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ERP software vs. IWMS: Do you know the differences?

For many organisations, the costs involved in Facility and Real Estate Management account for more than 20% of the total expenditure. Automation should enable managers to significantly reduce these costs while at the same time increasing the organisation’s productivity. The only way organisations can get a grip on their core business activities is by integrating data and processes. To help them achieve this, organisations can use one of many various different types of software solutions, including ERP and IWMS systems. But what kind of systems are ERP and IWMS? And what are their strengths and weaknesses?

ERP software and IWMS: A definition

For many organisations, Enterprise Resource Planning software (ERP) is the cornerstone of their IT infrastructure. This kind of solution makes it possible to manage the organisation’s core business activities using a coherent system of integrated software solutions. ERP systems are very powerful and provide insight into vital parts of the organisation, such as Purchasing, Logistics and Human Resources.

Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) is the globally accepted term for software solutions that support Facility and Real Estate Management processes. This type of solution provides reliable management information, monitors compliance with legislation and regulations, and provides maximum insight through real-time monitoring. IWMS solutions integrate five major functional domains:

  • Real Estate and Lease Management
  • Facility and Space Management
  • Asset & Maintenance Management
  • Project Management
  • Environmental Sustainability

ERP and IWMS: The strengths and weaknesses

Both ERP and IWMS solutions strive to reduce costs, integrate business processes and increase the efficiency of processes. Both are unbeatable in their specific areas, and have their own strengths and weaknesses.

While an ERP system is designed to support an organisation’s core business activities, an IWMS solution primarily focuses on processes involved in Facility Management (FM) and Real Estate Management (RE). If you also use an ERP system to support these secondary business processes, you only need to invest in the software once. This ensures that data (in most cases) is only stored once and in one central location, and that processes are integrated with each other. Reporting on these secondary processes is also supported. However, can an ERP system really handle this?

ERP systems focus on the primary process, not on FM or RE processes, which can lead to a lack of basic functionality that is required for secondary business processes. Besides the fact that ERP solutions often entail significant customisation, thereby substantially increasing the costs of upgrading to new releases, organisations run the risk of disrupting their core business activities if they use an ERP system to support both the core and secondary business processes. This is especially the case since many primary processes will depend entirely on the ERP and their continuity is therefore paramount.

A specialised IWMS solution is often used to gain insight into Facility and Real Estate Management processes and to perform tasks that ERP solutions are not fully able, or are completely unable, to support. IWMS solutions are more easily and quickly accepted by users due to their simplicity, ease of use and their adaptability to the needs of specific target groups. In addition, an IWMS is usually cheaper to purchase and its implementation is considerably quicker and involves fewer risks. However, an IWMS solution only supports Facility Management and Real Estate business processes.

Friend or foe?

‘Which solution is the best?’ There is no simple answer to this question. It really depends on the type of organisation, the solution requirements and the organisation’s objectives. To help you make a choice, in my next blog I will explain in more detail the things you should take into consideration.

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Photo of Jos Knops

Jos Knops

Solution Marketing Consultant

Jos has been working in the international IWMS/CAFM industry for 30 years in various positions including R&D, consultancy, sales and marketing. Jos started at Planon in 2005 and is responsible for product positioning and go-to-market strategies and is an active participant in many local and global IWMS related networks.

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