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Choosing Your CMMS Provider

For smoother transitions, consider impact on service suppliers

A new CMMS can help facility managers improve services while gaining new insights into operations. Asking the right questions upfront – and being aware of how a system will affect your service suppliers – can help ensure its successful implementation. 

Get partners’ support

 “As much as possible, bring people in on the front end so that they have some ownership over the program selection and more importantly over implementation and roll out,” said Myriah Kingen, Director of Repair and Maintenance, Extra Space Storage. 

Kingen, who recently chose a new CMMS provider, talked to many service suppliers during her search. “I asked people their opinions on the best CMMS program, the easiest to use, the opportunities and pitfalls of each,” she said. “For us, our suppliers are our partners, and we can only be successful if they help us be successful. The last thing we would want to do is bring on a program that is difficult or impossible for them to use.”

Define training and implementation expectations

Ask potential CMMS providers to explain the process, length and costs of the transition period.

“It’s important to talk about change management and the training time needed as well as the roles and responsibilities of the service provider, the facilities team and the stores,” said Krista Elwell, Senior Director, Store and Corporate Facilities, ANN INC.

How much support will the CMMS supplier provide during initial implementation and ongoing? Is there a dedicated account rep? Don’t forget your service providers will have the expense of training their own people on your new system. Kellie D’Andrea, Senior Vice President, Planning, EMCOR Facilities Services,Inc., suggests that when considering a CMMS system, think about asking potential CMMS companies what training and support they will provide your suppliers. 

Ask about data integration

How compatible is your current system with the one you’re contemplating? “Are you going to keep a centralized database with back history, or try to transfer as much as possible, or move forward as if it’s a brand new day one and figure the past information is a loss?” asked Kingen.

Share your expectations with your service providers. ANN INC let its providers know that they must use the CMMS and offered training. “There was some resistance and hesitation, but in order for us to productively do business with them, we needed the information in our CMMS system,” said Elwell. “For us, it’s a deal breaker if they won’t do it.”

Sometimes a retailer may have to intervene with a CMMS company on behalf of its service supplier. ”Working with our retail partners often helps expedite the integration process, the training and the overall work flow. Since the CMMS contracts are typically direct with the retailer, it is important for the retailer to stress the priority of supplier integrations and sometimes it is necessary to get them involved to expedite the integration process,” stated D’Andrea. 

Consider the impact of hidden fees

“Some middleware (CMMS) providers have specific invoicing fees,” said Maryclaire McCarthy, Manager of Operations at Chain Store Maintenance Inc. “Some have a yearly service fee or may charge for additional users per company; others have nothing.” 

“Retailers should ask the very important questions about the fees their providers will be paying; they know those fees will get pushed back to them in some form, whether it’s through pricing or direct pass. And, when they’re calculating their return on investment and overall cost of the system, they have to be aware of all the cost components – both direct and indirect,” said D’Andrea.

“For some retailers, the focus is on the upfront costs of the system to them. By understanding possible cost implications to their service providers, retailers are able to negotiate special arrangements with their CMMS provider that their suppliers not be charged any fees,” D’Andrea added. Retailers need to understand these costs so they can be up front about them in their RFPs and contracts with service providers. 

Define data ownership and stress confidentiality

Retailers assuming that they will own the data in the system may be in for a surprise if they ever part ways with their CMMS provider.

“You want to make sure when you sign a new contract that it’s clearly spelled out who owns the data, where it’s housed and how quickly upon termination you can gain access to that information,” said Kingen. To protect their service partners, retailers should include contract language that prohibits the CMMS provider from sharing specific supplier data with any other entity.

“Some middleware providers manage data, but they also have a segment of their business that operates in competition with us,” said John Catanese, VP at Chain Store Maintenance, Inc. 

“We expect certain confidences to be kept when it comes to our pricing and our proprietary information, and we ask retailers that they respect the competitive landscape out there,” added D’Andrea.

Plan ahead for emergencies

Ask prospective CMMS providers what happens to work orders if their system goes down. Suppliers may be able to provide some backup, especially if they have their own work order platform where they store this information. 

Ask the CMMS providers if they alert suppliers when the system goes down. “Some middleware providers are good about sending alerts and letting you know that they are working on it,” said Catanese. Like anything else, systems can always improve. The sooner the supplier knows something is wrong, the sooner they can put a temporary workaround in place.

Understand the process for upgrading and adding features

Your contract with a CMMS provider should spell out how frequently you can expect system upgrades and whether or not you’ll be paying for them. Will there be a charge if you ask for some new feature? How long will it take to implement a change? Does the CMMS provider let you know about system features you may not be using?

Ask the CMMS provider if they will notify your suppliers of upcoming changes. “A lot of times we don’t know about the upgrades until a process within the system isn’t working like it normally does and then you have to go back to the CMMS provider, only to learn they issued a new release and made changes,” said D’Andrea. 

While some providers send out well-tested updates, “in growing industries, service providers can feel like they’re being used to beta test new procedures,” said Catanese. 

Make it a cooperative effort

Service suppliers would like to see more standardization among all CMMS platforms, but realize that’s not likely to happen soon. 

In the meantime, retailers can make a CMMS changeover easier for themselves by making it easier for their service partners. Retailers should convey to their CMMS providers that the service providers are an important factor in the implementation process and beyond. 

“It’s optimum to bring together the three parties involved (retailer, CMMS provider and supplier) so they are working in alignment to reach the retailer’s overall strategy,” said D’Andrea. “There shouldn’t be three different players talking the same game but never speaking to each other.”

By: Mary Lou Jay

Mary Lou Jay is a writer based in Maryland.


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