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October 11, 2018

CAFM vs ERP: What’s the difference for facility management service providers?

For Integrated Facility Services (IFS) organizations, there are five main areas of processes:

1. Finance
2. Human resources (HR)
3. Procurement
4. Customer relationship management (CRM)
5. Operations

The first four process areas already have mature solutions dominating the market, such as Salesforce for CRM or SAP for finance. However, in the area of operating processes there isn’t one dominant system. Instead, most service providers have multiple point solutions patched together to make processes run.

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They often have spreadsheets tracking service offerings and standard pricing, a tool for resource scheduling that doesn’t connect to HR, and another system for helpdesk. Customers may even interface with a portal that is not connected to any of the other systems.

On the other hand, there are organizations that try to make one of their other systems encompass the operating processes. I have written before about the risks involved in trying to force a financial-based ERP to work as your operations platform. As I wrote then, organizations which have attempted to use and modify their ERP for IFS 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.

What about CAFM?

A CAFM in the traditional definition of the word can rarely handle all of a service provider’s processes. In these situations, I frequently hear IFS organizations that refer to their FM system as “just a CAFM”.

Instead, you need to have an enterprise operations platform that is focused on the business processes for integrated facility service providers. If you start using your FM system for your daily operations, connecting to other systems and creating a full value chain, it becomes a full enterprise platform. For example, in Planon we prepare financial data to the level where you know what to invoice to your customer, but invoicing isn’t done in Planon.

Another example includes ordering materials through your standard supplier but connecting it all back to your enterprise operations platform. Ordering materials through a button on a specific work order links all costs back to that order and applies the appropriate mark-ups and tariffs based on the contracted rates with that customer. In these cases, your system is not “just a CAFM” but instead a core operations system that is driving digitalization.

Having this level of integration in your enterprise operations platform is essential for maximizing process efficiency, increasing customer value and supporting business innovation.

Marc Wetzelaer
General Manager Service providers