Don't view your CAFM supplier/partner as providing a software solution only

FSI discusses with PFM magazine the importance of looking at the complete service delivery upfront, matching your requirements to a system's capabilities, ensuring what is delivered is to your original delivery spec. When it comes to investing in business-critical technology, the FM industry has raised its expectations beyond the simple purchase of a CAFM solution.

The basic solution might be a commercial off-the-shelf system, but the provision of a complete set of professional services around the platform, covering every aspect of the original delivery specification and after-sales care, is now the norm - and a key differentiator when it comes to choosing the right vendor.

For the CAFM supplier, a sale is no longer just about installing the software package as a standalone entity. FSI, for example, has long recognised this shift from the standard provision of an operations framework to the need for a fully-fledged range of complementary professional services, based on a thorough understanding of customer requirements and expectations, and leading ultimately to the deployment of a tailored CAFM system that delivers the anticipated value to the business.

The range of services offered by consultants throughout a CAFM project might vary, but it will typically embrace every client touchpoint at each stage of implementation. 

At the heart of any CAFM project, of course, is the installation, setting and configuration of a suite of software applications - many of them, increasingly, addressing the need for mobility - according to an agreed server infrastructure design. It might also involve aspects of web server management, helping ensure maximum efficiency. And services will invariably include extensive operational testing and verification ahead of client sign-off.

But this standard portfolio also informs the framework for the provision of a number of complementary services, including the discussion and documentation of the infrastructure requirements for each module.

A successful CAFM system depends on the quality of the data it processes. FSI consultants are experts in database setup and configuration, as well as data cleansing, manipulation and import. Data mapping is a priority, documented at every stage, helping to ensure continuity throughout the project.

Other relevant services could typically include front-end system configuration, to ensure a high-quality user experience - and consequently boost productivity - and the use of Workflow tools to design and build notifications and system automations based on a thorough understanding of specific business processes.

Consultants will spend time discussing and documenting the client's reporting requirements, building tailored outputs and, where appropriate, digital dashboards that offer streamlined access to Management Information.

There will often also be a requirement for integration with third party systems, which calls upon the proven design and creation capability of expert consultants.

And because the sale is helmed from day one by a project manager with the skill, expertise and knowledge - and a hotline to all these consultancy resources - to drive the implementation in tandem with the customer's original vision, the system itself becomes a bespoke solution.

Bringing a CAFM project in on time and budget, with risks properly mitigated, and in line with the customer's original expectations, based on a clear understanding of how they want the system to work with the realities of the business, is not down to luck. And it certainly should not be down to the software vendor's ability to manipulate the customer's business processes into fitting the system's existing configuration.

By taking a centre of excellence approach to service delivery, every potential gap in the system's implementation is accounted for and filled. While the project manager provides a single, consistent point of contact for the customer, they are effectively spear-heading a team of professional experts, each one charged
with delivering a strategic element.

Regular client visits by the professional services team throughout the project reinforce this approach, helping to feed fresh insight and experience back into the ongoing development of those services - and providing a constant opportunity to provide best practice guidance for system optimisation: it is imperative that the customer extracts maximum value from their initial investment.

This attention to detail is also reflected in the quality of the professional services team itself. In the FM industry, where access to the latest skills and expertise should be high on any customer's check list, signs that a vendor prides itself on being the employer of choice for the best candidates are an important differentiator.

Communication is key in an overall approach designed to minimise the risk of dispute at sign-off. With the day to-day focus on quality, any challenges are dealt with as they arise - and escalated to the professional services director if necessary, to facilitate a speedy resolution.

The focus of any successful CAFM project should be on building a truly interactive relationship between the vendor and the customer from the start. This service-driven approach makes it easier for the customer to define the kind of project and resources that they expect from the supplier - and helps to ensure that the end result delivers on those increasingly sophisticated expectations.