A few years ago, I wrote a blog post where I argued that the frequently used phrase “If you want something done well, do it yourself” did NOT apply to facility management software. That article focused on the value in using industry best practices rather than creating processes in an IWMS from scratch. However, the same idea applies to commercial service providers considering whether they would rather build a custom solution or buy an existing software system.
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From a functional perspective, the service provider industry has very specific and extensive requirements for software to manage core business operations. This system would need to provide activity planning and dispatching, the use of mobile solutions for field services, health and safety compliance, stock and purchase management, significant reporting and integration with financial systems for billing.
Too many options, or not enough?
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of solutions out there that provide all this functionality. Many service providers are using an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS)—although these were originally designed for real estate owners and occupiers—or have added custom functionality to their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system—despite the fact that ERP solutions are primarily financial systems. In fact, organisations which have attempted to use and modify their ERP for facility management processes almost always find that employees end up creating “shadow systems” (e.g. in Microsoft Excel) to deal with the missing capabilities needed for day-to-day operations.
Some service providers decide to build something internally to serve their specific needs. By providing the organisation with a custom system, they allow each operation to retain its individual processes—which has its advantages. However, this also comes with a price in terms of IT resources: programmers, system administration, IT hardware, etc.
Of course, there is also Planon Universe for Service Providers, which is an integrated system similar to an IWMS but with all the functionality needed to meet the specific requirements of commercial service providers - including the benefits of rapid development time and outsourced application management.
There is never one solution that fits all. Determining your long-term business goals and deciding on your ideal level of financial and time costs are two important starting points. But you may also want to consider:
- What is the cost of workarounds to compensate for missing functionality in your current solution?
- What is the potential impact on your customers’ satisfaction?
- What is the potential impact on your employee satisfaction and the risk of them creating “shadow systems?”
As a leader in the service provider industry, you should know that outsourcing activities that are not your core business will often be cheaper, more efficient, and of a better quality than what a company can do themselves. Why shouldn’t that apply to FM software as well?