to choose a ‘partner’ rather than a vendor, with the expertise and understanding of your industry to ensure the system is properly implemented and supported on an on-going basis.
Here are seven tips for selecting the right FM software supplier:

1⁄ Identify your core strategic aims
Even if the end of the current economic downturn may be in sight, we all need to be convinced of a clear return on investment before spending our organisation’s limited resources on new software tools.
From the start, you should be able to articulate a number of strong reasons for introducing a new solution which will inevitably be accompanied by initial growing pains.
You may want to improve your asset management, provide a safer working environment, increase operational efficiency or reduce your carbon footprint. These objectives can be achieved at the same time as providing intelligent business information to inform effective strategic decision making.
Check your reasoning with colleagues and then make sure that you have internal champions where you need them ie someone who has the capacity and desire to sign off a purchase.

2⁄ Build a requirements list
Once you have a clear vision of your overall objectives you should identify the business processes and information required to achieve it. For example, is there a need to record asset life-cycle information to sweat your assets? Do you want to introduce hand-held equipment to automatically provide method statements and record staff time? Do you need to make the solution available to contractors to complete their work orders?
Be precise about your reporting requirements – what outputs are really important to you and what needs to be analysed?
At the same time avoid the 
trap of creating a long wish 
list of required features. Decide what’s really important to achieving those aims – but don’t forget the things you already 
do well.

3⁄  Meet potential suppliers
To create real value, you need to find a partner that wants to explore and understand your business. Do they want to get under the skin of your business processes, can they then demonstrate a software configuration that fits your operations, and will they really provide the right solution 
for you?
You can only establish this by meeting with suppliers and working with them – and they can only show you the true value of their proposition by asking the right questions rather than just taking you through a standard demonstration.
The vendors or partners in question can be qualified by checking the supplier’s credentials. Establish what their client base is like and whether they know your industry. Above all, don’t forget those references.  

4⁄ Cost or value?
Everybody wants to pay a little for lots but when selecting your preferred supplier, don’t make cost the primary issue – choose the best partner and business fit first, and then negotiate a price that suits all. What may be the cheapest solution in the first year could end up costing more over five years. If it doesn’t achieve your strategic aims it could end up being an extremely expensive ‘solution’.

5⁄  Actions built for success
No matter how great the software you eventually choose, without a well-planned implementation producing the correct configuration and training, you will not achieve those strategic aims. So decide how much time you and your colleagues can spend on managing it. This will give you a guide to how much assistance you need from your preferred supplier. Make sure this is discussed and agreed as part of the negotiation so that your expectations are clear from the start. Check the supplier has the capacity to provide the service required and that they have experience of providing it. Cutting corners here can prove very expensive later.

6⁄ The partnership
We’ve discussed the importance of building a lasting relationship with your supplier, so do discuss and compare the support provided and how ongoing developments are managed. Is there a user group and do they run annual conferences where you can meet your peers and hear about 
future plans? The relationship with your supplier should not end when the solution 
is installed.

7⁄ And finally...
Remember, facilities software is a long term investment; you want it 
to work for you and generate a return.

Steven Jones is sales director at Qube Global Software