FMJ, the official magazine of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), is written by and for workplace professionals and is published six times a year. FMJ is the only magazine that draws on the collective knowledge of IFMA’s global network of thought leaders to provide insights on current and upcoming FM trends. For more information on FMJ, visit

The FAQs on CMMS

How to find the right maintenance management system

by John Rimer — This article originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of FMJ

FM technology has grown by leaps and bounds the past few decades. Maintenance management systems, such as Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) and Integrated Work Management Systems (IWMS), are no exception. However, when it comes to these applications, many facility professionals are unsure whether they are ready for a CMMS or how to tackle implementing such an endeavor. In this article, we are going to address some of these questions and common hesitations, in hopes that FM professionals will take full advantage of these powerful tools within an organization.

CMMS, IWMS, CAFM – Which One Should I Get?

With a plethora of choices available, one should not be limited to any particular four-letter acronym.  Granted, some may draw distinct lines between these systems; however, their varying capabilities and array of modules quickly blur such delineations. Rather than narrowing the selection to any single type, focus on the department’s desired capabilities and organizational requirements. Then conduct the search for the best tool that meets the organization’s objectives regardless of the flag it may fly under. To mitigate repetitiveness, CMMS will be used in this article; but know that the principles discussed are applicable to any system.

Is Our Organization Big Enough for a CMMS?

Dare it be said that size does not matter…. Whether managing one facility or a worldwide portfolio, a CMMS will deliver value to any organization. The difference lies in the magnitude and complexity. A small department will likely have a simple system. Larger entities may require a CMMS with more bells and whistles. Regardless, all will benefit from improved customer satisfaction and communication, increased team efficiency, asset history and forecasting, comprehensive operations data and strategic information to drive informed business decisions.

Do We Really Need a CMMS?

Common refutes to this question include, “Excel works fine to schedule PMs” or “Everyone calls or e-mails us anyway.” Some think IT’s service request tool is sufficient or that a maintenance management system is only useful for managing and scheduling work orders.

Facility managers are accountable for the second-largest asset and expense for most organizations.  Thus, it is imperative FMs operate as business managers, which requires a tool to help successfully perform as such. As the central nervous system of a facility organization, a CMMS is a necessary tool for today’s facility managers.

Conversely, half of all organizations are reportedly reactive. In my experience, the departments enthralled in firefighting do not have a sufficiently functioning CMMS. Without leveraging a robust maintenance management system, costly firefighting will burn unabated.

In addition to scheduling and coordinating day-to-day operations, the data collected is invaluable for driving business decisions and justifying facility resources. In short, a facility management department will continue to struggle until they truly realize the benefit a CMMS can deliver to their organization.

What CMMS Should We Use?

This is one of the most common questions surrounding maintenance management systems. While seemingly straight-forward, the answer is not or should not be. Before shopping for a system, efforts should be made to determine what type of system is needed. A thorough needs analysis should be performed, which will result in a statement of requirements. Each candidate’s capabilities should be quantitively evaluated against this benchmark to preliminarily identify the best fit.

Once the pool of potential providers is narrowed, product demonstrations should identify how efficiently the required processes are navigated and if the user interface is intuitive.  This user-friendliness is typically the deciding factor.

Streamlining the buying process

The following roadmap can help simplify the system shopping process:

  1. Conduct a thorough needs analysis to decide what information must be managed.
  2. Create a statement of requirements that will be discussed with potential providers.
  3. Use the requirements to create a benchmark to quantitatively evaluate each candidate.
  4. Participate in product demonstrations to test navigation and user interface.

Can We Afford It?

The better question is, “Can we afford not to?” The productivity and efficiencies gained by staff, coupled with the returned value of the data gathered, will quickly offset initial costs. That said, the advance of cloud-based systems and increased competition has minimized, if not eliminated, the affordability inhibitor. This leaves a strong choice of cost-effective solutions.

The caveat, however, is while the software is relatively inexpensive, a reasonable budget and timeline should be set aside for implementation.  Many organizations struggle with getting their systems off the ground as they attempt to set it up with their limited internal resources and knowledge. Thus, plan accordingly and solicit outside assistance as needed to expedite the process and ensure success.

How Do We Implement?

Selecting a CMMS requires clear direction and understanding from the onset with involvement from all stakeholders. This upfront effort helps to ensure the organization drives system selection and not vice versa; additionally, it will help to establish expectations and relationships that can be leveraged during implementation.

With respect to implementation, the proverbial approach to eating an elephant – one bite at a time – applies. A phased approach is strongly recommended.  Once the locations and assets have been added and general configurations completed, facility staff can get their feet wet by internally capturing and completing corrective work orders. As the team’s comfort level grows with the system, the preventive maintenance procedures and schedules can be established. This is followed by roll-out of the service requester module to the general populace. It may be a good idea to start with those occupants that have a more positive view of facilities and are more willing to accept the new process before opening it up to all customers.

Will Staff Use It?

This is often the tallest hurdle that must be crested with any CMMS. The key to success is getting facility staff involved early in the selection process. They need to understand why a CMMS is needed and the benefit it can provide to the them and the department. This upfront buy-in will become especially critical when it comes time for them to capture work orders and where they spend their time. Plus, this will help head off the Orwellian, “1984” thought that the CMMS is “big brother.” The value of operational and business data generated is dependent upon the completeness and reliability of the data entered by staff. Their full participation is crucial to success.

What About Mobile Devices?

The efficiency gained in operations and communication with the advent of mobile technology cannot be overstated; not to mention the increase in responsiveness and data quality.  That said, forcing such technology down the throats of unwilling staff can be extremely counterproductive. The value of engineers is in their expertise and “turning wrenches” – not painstakingly chicken-pecking at a tiny touchscreen. Thus, efforts should be made to identify the early adopters and get the technology into their hands. The success of the first few will quickly spill over to the abstainers, and position requirements and skill sets for new hires should include use of technology.

For most organizations, it is still unrealistic to expect 100 percent adoption of a mobile work order platform. As a compromise, perhaps an administrator would be more expeditious at entering data, dispatching work orders and coordinating schedules. This frees facility engineers to do what they do best. As the technology permeates throughout the department, the administrator can transition to a data analytics role, helping to proactively drive the organization.

Parting Thoughts

While these answers to frequently asked questions are just a sampling, they will hopefully help many FMs breach the resistance to realizing the impact a CMMS can have on the department. Key to organizational success will be understanding the depth and breadth of CMMS capabilities and fully leveraging such in every aspect of day-to-day operations and strategic planning. The department will not be successful or operate efficiently until a robust CMMS is in place. So, stop the firefighting and take the leap.


CMMS: Realizing the Value


John RimerJohn Rimer, CFM is president of FM360 Consulting and has over 20 years’ FM experience.  He is an IFMA Qualified Instructor and presents regularly at industry events.  Visit to view John’s other articles and resources.

FMJ, the official magazine of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), is written by and for workplace professionals and is published six times a year. FMJ is the only magazine that draws on the collective knowledge of IFMA’s global network of thought leaders to provide insights on current and upcoming FM trends. For more information on FMJ, visit

Articles in FMJ are the exclusive property of IFMA and are subject to all applicable copyright provisions. To view abstracts and articles not shown here, subscribe or order individual issues at Direct questions on contributing, as well as on permission to reprint, reproduce or use FMJ materials, to Editor Erin Sevitz at

IFMA is the world’s largest and most widely recognized international association for facility management professionals, supporting 24,000 members in 104 countries. This diverse membership participates in focused component groups equipped to address their unique situations by region (133 chapters), industry (15 councils) and areas of interest (six communities). Together they manage more than 78 billion square feet of property and annually purchase more than US$526 billion in products and services. Formed in 1980, IFMA certifies professionals in facility management, conducts research, provides educational programs, content and resources, and produces World Workplace, the world’s largest series of facility management conferences and expositions. To join and follow IFMA’s social media outlets online, visit the association’s LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter pages. For more information, visit