It boils down to homework, homework and, yep, homework.
So, you’ve decided that an EAM is what you need to organize your operation and hop on the fast-moving data-driven asset management train – congrats! Pinning down which type of maintenance management software you need is a huge first step in harnessing the phenomenal power of data. Of course, an EAM, or enterprise asset management system, affects your entire enterprise, so you’ll want to make sure you’re confident in the specific solution you choose.
Vetting software vendors when you’re not entirely comfortable with the technology can be a little intimidating. It requires some work on your part, but it will be time well spent. When you’re ready to talk to a vendor, you want to be clear on features, integration points, support and pricing. Let’s run through each.
Features: do they have what you need?
Before meeting with anyone, make a clear list of the functionality you require. In the software world, we call that your “functional requirements.” It’s easiest to craft a list of jobs to be done and work from there. During the demo phase, walk through your list, making sure to ask specific questions: How would your solution route this type of request? Show me exactly where I enter a new work order, etc. Don’t be appeased by companies that say a feature you need is “on the roadmap” or “should be released in the next version.” That could be code for, “We don’t have that and will charge you a lot for us to build it.” Nope.
Integration points: will your current systems connect?
Similarly, come ready with a list of systems you already have that you are going to need to pull data from or push data into. This may include enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, financial packages and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. Be clear on the type of data coming from and going to each system. Huge efficiencies can be gained or lost in this critical integration piece. Most of the time, these integrations will have to be done in some type of custom capacity. That’s just the nature of the beast, so be wary of companies that say they have easy “plug and play” integrations.
Ongoing support: what’s available after the sale?
Ask about the ongoing support section of the agreement. What happens if you want to make changes to the data or the system altogether? As your business grows and changes, your needs will, too, and you’ll want a system that is flexible enough to address changes without costing a fortune. Companies handle ongoing support differently. The best option is a company with an in-house development and support team. While some have great third-party contractors, you should make sure they work with them on a consistent basis and can provide references.
Pricing: what structure do they use?
Most EAM systems come with an annual fee or a per-user fee, but some systems work on a per-asset basis to scale better for smaller companies. Regardless, make sure the ROI makes sense for your business, not just in dollars and cents, but also in terms of safety and reliability. The most common place where these agreements can get expensive is in the implementation phase. If you haven’t done your homework, the implementation can blow past your deadline and cause huge cost overruns. Bear in mind, these conversations can get technical, and it helps to have a technical person on your team who understands the breadth of data you work with and where it lives.
Tips for a smooth implementation
Listen, we really can’t stress enough the importance of doing your homework during the vetting stage. Understanding what you need and what your vendor offers is everything. That said, once you’ve selected a vendor, there are a few additional things you can do to speed up the implementation. Here are a few quick tips to minimize issues:
Mutually set a target go-live date
Agree upon the time and resources required to hit that date (hours, dollars, details)
Meet regularly to review progress and address “unknown unknowns”
Request a “sandbox” environment to test the functionality before go-live
Happy software shopping! We hope this helps you approach the process with a little less worry. If you’re still not sure exactly what you need, take a look at this post that highlights ways maintenance management software can support your business. Of course, you can always reach out to us with questions, too.