FM Systems are the most important tools a facility and property manager has to manage his or her responsibilities. They provide critical visibility into the operations, information for decision making and analysis and improved processes and efficient services. All of this results in lower costs and better services.
The value of FM systems aside, the reality is that many systems may not achieve expected goals because they are implemented without consideration for the true business needs the FM systems serve. By considering all the factors and developing a business implementation plan – and not just a software implementation – you will ensure success.
What Steps Do I Take to Implement?
Many organizations encounter problems after they implement a new system, when difficulties with implementation are exacerbated by organizational roadblocks ranging from the operational processes to issues related to populating the system with current data.
These problems are magnified when systems are implemented without first understanding why you need the system, what you will use it for and how it will integrate with the rest of your operations. This includes effective processes and training to ensure your staff buy-in and support the initiative.
Other problems are created when you don’t clearly establish what information you really need and how you will use it to improve your operations. Built-in reports may not be enough. Again, if you already have an under-utilized system in place, there are things you can do to get better value from it. Go back and fix the things that aren’t working. That means changing your system so it can work for you and your FM goals.
Some of the things that may jeopardize an implementation are:
No advance communication to establish why the system is needed; no effort to build implementation into the strategic plan and a lack of communication about what the information will be used for and how it can help staff do their jobs better.
Not selling the idea directly to staff; showing them the benefits, giving them training, building it into their daily schedules and processes in a way that makes it easy and shows benefits.
Not supporting change management; no effort to change pre-conceived notions, weed out roadblock issues and promote change.
Work on the business requirements first and then combine those with the software vendor to develop an effective implementation process that involves the following phases:
Before You Implement
Spend time understanding your business requirements first. If you understand what you are trying to accomplish and what you really need, you will be in a better position to decide on a system. Those who focus on the software features first risk buying technology they do not need – and missing out on technology that can revolutionize a work environment.
Establish objectives and requirement, decide what information you need and what you will do with it, figure out how to integrate it with your business processes, personnel and resources and establish the real integration requirements.
Communicate the change and the reasons. Make sure it’s meeting objectives by putting auditing and evaluation procedures in place. Give you staff training and re-training. Educate everyone on its value to promote support and ensure success. Listen carefully to your administration and field staff as their insight will be a valuable addition to your implementation plan. Tweak and adjust the processes to make it work better.
After You Implement
Do an audit after six months or so. Check with all the stakeholders and staff to find out what works and what doesn’t. Do a quality assurance test on the data and process. Listen to your staff, they know best what’s working. Tweak processes, re-train your staff, conduct quality assurance on the inputs and continue to sell its value to your organization. Schedule follow-up audits to ensure the system is working as expected and take action to make changes as necessary.
Avoiding the Traps
Beyond the technical issues related to new systems, many organizations will encounter significant roadblocks pre- and post-implementation of a new system. Many of these roadblocks are rooted in staff frustration. Existing processes can be difficult to integrate. The interface between different systems can be more complicated than expected.
Here are some of the main traps to avoid when implementing an FM system of any kind:
Not Enough Advance Work
Advance work establishes way you need the system. Build the implementation schedule into your strategic plan. Include integrating the plan with your current practices, staffing and resources and then seek the system that matches.
Not Selling Idea to Staff
Engage your staff in decisions about how they will build system use into their daily schedules. Work with them on processes that make system use easy.
You need to consider the process, communication and personalities you need to deal with and build change management into a flexible implementation plan along with your complete business process.
Not Planning for Upkeep and Maintenance
Implementing and populating the system in the first place can take a lot of effort, but so does the amount of time needed to keep it up-to-date and accurate after it’s up and running. Make the processes, resources and support needed for upkeep and maintenance part of your strategic and implementation plan.
You can’t introduce something new and then let it run on its own. You need to build follow-up into your plan to verify that the systems, processes and resources are working as designed, just like commissioning a new building.
Not Using the Information
Unless you actively use the information you won’t benefit from it. Using a system to its full potential demonstrates the system’s value and showcases your decision making and management prowess.
Customization is expensive during implementation and can become even more expensive later when you want to upgrade the software. Keep current and future costs down by using systems as they were designed when possible.
Michel Theriault is the author of the new book “Managing Facilities and Real Estate." He is an independent consultant providing strategic and management solutions for Facility Managers. He has many years of experience in all areas of FM, including operations, performance management, change management, customer service, service level definitions, outsourcing, and RFP’s. He authors a blog at thebuiltenvironment.ca and recently started a new website for FM surveys and research at www.fminsight.com. He welcomes your comments and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org or strategicadvisor.ca.