The Single Most Common Reason CMMS Projects Fail
Selecting a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a significant decision for companies. When organizations make a decision to purchase a CMMS, they typically have return-on-investment (ROI) goals. Meeting these goals is how companies achieve business value with a CMMS, making it imperative that the CMMS project succeeds. Yet, there are many companies with a CMMS that is either not used effectively, or not used at all. Why is it that CMMS projects fail?
Many factors can contribute to a CMMS project’s failure, but the single most common breakdown is in user adoption. No matter how great a technology is, if those intended to use it do not, it cannot add value. Why would users not use a CMMS that is intended to help them? The primary reasons are below.
- Exclusion from selection process
- CMMS complexity
- General resistance to technology adoption
- Poor implementation practices
Exclusion from Selection Process
Within an organization, many individuals use a CMMS in a variety of ways depending on their role. When key roles are excluded from the CMMS evaluation and selection process, the chosen system may not fully meet the needs of every role. If this is the case, the tendency is for those users to be less willing to embrace the technology since they do not experience the benefits of the CMMS.
Figure 1 below provides an example of typical manufacturing industry CMMS users.
The features, functionality and attributes that one role values may differ greatly from those that another role prioritizes. If I am an executive, my highest priorities are likely reporting capabilities, cost information and maybe the ease of expansion to multi-site operations in the future. If I am a maintenance technician, however, I likely value ease of use, mobility and the ability to see maintenance history as key capabilities.
Because of the diversity of needs, it is important that a company’s CMMS selection process involve a cross-section of team members.
While core functionality is similar across most CMMS platforms, the ways in which vendors handle user interfaces, navigation, access levels and privileges, and many other features vary greatly. The simplicity or complexity of a CMMS can mean the difference between strong or poor adoption.
A CMMS that is not intuitive, requires extra steps, does not have a straightforward workflow, is not easily navigable, etc., runs the risk of alienating users early in the adoption process, which can have lasting effects. The inclusion of a diverse team of users in the evaluation process can help identify these platform issues early, eliminating complex tools that may not be a good fit before selection. Selection filtering is ideal because a CMMS that ranks high in ease-of-use is not only more likely to be adopted by users, but also used properly to maximize benefits.
An organization that chooses a CMMS with a high level of complexity will likely need to make a large upfront investment in well-planned user training to improve the initial CMMS experience. If this window is missed and the system is implemented without a well-trained staff, it can often be difficult to recover and increase CMMS adoption rates after initial roll out.
Poor Implementation Practices
Many CMMS projects do not fail because of technology or product limitations, but because of poor implementation practices. One common failure is in how the solution is implemented. For example, every field in the CMMS could be enabled even when not all fields are necessary, causing confusion or missteps. Users can become overwhelmed by the amount of effort a specific activity takes. Flexible software that offers a company the ability to select and show only the fields they need can be advantageous. Other fields can be added later but simplifying the initial implementation can increase user adoption.
A CMMS implementation should be supported by the professional services team from the vendor or a third-party provider. Regardless of how easy a software may be to implement, there are best practices that professional services teams have learned that can be invaluable to an organization. If a vendor fails to offer professional services as part of their upfront pricing, it should be a red flag. Getting the CMMS project successfully off the ground is essential and well worth the investment in professional services.
Some organizations choose to invest in having a vendor’s professional service team handle the CMMS implementation, but then do not support the implementation with their own resources. Maintenance departments should be heavily involved in how CMMS software is configured, while working with professional services. Each company has unique workflow considerations and other factors that influence how best to implement their CMMS. This input is critical to a successful project.
Though choosing the right CMMS is essential, investing time and money in the implementation is equally important to overall success.
Resistance to Technology
A CMMS changes the way a maintenance department operates. For companies migrating to a CMMS from a paper-based system or spreadsheets, introducing new technology may not be comfortable for many employees. As technology has become prevalent in most phases of our lives, the issue of buy-in has become less of an issue, but it still can impact CMMS success.
Workers who have spent thirty years performing maintenance tasks in one way, may be challenged with the introduction of software as a critical tool in their work process. From closing work orders to calling up reference documents, maintenance technicians typically have an entirely new user experience with a CMMS.
There are two main ways to avoid a CMMS project being negatively impacted by resistance to technology utilization. First, companies should involve workers in the CMMS evaluation and selection process. Being involved in the front-end CMMS selection gives workers a chance to get familiar with the software and understand the benefits. Second, organizations should invest in training. A clear and comprehensive training plan is essential.
It is typical for some employees to eagerly embrace technology while others are resistant to it. Educating team members on the value and benefits of a CMMS, which are clearly documented, is a valuable exercise. The more workers are exposed to the CMMS early in the selection and implementation process, the more comfortable they will become with the new tools, increasing the probability of strong adoption.