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

For many organizations, the costs involved in facility and real estate management account for more than 20 percent of the total expenditure. Automation should enable managers to significantly reduce these costs and at the same time increase the organization’s productivity. The best way organizations can gain better control over their core business activities is by integrating data and processes. To achieve this, organizations can use 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?

Defining ERP software and IWMS

For many organizations, Enterprise Resource Planning software (ERP) is the cornerstone of their IT infrastructure. These kinds of solutions make it possible to manage the organization’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 organization, 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 these processes. Both are dominant in their specific areas and have their own strengths and weaknesses. While an ERP system is designed to support an organization’s core business activities, an IWMS solution primarily focuses on secondary processes, such as facility management (FM) and real estate management (RE).

    Some organizations choose to expand their existing ERP system to support these secondary business processes, believing one benefit might be the need to invest in the software only once. However, can an ERP system handle this effectively?

    Because ERP systems focus on the primary processes, and not on FM or RE processes, basic functionalities that are required for supporting secondary business processes may be missing. ERP solutions also typically require a lot of customization, which can drastically increase the costs for Release Management. In addition, organizations 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 risk is especially high, if most of an organization’s primary processes depend on this system and continuity is required.

    A specialized 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 their intended users due to their simplicity, ease of use, and the possibility to adapt them 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?

    But which solution is the best? There is no simple answer to that question. It depends heavily on the type of organization, the solution requirements, and the organization’s objectives. To help you make this choice, I will explain in greater detail the kind of things you should take into consideration in my next blog.

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    Want to learn more about the differences between ERP and IWMS, their strengths and weaknesses, and the key things you need to consider to make an informed decision between the two?

    Download the full “ERP VERSUS IWMS, compete or complete?” white paper.

    Photo of Jos Knops

    Jos Knops

    Solution Marketing Consultant

    Jos has worked in the international Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) industry for 30 years in various positions including research & development, consultancy, and 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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