Build or buy an IWMS?

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

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So once the business case and the budget for the implementation of an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) are agreed, the project goals are set and the project team is coming together, there is the question of which is the better option. Do you want to create your own 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 the seemingly typical implementation paradox of whether effort should be spent in designing the system so that it reflects current practices, or whether it is better to change methods to match the pre-defined best practices. It can be tempting to make an immediate decision on whether to build or buy. However, there are pros and cons that should be considered first.

The built system approach versus the best practice approach

Traditional implementations usually start with a series of process analysis sessions, where 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 a 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 optimization 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 optimized and adjusted as appropriate as the project evolves.

The choice for either blank-sheet or best practice can be related back to three main challenges faced in setting up a multinational implementation:

  • Level of standardization wanted
    A careful and balanced approach needs to be taken in assessing where process localization is important and where it should be avoided. At a minimum, 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 realizing a higher level of standardization across the organization.

  • Change management impact
    Implementing a new piece of software is, in itself, relatively easy but managing its impact on the organization 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 built system approach key users have to wait for the system to be designed and set up first, minimizing the time key users have to get accustomed to the new system.

  • Managing the multi-country rollout
    IWMS solutions in large multinational organizations 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 standardization 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 read more? Please click here to order a free copy of Planon’s IWMS implementation guide.
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