Office hallway with coloured meeting spaces.

Build or buy an IWMS?

“If you want something done well, do it yourself.” This probably sounds familiar to most of us. There are some instances where doing it yourself is probably the best option, and others where it is not.

Once a business case and a budget for the implementation of an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) have been agreed, the project goals are set and the project team comes together. Then comes the question of which is the better option. Do you want to create your own bespoke CRE and FM processes in the IWMS or would you rather opt for a best practice processes approach that can be tweaked if necessary?

This is a typical implementation paradox of whether you should spend effort in designing a system that reflects ‘as-it-is’ or ‘to-be-designed’ practices, or would it be better to change the methods to match the pre-defined best practices. It can be tempting to take an immediate decision on whether to ‘build’ or ‘buy’. However, there are pros and cons that should be considered before you make that decision.

The ‘built your own system’ approach versus the ‘best practice’ approach

Traditional implementations usually start with a series of process analysis sessions, whereby process workflows are defined, mapped and discussed in detail for all the business processes in scope. Once a first set up has been established, stakeholders and users are given the chance to review the system and react to the translation of their ideas into that system. It may take multiple, sometimes even contradictory, iterations before the desired outcome is achieved.

The ‘best practice’ approach can be best described as an optimisation and alignment process. A pre-defined set of configuration design aspects such as workflows, data mappings, user profiles, user interfaces and reports is available from the start, based on market knowledge and real world proven best practices. These are optimised and adjusted accordingly as the project evolves.

The choice of starting either from a blank-sheet or from best practices can be linked back to the three main challenges faced when setting up a multinational implementation:

  • Level of standardisation wanted
    A careful and balanced approach needs to be taken in assessing where process localisation is important and where it should be avoided. At least, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be calculated in the same way across countries and sites. A best practice approach in general will help the team in realising a higher level of standardisation across the organisation.

  • Change management impact
    Implementing a new piece of software is, in itself, relatively easy but managing its impact on the organisation is a bigger challenge and part of a broader change process. A parallel focus on adoption and change management is essential.  A best practice approach allows key users to be exposed to the system from the start. With the build your own system approach, key users have to wait for the system to be designed and set up first, minimising the time key users have to get used to the new system.

  • Managing the multi-country rollout
    IWMS solutions in large multinational organisations are normally implemented through a phased approach. First, a global template is defined and tested after which the rollout to other sites can start. A best practice implementation will come with a predefined, best-practice project methodology to support the world-wide rollout.

When you are looking for a relatively high level of standardisation and a fast implementation, the best practice scenario might just be the way forward for you. If you want to allow each operation to retain its individual processes, think about choosing the traditional design and build option. Whichever decision you make, make sure it is an informed one.

This blog is a summary of the chapter 'Build or buy an IWMS' taken from the book 'A quest for excellence: Guidance for CRE & FM executives implementing a global IWMS'. Would you like to learn more? Please click here to order a free copy of Planon’s IWMS implementation guide.

About the author

Marc Wetzelaer | Owner & Managing Director AddOnn

Marc has more than two decades of experience as a manager and consultant with IT organisations. For the last fifteen years, he has advised multinational organisations on technology to support their real estate and facility management processes. Marc worked for Planon within several roles, and is now Managing Director of his company AddOnn, which develops SAAS solutions as add-ons on existing software platforms.

More posts by Marc Wetzelaer

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